Tata Harrier Automatic: First Drive Review
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Tata has ticked everything on your wishlist for the Harrier… well, almost
More features that better justify the price tag, more power and an automatic gearbox. Tata’s Harrier is entering the new decade with confident footing. Let’s dig deeper into what’s changed, and if it’s changed for the better.
Big SUV, Small Changes
In addition to offering newer 17-inch alloy wheels (what was arguably the only chink in its unique design), Tata has given the Harrier little tweaks. There’s a rather intense shade of red on offer now that brings out the Harrier’s size, and a few tasteful dabs of chrome on the front and rear bumpers. Do note, though, that the chrome is an optional extra as an accessory pack. Owing to feedback from existing owners Tata has trimmed the size of the blindspot-causing outside rearview mirrors too.
But the biggest change is something you’d appreciate once you’re inside the cabin. Yep, with the 2020 update, the Harrier now gets a full-size panoramic sunroof. Reserved for the top-spec XZ+ variant, this gigantic slab of glass also gets a nifty ‘rain-sensing close’ function. If you’ve left it open mistakenly while exiting the car, hitting lock on the remote key closes it. Very handy. Tata could’ve configured a global open function too (for the windows along with the sunroof) — that would have proved helpful to let hot air out of the car.
Nonetheless, there’s now some added convenience for the driver in the form of a 6-way adjustable powered driver’s seat (lumbar adjust is still manual), and there’s an auto-dimming IRVM on offer too. Smaller updates come in the form of better accessibility for the USB and AUX ports at the front, and an additional USB port in the central armrest. We’re happy to see that all USB ports support Quickcharge 3.0.
The rest of the Harrier’s cabin remains the same. This includes some well thought out features like an 8.8-inch touchscreen (that now gets new themes) paired with a punchy JBL sound system, a 7-inch screen in the instrument cluster, cruise control and leatherette upholstery. That’s pretty much all you’d want. But considering you will spend over Rs 20 lakh for the top-spec version, features like a tyre pressure monitoring system (that’s now available on the Nexon), rear sun blinds, a powered tailgate and ambient lighting would’ve been nice to have.
There’s no step up in cabin quality either, but the Harrier didn’t need it to begin with. And, yes, the minor bugbears including that of the left knee fouling with the centre console, front central armrest placed too far back and sub-par video feed from the reverse parking camera remain. Expectedly, there’s no change in how accommodating the Harrier’s cabin and boot is either. It’s still among the best five-seater SUVs in terms of space.
While no one really wished for more oomph from the FCA-sourced 2.0-litre diesel, Tata’s gone ahead with it anyway. Torque output remains unchanged at 350Nm, but power sees a sizeable 30PS jump. Claimed efficiency for the manual takes a negligible hit (16.35kmpl vs 16.70kmpl of the BS4), whereas the automatic claims to deliver 14.63kmpl.
Now that the engine is BS6, it also has a 15-litren AdBlue tank. Note that the filler cap isn’t next to the diesel cap like we’ve seen in other big diesels; it’s tucked away under the boot floor. This urea solution keeps the emissions in check and needs to be replaced every 10,000-15,000 kilometres depending on how you use it. The tank should cost roughly Rs 1000 to replenish every time. And in case you’re wondering, if you run out of AdBlue, the car will not start since it will no longer meet the emission standards it’s certified for. The car will give you a warning when there's about 3 litres left in the tank, that's anywhere between 2000-3000km of driving for you to pay heed.
Tata claims to have worked on lowering noise and vibration levels from the four-cylinder engine, and it seems like they've succeeded (at least in the former). But don’t go expecting a stark day and night difference here. The engine still gets vocal once you start pushing it past 3000rpm. Similarly, you'll still feel mild vibrations on the steering wheel and gear lever right from idle. It’s reassuring that additional power hasn’t brought along additional lag with it. And unless you're going full throttle in Sports mode from a standstill (that gets you enjoyable torque steer), the additional 30PS doesn't make its presence felt immediately. This engine remains quite easy to use inside the city too. For a car this size, the clutch feels the right weight. The gear action has been made softer too, an attribute that many city slickers are sure to appreciate.
Speaking of the urban dwellers, the Hyundai-sourced 6-speed torque converter automatic has been long overdue. And paired with the Harrier’s torquey engine, the transmission simply gets the job done. No unpleasant surprises anywhere, just an automatic gearbox doing what it’s designed to do — take the fatigue away from the driver. Upshifts and downshifts remain smooth, at city speeds and out on the highway.
Using the vehicle’s drive modes - Eco, City and Sport - alters the response from the gearbox too. We found it the easiest to drive in Eco, given the engine’s power delivery is smooth and consistent as you accelerate. There are no paddle shifters here, so you have to make do with manual mode. Nudge the gear selector lever to the left and Sports mode is engaged automatically. The gearbox holds on to the gears longer, and lets you overtake without thinking twice.
Tata also claims to have made minor tweaks to the steering. And to their credit, yes it does feel a lot more consistent than before. We'd still want a little more weight at high speeds, given how effortless the Harrier feels on the highway otherwise. The suspension too quietly soaks up the bumps and bad roads without disturbing its occupants.
It carries forward its solid build and lengthy driver assistance feature list too. The top-spec XZ+ variant gets hill descent control, and six airbags. Tata’s playing to its strength by offering ESP, traction control, hill hold and rollover mitigation as standard, along with the usual dual front airbags and ABS with EBD. Thumbs up.
No Surprises, Then?
Yes. And that’s a good thing. Prices range between Rs 13.69 lakh and Rs 20.25 lakh which spells out a premium of Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000. In isolation, that seems fair for the equipment that’s added in. Similarly, the premium that the automatic depends (Rs 1 lakh - Rs 1.2 lakh) is par for the course too.
The bump up in power, the automatic transmission and the feel-good bits such as the massive sunroof finally make the Harrier justify its 20 lakh rupee asking price a bit more convincingly. Had Tata gone all out and bundled in a little more, it’d feel phenomenal value for money — something it pulled off when it was launched initially. You see, over the past year, Tata has consistently hiked prices. Variant to variant, the Harrier is now dearer by a lakh. Not a small sum of money by any means.
With the 2020 update, the Harrier is simply a better package than it was before. More importantly, it’s now offering what it should have from day one.