Tata Nexon Petrol BS6 Review
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Tata has made some tempting changes to the Nexon facelift in order to make it more enticing for buyers, who have otherwise been inclined towards the competition. Does that make it a better Nexon?
With its 5-star safety rating, the Nexon was already one of the most talked about urban SUVs in the market. Not to forget, the spacious cabin and comfortable rear seats made it the ideal pick for the family. But the competition with its modern features and attention to finer details had the heavier chunk of buyers. Came 2020 and Tata was ready with the Nexon facelift. It gets better looks, modern features and more power in the petrol engine. And even though the prices have gone up, the Nexon feels like a more complete package. Are the changes bold enough for it to be the default choice in the segment?
Nexon designers were told to introduce the new tri-arrow element in the design everywhere. And to their credit, they have done so beautifully. The face now looks more posh with the thick black grille and the better designed airdam with the said tri-arrow elements (replaced by bi-arrow design now). The headlamps are also revised and feature projector beams. The DRL's too are in the same tri-arrow shape and look rather well detailed. Overall, the face now looks better chiseled and more modern.
Move to the side and the Nexon looks... the same. Minor changes here are lower down with a slightly different alloy wheel design and the side cladding featuring the tri-arrow design. The C-Pillar cladding has been altered as well. At the back, there are minor tweaks. The tail lamps now feature the, you guessed it - the tri-arrow design. Lower down, ‘Nexon’ is now spelt on the boot and the bumper has gone through a sporty revision as well. Overall, the Nexon looks sharper, to a point where the older one now looks a lot more dated than it really should.
The doors of the nexon open wide and the height adjustable seat is large and comfortable. Designers have also done a commendable job to help make the Nexon look better for the passengers. The new dashboard garnish finished in a gloss white finish certainly adds to the premiumness. And it gets the tri-arrow elements too. Most areas inside the cabin are light and that adds an extra layer of airiness in a cabin that's plenty wide to begin with. The fit and finish levels are a major improvement over the older Nexon and it now feels like a well put together SUV.
The steering in this top trim comes with a leather wrap and the flat-bottom setup feels sporty. But, the final touch points here could have been better. The leather finish and the steering-mounted controls leave a bit to be desired. Because of the layered steering wheel design, pressing hard on the music/calls/cruise control buttons will see you honking accidentally. This also happens while making u-turns and is something you will have to learn to live with.
The instrument cluster is new. It displays a lot of information and looks quite cool as well. But, the display is small and with all the information like time, TPMS, trip, average efficiency and instantaneous all taking up real estate at the same time, it does feel cluttered. This means you have to focus on the screen to get a particular info while driving. We wish Tata would have used the digital display from the Nexon EV, which mimics that of the Harrier, here as well.
Other features like the sunroof, automatic climate control, push button start stop, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, electric folding and adjustable ORVMs, all remain intact.
The infotainment duties are taken care of by a 7-inch touchscreen display which gets changeable colors and themes. The unit now feels smoother to operate and gets more features. It now gets IRA connected car technology by which you can have remote vehicle control like flash headlights, lock & horn, live vehicle diagnostics, vehicle location track, geo-fence and trip analytics. What you can't do however is start and switch on the AC, a feature available in the Nexon EV via the ZConnect application. This feature would have been particularly useful to pre-cool the SUV in the hot Indian summers. We could not test these features however, as they were not activated in our test car.
You also get ‘What Three Words’ in navigation, in which you can give a voice command of the three key words of the destination, and the infotainment system will find it for you. Speaking of voice commands, Nexon now accepts them for the phone, media and climate control. Also, you can give them in Hindi as well, and they work quite well. However, you cannot operate the windows or the sunroof with this feature. If you are not interested in all this tech, then you will be glad to know that the banging 8-speaker Harman sound system is still present, and is still the best in the segment.
While Tata has clearly put an effort in making the cabin feel more premium and adding modern features to ease convenience, they forgot to fix the everyday practical bits. The centre storage remains a mystery as the cup holders are too deep and narrow to hold cups, the sharp edges mean you will be hesitant to store a phone there and the front USB port is still out of reach of an adult hand. If fixed, the Nexon’s cabin could easily be the most practical cabin in the segment. On the flipside, the practical bits which were good are still good, like the large door pockets with umbrella holder and the massive 15-litre cooled glovebox.
In terms of safety, the Nexon has proved to be the second most secure car in the segment with an NCAP rating of 5 stars. It gets dual airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat anchors, ESP and reverse parking sensors and camera.
This is where Tata has dominated the segment and still does. The large rear bench ensures good comfort of the occupants. Be it leg room, headroom, under thigh support or the recline angle, these seats score highly. In fact, seating three at the back is also possible as the cabin is wide enough. Adding to the convenience are rear AV vents and a 12V socket. The armrest has two cup holders and the door pockets too can hold a 1-litre bottle with ease. If you are looking to buy a sub-4 metre SUV for the family’s comfort, look no further.
At 350 litres, the boot of the Nexon is big enough to accommodate our three test suitcases. One large, one medium and an overnighter. The boot, like the competition, could have accommodated a soft bag as well, but the intrusive wheel wells pose a challenge. If you wish to load more, the rear seats get 60:40 split and a true flat fold by folding up the rear seat bench.
Engine and performance
Another department of the Nexon which has seen a major update is the petrol engine. Not just a BS6 upgrade, but the engine is now also blessed with 10 more horsepower. The 1.2-litre turbocharged unit is making 120PS of power and 170Nm of torque while still being mated to the 6-speed manual transmission. And not just on brochure, this does feel better to drive as well. Refinement levels of the engine have improved, albeit marginally..
The motor still sends vibrations into the cabin at ideal and sounds a bit crude as well. But luckily, most of these vibrations are limited to idling situations only. Get going and the engine now revs more linearly than before. The spikes in power delivery are subtle and won't bother you inside the city. Adding to the ease of drive is the light clutch, which is possibly the lightest we have driven in a long time. It does take a while to locate the bite point as the action is very linear and lacks feel, but is surely a plus point in your everyday drive.
A bother however will be the turbo lag. The power feels missing at lower rpms, and this makes the bumper to bumper situation a bit dull. This will lead to a downshift, or going hard on the gas to make the revs climb faster. But, when the turbo does kick in, you get a good pull in the mid-range and ample torque for overtakes. This is where the engine feels in its zone and will offer a good efficiency as well. The in-gear acceleration has improved significantly, with the BS6 Nexon being faster than the BS4 model in both 30-80kmph in third gear and 40-100kmph in fourth gear. Highway cruising is also calm and sweet with 100kmph clocking in at 2000rpm.
But, if you're in the mood for some fun, the top-end performance still feels missing, even in the Sport drive mode. Despite the 10 added horsepower, the Nexon doesn't feel particularly fast or quicker. The 0-100kmph run took 2 seconds more than the older Nexon petrol. And this is down to two things. First, the BS6 update has taken some pull away from the engine and hence the added power is less to make the Nexon faster, and more to make up for the performance lag. And second, the gear shifts. Inside the city, the shifts feel a bit notchy and the shift gates don't feel well defined. This becomes particularly apparent while shifting quickly. Slotting into second at higher revs requires quite a bit of force and going into third on the redline will result in a miss shift. Plus, redline shifting does result in the engine bogging down, and taking time to gain momentum again.
Like before, the drive modes make quite a bit of difference in the way the power is available. City is more than adequate for leisurely drives, Sport feels peppier and Eco does its job by feeling a bit too lazy.
Ride and handling
The Nexon's ride comfort will give you little reason to complain inside the city. However, the facelift changes on-road manners a wee bit. The initial firmess has been dialed up. While this means that the Nexon is quick to settle down after bumps and speed breakers, this also means that the surface undations are now more pronounced in the cabin. While driving on good roads, the passengers now have to deal with a bit of jitteriness which wasn't there before.
Go over a bad patch however, and the Nexon flattens it for the passengers. The suspension is silent and cushions the occupants well over most of the bigger undulations. It's only when you are driving over a particularly bad patch that the side to side movement in the cabin feels a bit jarring.
When it was first launched, Nexon was known foe its value for money aspect. However, prices for the Nexon have seen quite a steep rise since then. In fact, the Nexon’s top variants are now more expensive to buy than the likes of the Hyundai Venue. But, Tata has cleverly places variants like XMS, right in the middle of the lineup and with a lot of attractive features, to still claim the value for money tag.
The Tata Nexon has made a lot of improvements in this facelift. It looks better, feels more premium on the inside and now has a feature list to walk shoulder to shoulder with much of the competition. Reasons to buy the Nexon however remain the same: its 5 star safety, ride comfort, the sound system, rear seat space and value for money mid variants.
Where the Nexon fails to impress is its powertrain and the cabin practicality. The petrol engine, though powerful, feels less refined and isn't happy to be pushed. Also, Nexon is offering an AMT automatic at this price point, where the competition is offering torque converters or even DCTs. The cabin storage for everyday items is still lacking. And the new steering and instrument cluster are unable to better the driver's experience. Overall, though it is a better Nexon, it fails to hit it out of the park.
Minor bugbears aside, the Nexon continues to be a sensible small SUV for the family. It does become the default choice if you want space for five and their luggage, and a comfortable ride. However, if it's polish and latest tech you're after, the Nexon might feel a little rough around the edges.