Can the Nexon crack the sub-compact SUV segment for Tata in the first-go?
The Tata Nexon is the latest entrant in the highly popular sub-compact SUV segment. It is Tata’s first attempt in this space and going by the way it looks, it’s not your conventional small SUV. The sub-4m SUVs that the Nexon competes with are aggressively priced, and pack in more practicality compared to the average premium hatchback. So, the Nexon has to deliver on at least these counts to excel.
The Nexon’s distinctive design sits on a platform that also underpins the Bolt and Zest, and that’s not a bad thing. But, there’s lots that debuts with the Nexon including a new 1.5-litre diesel engine and a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol. Like we have come to expect from modern Tata cars, the Nexon is also packed with a lengthy feature list. Does it all add up to a package that can rival the established players in the segment? More importantly, can the Nexon crack the sub-compact SUV segment in the first go? Let’s find out.
The Tata Nexon is neither a sub-compact SUV nor a hatchback on stilts. It’s a crossover in the true sense. The SUV traits of the Nexon are ground clearance, which at 209mm is comparable with the Renault Duster, and large 16-inch wheels. The high-stance is married with a coupe-like sloping roofline that rakes sharply like that of the Range Rover Evoque.
The unconventional design is eye-catchy, which should make it hard to miss when parked beside other hatchbacks and compact SUVs. The top-spec XZ+ variant of the Nexon that we drove sported a contrast-colour roof in steel grey with both red and blue exterior colours. The signature element is an off-white plastic trim that runs just under the greenhouse on the side. It continues at the rear too, but that’s paint and not plastic. Tata could have done away with it, but then, they could have overdone it too, which they have not.
Apart from the grey roof and off-white sash, there’s another contrasting element on the outside – the black plastic cladding. It does its job of making the Nexon look rugged and high-heeled quite well.
Look straight into the Nexon’s eyes, and you’ll get a hint of Tata’s ‘Impact’ design. The front grille’s top line extends into the headlamps, and onto the side. That’s the ‘humanity line’ in Tata lingo. The Nexon’s design is, however, more aggressive than its siblings. The elements that add to the bold front look are pulled back projector headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, high-set fog lamps, a large front air intake and flared wheel arches.
While the Nexon looks SUV-ish from the front, the rear is more hatchback-like. The high ground clearance is hard to miss, and the stock tyres (215/60 R16) look wide for a vehicle of the Nexon’s size. The faux skid plate on the rear bumper adds some ruggedness. There’s an off-white and glossy black element around the clear-lens tail lamps that adds quirkiness to the design, but you get used to it with time.
Design, Quality, Fit & Finish, Utility & Equipment
The Nexon’s interior has three prominent layers. The upper portion is finished in dark grey plastic, and its quality is on par with its peers. The middle layer gets an aluminium finish, and it looks particularly upmarket. The thickness and solidity of this layer throughout the cabin makes you feel like you’re sitting inside a more premium car. The third and the lowermost layer is a plastic of greyish shade of beige. This plastic is hard to touch, and the fit and finish levels aren’t too high either. For instance, the glovebox requires more than one attempt to shut, and the fit on the lower portion of the doors is questionable, especially around the door pockets. These two are probably the only touch points where fit and finish feels compromised. Otherwise, Tata has managed to do a good job of ensuring satisfactory quality levels at contact points.
Sitting atop the Nexon’s dashboard is a 6.5-inch Harman infotainment system that’s fixed to the dashboard. There’s simply no missing it. More importantly, it feels high quality and well thought out. The display is crisp and readable even under harsh sunlight. It’s only the camera display that is a bit grainy. However, that must have more to do with the output of the camera than the screen itself.
The user interface is friendly and easy to use as it gets hot spots at corners for quick access to functions like air con settings, audio source and the mega menu. The touchscreen isn’t the most intuitive, and there’s a slight delay every time you operate it. However, it doesn’t skip inputs much. It’s quicker to respond when you use the physical buttons and knobs, which Tata has thoughtfully placed well within reach to operate on the go.
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