The Tata Nexon facelift impressed us with refreshing surprises and a thorough overhaul. But while it’s a familiarly likeable package, the disappointments are familiar too
I was under the impression that it was only a joke amongst auto journos until a random onlooker came up to me and said, “I thought it was Tarzan the wonder car,” when I had stopped for a chai in front of the Amer fort with the new Tata Nexon. The choice of the purple colour for the new SUV, a polarising option for their best-seller, speaks volumes about Tata’s confidence in their product. And they’ve got every reason to be confident.
The Indian carmaker has worked hard to give its most popular SUV a facelift and it’s evident as soon as you lay your eyes on it. The new headlamps and tail light cluster look much neater and futuristic, in line with other SUVs from the brand. The new light setup seems just about enough to make the facelift look exciting even though there are no changes to the profile. The interiors too feel thoroughly revamped. The Nexon’s pièce de résistance on the inside is the new steering wheel with the backlit TATA logo; the capacitive touch buttons on the central console and the new instrument cluster not only add freshness to the package but also handy touches to the features list. The seat ventilation is also pretty effective but the turn indicators tend to go out of rhythm once in a while and there are familiar issues with the infotainment system. But more on that later.
Also new here are the “profiles”—Smart, Pure, Creative and Fearless— as Tata calls them, instead of variants and the new colour options. The cars we got to drive were the Fearless profiles in petrol and diesel avatars. The carmaker had charted out four different routes, eponymous with the variant nomenclature. The Fearless route from our base at Devi Ratn to Jaigarh and Amer fort was the first on my list since it promised to offer the most thrilling drive through Jaipur’s legacy, before heading on to exploring the city’s modern marvel, the World Trade Park and onwards towards the open stretches of highway around the city.
With the 1.2L turbo petrol-dct at my disposal, I headed out to the forts. The new Nexon truly came alive in the winding roads during an uphill climb, always inspiring confidence in this guise. Like other Tata cars, the SUV also features three drive modes – eco, city and sport. Thanks to barely any traffic during the wee hours of the morning and inviting roads, I started off in Sport mode and the car felt responsive to every input of the throttle. The DCT also gets the job done smoothly but don’t expect shifts to be lightning quick. After these spirited sprints, I noticed that the range on the instrument cluster had gone down considerably, but we’ll have to wait for the full review to comment on the mileage.
It was time to switch to city and head to the World Trade Park at Jaipur which, not only is obviously in stark contrast to where I was coming from, but also in terms of the roads leading to it. The 10km long JLN Marg, that spans from Albert Hall to Patrika Gate in Jaipur is an arrow straight stretch of road that was perfect for the Nexon to muster through in City mode. With the traffic now slowly increasing, I switched to eco mode for a brief stretch, crawling through unruly traffic and I’m glad I didn’t have to switch to it earlier. The latter of the three modes dulls down throttle response and is ideal only in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The Sport mode is the most enjoyable and City is good enough for, well, moving city traffic. Eco mode certainly does the job of conserving fuel and extracting unreal levels of efficiency from the engine, but is anything but exciting.
With still a sizeable chunk of range left, I swapped the petrol-dct for the 1.5L diesel manual and headed out on the ‘Pure’ route, to test the car on the open stretches of the highway. After driving the former rather aggressively and effortlessly, I had really low expectations from the diesel-manual. But I’m glad to report that I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, there is a familiar diesel engine rattle, but even if you aren’t a downshift-to-overtake kind of person (which you shouldn’t be), the Nexon can do overtaking maneuvers without much planning. It’s happy to chug away at low speeds in higher gears and even responds to in-gear acceleration well.
The infotainment system continues to be the chink in the Nexon’s armour that does so remarkably well on all fronts—performance, ride quality and style. During the five hours I spent driving the car, it lagged, didn’t respond, didn’t connect and just gave up on me on multiple occasions. It is certainly an improvement over the previous model where wireless CarPlay or Android Auto wasn’t even available. Don’t get me wrong, Tata has ironed out a lot of issues while bringing it up to date with the status quo, but there’s a long way to go before it feels as premium as the rest of the package.
The new Nexon certainly takes it to the next level with a package that strikes a nice balance between modernity and tradition. Tata’s intentions are clearly bold with this SUV and there’s no two ways about it. Right from the outside, the purple colour along with the futuristic and minimal front and rear design, make Tata’s intentions clear. This is their best-seller and the carmaker is upping the ante to make sure it stays the same. What really took me by surprise in my 200-odd km drive in and around Jaipur was the improvement in NVH levels and cabin insulation. While touches like the backlit logo on the steering wheel and capacitive touch buttons on the central console definitely lend a touch of modernity, the cabin now feels like a much more premium space to be in, thanks to a tweaked suspension setup and exceptional cabin insulation. Overall, the Tata Nexon facelift reflects a thorough overall to mark a significant leap from the previous model. And that’s half the job done. Stay tuned for the other half of the puzzle as Tata announces prices for its SUV on September 14, 2023.
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