Two very popular segments of cars in the market in recent times have been the compact SUVs and the ones which run on automated manual transmission or AMTs. So if the two come together is it a deadly combination? Well that is what Tata motors are trying with a brand new AMT variant of its popular SUV the Nexon. They’ve even given it a fancy name; the car is called HyprDrive Self-Shift gears and comes with some new features not seen till now in the segment. The Nexon is not the first car from Tata Motors to get the AMT treatment which only means Tata is bullish on it and therefore using it on more cars than we. We sampled the car recently to see if this Nexon delivers on the promise it holds.
One of the major reasons for the success of the Nexon in the market is the way it looks. Tata has done a commendable job at keeping the car very similar to the concept. The famed Impact design theme is very evident here. It’s not boxy and looks like a new age urban SUV that appeals to all. The highlight is the ceramic lining that runs along the profile and merges into the rear in a slingshot design. Then there’s the silver C-pillar that has a unique design. Tata has tried to give the AMT variant a separate identity with the Etna orange colour that gets a sonic silver dual tone roof option. A ground clearance of 209 mm is that crucial factor that makes a huge positive difference along with cladding on the wheel arches and the profile.
The quality of interiors on the Nexon is likeable. The fit and finish is also something that’ll pleasantly surprise you. The highlight here is the touch screen system that reminds you of some premium cars in the market, owing to its placement above the dashboard. This ensures in a safer drive as the driver vision doesn’t get diverted to the usual spot where car audio systems are placed. But after spending a few days with the car you realise the quality of touch and responsiveness can surely be better. The Connect next system made by that Harman though belts out good quality audio as the car comes with 4 speakers and tweeters each. There’s also an integrated rear parking camera in the system and you can see the output on the screen even when the car is moving forward. The boot space stands at 350 litres which can be expanded to 690 litres of the second row of seats are folded down. And then how can you forget the wearable key which can be used to lock/unlock your car.
The good thing with the Nexon AMT is that it is available in both petrol and diesel engine options. This is unlike its rivals like the Maruti Brezza and the Mahindra TUV 300. The car gets a 1.5 liter diesel engine while the petrol is a 1.2 liter mill seen on the Tiago but now come with a turbocharger. Both churn out a similar power figure of 110 PS but the diesel at 260 Nm gives a lot more torque that 170 Nm given by the petrol. The Nexon also becomes the first car in segment to get 3 driving modes—Eco, City & Sport which make the car drive better in different driving situations. Now we all know that when compared to the conventional automatics you have to be a little more patient with AMTs. You cannot put the pedal to the metal and expect the car to respond immediately. But Tata motors have tried to address that issue by putting in an intelligent transmission controller which includes features like anti-stall, kick-down and fast-off. The company says these features help optimise the automatic gearshifts to provide better power output during overtaking maneuvers or quick acceleration requirements.
Ride & Handling
One of the highlights of the Nexon is its ride quality. The car gives a comfortable ride on both the rows. Owing to its compact dimensions it also handles pretty well. The 16 inch wheels ensure a planted drive that’s full of confidence. Despite the raised stance there’s minimum body roll, and that also ensures a good drive position. What also contributes to that is a steering that is tilt adjustable and sits lower than some recently launched cars from Tata Motors. To aid in a more convenient urban drive the Nexon AMT also comes with a smart assist which prevents the car from crawling back on uphill drives. But even more useful is the crawl function that helps the car move forward in slow moving traffic without pressing the accelerator.
The Nexon has always been a very appealing car, one that has done wonders to the fortunes of Tata Motors. The AMT gearbox makes it even more acceptable, especially for the urban buyer who is looking for a convenient stress free drive without spending a bomb on buying the car or fuel expenses. The Petrol variant is prices at Rs 9.41 lakh while the Diesel will cost you Rs 10.3 lakh (ex-showroom). If you’re one of those who get stuck in long traffic jams every single day these cars make a lot of sense without a burning a hole in your pocket.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars