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Tata Nexon EV review

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 30, 2020 Published on January 30, 2020

The first truly affordable EV may be the game changer for Tata and the benchmark that competitors will need to beat

Despite all the talk about the need for going towards affordable electric mobility, EVs have largely been in the top tier price range worldwide, except, maybe, China. The concept of affordability is also skewed in the Indian context where mass adoption can only happen when small EVs can be made available at a moderate price differential to their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. That the talk is still focused on 0-100kmph sprint times and the ability of the latest EV to drag ICE competitors in a tug-of-war is indicative of the prevailing mentality. Yes, it is understandable that any new technology needs a bit of a novelty to break out of its mould. But the attempt at going green will not be served by pricey, niche EVs that are focused on making supercars look like sloths. It can however be helped by practical, affordable EVs, usable everyday like the new Tata Nexon EV.

The Nexon EV is not the first electric from Tata; the Tigor EV has been around for a while now, being sold exclusively in the taxi market. It is also not the first time a car maker has forayed into creating a crossover EV - the Hyundai Kona EV and the MG ZS EV have already been launched. But Tata is showing the way for others to follow by creating one on a platform that was not dedicated for EVs. It is also the kind of engineering that needs to be replicated by others to keep costs low. So, for example, you don’t get a large, TV-sized tablet that controls everything in the Nexon EV, it still has all the conventional switchgear from the ICE counterpart doing that job. Even though it is not a dedicated EV platform, the battery pack has been intelligently packaged under the floor to still position the rear seats at the same level as its ICE counterpart. So, the rear bench is not raised to create more space for the batteries below the floor.

Design

The Nexon EV’s design is also almost identical to the conventional fuel models. The biggest differentiator will be the metallic teal blue paint job and the matching accents on the exterior of the EV. There are design changes that give the Nexon EV a temporary uniqueness, but the BS VI variants of the ICE Nexon will soon sport most of these. The bonnet is lowered, for example, in keeping with the attempt to meet the new pedestrian safety norms. The headlamp design is sharper, with squared-off edges and the light configuration includes new LED DRLs that also double up as turn indicators. The grille sports a simple glossy black band with the term EV in metallic light blue. The Nexon EV still needs air to be fed into the bonnet, because unlike many other EVs, this one has the radiators for the battery cooling system under the hood. There is also the battery for the electricals and some of the other fluids storage too, making it a fairly packed ‘engine bay’.

Tail-lamps are with red LED tubes in a configuration that seems to give them a Brit connection

 

In addition to the signature blue colour, there is another special addition in the Tri-Arrow pattern for the Nexon EV. You can find it in the front fender air intake, the seat upholstery etc. The Nexon is one of the most attractively designed vehicles bearing the Tata logo and the EV seems to have bested the record set by the ICE variants (at least the pre-facelift ones). Material quality and fit and finish seem to be better. The contrast white roof and bright metallic blue waistline mounding in the XZ+ top variant I was driving made it quite eye-catching even from the side. The flared wheel arches and the low rolling resistance MRF Wanderer tyres shod on 16-inch rims gives it a fairly sturdy, squat look. At the rear, the tail-lamps are transparent with red LED tubes in a configuration that seems to give them a Brit connection. More blue accents and tri-arrow patterns can be found at the rear. The body panels and rear fender seem to be identical to the ICE counterparts, only the EV doesn’t get an exhaust pipe… but of course.

Cabin

The Nexon EV’s cabin is also almost identical to the ICE counterpart’s design and layout. The same rotary gear knob, the same switches and controls and the same steering wheel. The blue metallic accents and inserts highlight all the aircon vents, the instrument console binnacle and the centre console storage. The grey dashboard top, piano black midsection and centre console with the creamy white bottom half give it good definition and structure. The instrument cluster sports an analog speedometer and a 7-inch digital screen to the left which displays a mix of information including remaining range, battery charge level, the Odometer, a discharge and regeneration progress graph, infotainment related info and a diagrammatic display of the current status of the motors and battery.

The Nexon EV doesn’t get any major structural changes except the special packaging and protection for the battery under the floor. Dimensionally it is identical to the regular Nexon, so cabin room and luggage space (350litres) remain the same. There is also enough space for a spare wheel. The area that would have been taken up by the fuel tank and some of the space under the floor behind the driver house the battery pack. Tata engineers have managed to get a 50:50 weight distribution for the Nexon EV and they insist that the battery pack has been put through all sorts of tests such as pierce tests, water ingress and fire test, etc. It also has inbuilt overcharge and short protection. Incidentally, the battery pack is IP67 rated for being waterproof upto one metre depth.

Performance

The liberal ARAI rated driving range for the Nexon EV is 312kms for a full charge. But my test mule’s display read 252kms after it ‘booted’ up. Tata officials said that this is not based on a previous trip’s average, so this could be more likely what you’ll get in the real world. Even that would change if you drive in sport mode or choose to keep a heavy foot or have a full set of five passengers and luggage. Yet, 250kms is enough for the average weekly commute of most urban road users.

The powertrain hardware includes a permanent magnet motor that generates 129PS of power and 245Nm of torque, a single-speed gearbox and the liquid-cooled battery pack which has a capacity of 30.2kWh. Of the two driving modes - Drive and Sport - the former is suitable for city driving and offers the likelihood of maxing out the driving range. Acceleration is a bit jumpy at start, but stays controlled in Drive mode. Regenerative braking is so strong that with a bit of practice and preemptive lifting off of the throttle, I quickly manage to almost avoid using the brakes altogether. The classic EV trait of all the torque being available from standstill is best felt in Sport mode. Shift to ‘S’ on the go and the Nexon EV bolts forward immediately. There is 60 per cent more torque available, and even though the 0-100kmph run is only 9.9 seconds, it feels quick. In fact, in the absence of any electronic stability or cornering aids and the amount of power and torque being fed to the front wheels leads to considerable torquesteer. But with the centre of gravity being lower by almost 40mm, the Nexon EV feels planted and it helps to have a fairly accurate steering set up too. The only downside is the ride quality which feels a bit firmer than the ICE Nexon.

Bottom Line

By launching the Nexon EV at just a 25 per cent premium over the top trim diesel variant of this compact crossover, Tata Motors has set the benchmark for others to try and match up.

There is going to be gaps in the public charging infrastructure for years to come and you’d have to rely largely on creating a private space and committed cycle for charging up your EV. That’s for sure. Tata is planning to set up the charging tower initially for customers and it is good to know that a full charge from a low 20 per cent will take eight hours at a home charger and only 60 minutes if it is plugged into a 15kW fast charger.

The Nexon EV does look like the most affordable and practical electric yet. Ex-showroom prices start at ₹13.99 lakh for the base variant.

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Published on January 30, 2020
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