When the Tata Nexon first broke cover in 2017, the compact Sports Utility Vehicle’s unique stance, its coupe-like design and bold styling was an instant hit. After becoming the number one SUV brand in India and moving nearly 5.5 lakh families, the Nexon has now gotten a comprehensive refresh for the 2023 model year. It did get a facelift in 2020 and a handful of special editions including the Kaziranga edition that you all may recall. But earlier this week Tata Motors officially launched the new Nexon and the new Nexon.EV in one go.
Like their predecessors, the new ICE and EV versions sport nearly identical, refreshed designs, but get intelligent additions and variations to separate them in the eyes of buyers. For both, Tata Motors has done away with the trim variant nomenclatures of the past and replaced them with what the company calls ‘Personas’, in the interest of increased customisability. New colours (including the purple in these pics) and new cabin trim choices have been added and within the four personas that both the ICE and the EV powertrain versions get, there are optional feature packs to choose from.
I travelled for the official test drives of both the fossil fuel and EV versions of the new Nexon over a little more than a week. Here are my first impressions. First up are the fossil fuel versions and what is new about them.
The 2023 Nexon is not based on a new generation architecture. Much of its underpinnings and body panels haven’t changed. But in terms of a redesign, this one is still extensive. I believe, in its run up to transitioning into its forthcoming Gen-2 and Gen-3 electric architectures for its future EVs, Tata Motors wants to move its current portfolio into a sort of cusp position.
And the design and repositioning of the Nexon is meant to deliver that message. The focus for the refresh has clearly been on boosting the Nexon’s premiumness and to move away from analog towards digital. The only body panel that has been changed completely is the bonnet slab, which is now a sort of clamshell with raised sides and a carved-out centre that gels well with the sportier, more aggressive front profile. The new front design has clearly been inspired by the Curvv concept that Tata showcased in April last year.
To bring in that element of futurism, the lighting elements have been replaced with LEDs and they’ve also been given welcome and goodbye signatures to deliver more functionality. The DRLs at the front are bi-functional and double up as sequential turn indicators, and the main headlamps and fog lamps stacked below the DRLs on the front fender are also LED. The front fender is completely new and sports a large airdam and a faux skid plate. The side profile of the new Nexon remains largely unchanged compared to the outgoing model.
The prominent wheel arches, the thick side cladding, the rising waistline, and the coupe-like roofline are all signature design lines that are still fresh and have been retained. The most noticeable change is the new set of aero-optimised 16-inch alloy wheels. Significant design changes at the rear make it very different to the outgoing model without affecting the overall familiar character of the Nexon. The tail-lamps now sport a what’s called x-factor LED tubes lighting configuration and a connecting band light element adds more drama to the tail-lamps.
These get a welcome and goodbye animated light signature and there is also the addition of a stop light in the middle, just above the Tata logo. The roof-mounted spoiler has been changed into a larger unit that wraps around from the lower edge of the rear glass. And it also now tucks the rear glass wiper into a recess. The rear fender is all new with sportier cuts and recesses for the fog lamps and reflectors. There is also a faux skid plate to aid in elevating the SUV flavour of the new Nexon.
While the new LED light signatures deliver a dollop of digitised modernity to the exterior design, the cabin is where the change is most striking. Slide into the driver’s seat and you’ll realise that the new Nexon’s interior sees a big change over the outgoing model. The digitisation objective has been taken several notches up with a trio of screens and multiple capacitive touch sensitive controls urging me to try them out. The steering wheel itself seems to be from a concept with the steering boss being a black glass in which the Tata logo comes on when I punch the start/stop button. The chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel featured stitched faux leather and an intelligent take for delivering the digitisation message. The steering boss is only layered glass with a black lit logo. But the infotainment screen and the digital instrument cluster are new screens with new functionalities.
My top trim Fearless persona variant had a 10.25-inch 2K resolution touchscreen with a slim bezel and an almost frameless look. The high resolution of the screen is best experienced when the 360-degree camera is activated while engaging reverse gear (both 2D and 3D views), or when the blind-spot monitor camera sends its live feed when the turn indicator is engaged. The infotainment screen and the music system has been co-developed with Harman. Other infotainment menu options aside, it also offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The similarly sized digital instrument cluster on the other hand displays all the key drive-related info and has the option of displaying google maps navigation view over the entire screen. The auto aircon, door lock/unlock, parking light and a couple of other functions are all capacitive touch controls on the centre stack.
Most of these are hidden until lit control elements. This panel is finished well, and the integration is also good. The new seats are another highlight in the more generous squabs that offer more comfort and then there is the cooled seats function offered for the driver and co-passenger in the top variants. The perforated seat upholstery is a new type of leatherette that feels good to use and the 3-stage ventilation control button has been placed intuitively just below the thigh squab. Rear seats are also comfortable, and there is enough legroom and kneeroom on offer. The boot offers 382-litres of luggage space. The sunroof is a single pane unit but gets voice-activated control.
There are smaller, yet useful features on offer in the new Nexon like auto headlamps, tyre pressure monitoring, wireless smartphone charger, seat height adjustment for driver and front passenger, auto dimming rearview mirror, SOS call button, AQI monitor etc. The JBL branded 9-speaker music system has multiple presets and the reproduction quality is excellent. There are also a bunch of connected car features that can be accessed using the IRA app. But there are still a few niggling ergonomics issues in the Nexon’s cabin and while material quality has improved, fit and finish is not consistently good. The centre console is crowded, and yet misses out on offering more storage space. The rotary mode selector knob is unnecessarily too big and is a carryover from the previous model. But like the exterior, the cabin has also been cleaned up in terms of panel matching and jointing especially where different materials come together.
The new Nexon continues to get the same two engines that were offered with the outgoing model. The 1.2-litre turbocharged Revotron petrol and the 1.5-litre turbocharged Revotorq diesel engines are being offered in the same state of tune too. But the petrol engine is now also being offered with the option of a dual-clutch automatic transmission; Tata Motors’ calls it a DCA. The other transmission options include a 5-speed manual and an AMT. I got to test drive both the petrol DCA and the diesel manual transmission variants during the official media drive early last week.
The 1.2-litre Revotron petrol is a turbocharged, 3-cylinder engine, which has been marginally adjusted, but delivers the same 88.2kW or about 118hp of peak power and 170Nm of torque. The DCA gearbox sports a wet-clutch and supposedly also has self-learning capabilities. While the gearbox has contributed significantly in improving the refinement of the powertrain and potentially will help in increasing efficiency, it is not the most sporty performer. You’ll have set aside the standard aggressive dual-clutch behaviour expectation and, in its place, the Nexon DCA’s ratios and throttle mapping offers a more measured response and unhurried acceleration. There are no head-nodding gearshifts, but it’s performance won’t pin you back into your seat either, when you floor the pedal. There are three driving modes to choose from - Eco, City and Sport. City is the default mode and Sport mode is only marginally quicker than City. The new DCA gearbox shifter feels good to hold and is better finished than the predecessor.
The diesel engine variant I tested had the 6-speed manual gearbox. This 1.5-litre diesel burner had already been updated for the new emission norms, and it is one of the few selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems that doesn’t need the aid of AdBlue (urea) injection for lowering tailpipe emissions. The engine is more torquey compared to the petrol and though there is a mild delay when I start off the block, there is generous amounts of torque being delivered to the wheels all the way to 4,000rpm. I’m still a fan of manuals and the ability to choose gears based on one’s driving style and traffic conditions. The gearshifts are smooth and quick, with a slightly long throw and just a hint of notchiness. And overall, this is a much more enjoyable powertrain, if one keeps the engine on a mild boil.
The ride quality of the new Nexon remains largely unchanged compared to the outgoing model. That is a positive and is best experienced over bad roads and speed breakers that one can go over without much hesitation. The high sprung body with its 208mm ground clearance can make the wheel arches seem a bit empty, and the 16-inch rims don’t filll them out much. But this certainly helps the Nexon ride over bad roads with ease. There is not much of body roll either despite its relatively high sprung position.
The new Nexon focus on safety also gets a leg-up. The chassis and underpinnings are the same in the 2023 model and so the vehicle will continue to be a Global NCAP 5-star rated SUV. There have been some structural reinforcements in the new Nexon for improved side impact safety. Standard safety features include six airbags, ESP, 3-point seatbelts for all occupants and ISOFIX mounts at the rear.
Overall, the new Nexon is a significant upgrade over the outgoing model. There are four personas to choose from - Smart, Pure, Creative and Fearless with options packs for both petrol and diesel powertrains. Prices start from about ₹8.10 lakh to over ₹13 lakh depending on the customisation chosen (both ex-showroom).