2023 Tata Nexon EV first drive review: More than a facelift
Okay, we’ve reviewed the new Tata Nexon and now its time for the Nexon EV. Like the ICE car, this is a significant update. The styling and interiors have been completely overhauled, while there are mechanical changes under the skin as well. The Nexon EV gets some design elements specific to it, to differentiate it from the ICE car and on the inside, it gets certain EV-only features. There are changes under the skin as well — the motors are new and consequently power and torque figures have changed, while the batteries have remained the same, and there is improved safety. Gone is the Prime and Max designations and like the Tiago EV, the Nexon now has a medium range (MR) and long range (LR) variant.
The Nexon EV has a fair few rivals in the vicinity. The Mahindra XUV400 is a direct rival, but there is also the Hyundai Kona Electric and MG ZS EV sitting a segment above. Are these updates enough to cement its position as India’s best-selling electric car (a title it has held for a while) over the next few years? We’re about to find out!
2023 Tata Nexon EV styling
Let me be blunt — I love the styling updates. I think the new Nexon builds brilliantly on the styling of the older one, with a completely redesigned face and rear. It gets split headlamps up front, with DRLs up top and headlamps in the bumper. The EV gets specific elements like a light bar and a different bumper design. The light bar in the front and rear has a little flourish on start up and power down, much like how Audis and Mercs do. From the rear, the tail-lamps have been given a redesign and you get a faux-skid plate to differentiate it from the ICE Nexon. You need to remember that this is a facelift so the window line hasn’t really changed but the new character line in the door gives it a much-needed refresh from the side. The Nexon EV looks properly futuristic now, and despite being a six year old car, looks like the freshest SUV under Rs 20 lakh today.
2023 Tata Nexon EV interiors
Tata Motors have thrown the kitchen sink at the Nexon EV. Short of ADAS, this ‘budget’ SUV gets proper luxury car feature list. And more than just the feature list, how everything works feels very slick. There’s a new all-digital 10.2-inch instrument cluster that is identical to the one on the ICE Nexon, and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen that is exclusive to the EV. Why? Tata Motors claims its because the EV costs so much more that they need to pack it in with a little more features so it feels worth that money. I say, why deny ICE customers the whole deal? The UI is great. Very intuitive and easy to use. There’s something called Arcade.EV, which is essentially an app drawer that has music streaming apps, podcast streaming apps and even video apps like Prime, Hotstar and YouTube — something to pass time while you’re charging the car. This is complemented with a great JBL sound system that has a plenty of sound stages. Oh, and it gets wireless CarPlay and Android Auto. One new trick that the Nexon has picked up is the ability to throw up maps from your phone on to the instrument cluster right in front of the driver. Except, if you use Google Maps with Apple CarPlay, it won’t work. Apple Maps and Apple CarPlay does. The engineers promised me an update is coming.
The steering wheel is new. It’s got a screen for the Tata logo, and paddle shifters for the regen. The seats are countered better with proper lumbar support and blistering. 45W fast charging USB C-Type ports make an appearance in the front and rear. There’s a wireless charger which is just about wide enough for my iPhone 11 with a case (a limitation of the older platform, and one of the few reminders that this is truly just a facelift). The Nexon also gets an air purifier, sunroof, auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and a 3D camera. See what I mean? This thing is packed with more features than cars twice its price. And the best bit is that most of it is executed really, really well!
2023 Tata Nexon EV drivetrain
Before we get to the driving there are some important specs that I need to get out of the way first. There’s a new motor and it weighs a full 20kg less than the old one. That tweaks the power and torque outputs — peak power is now 143bhp (more than before) and torque is 215Nm (less than before). I know, even I was taken aback by the lower torque output but they have played around with the transmission and lowered the gearing so peak torque to the wheels is actually higher than before. The end result is a claimed 0-100kmph time of 8.9 seconds, and a higher top speed of 150kmph (on the LR).
With that, climb in to the driver’s seat and lets get a move on. The Nexon EV gets a new gear shifter which is a much welcome change from the rotary dial on the older one. The rotary dial lives on, but only for the driving modes. Starting of in City mode, the first thing you note is that despite being down on torque, you’re not missing out on any of the performance. The initial part of the throttle is not too aggressive but floor it and once the motor is spinning up, there’s proper shove. Tata Motors claims that the torque is spread out wider over the rev range and it now revs higher , up to 16,000rpm from 12,000rpm. Put it in to sport mode and it feels properly fast, the kind that buries your head in to the headrest. We didn’t VBOX it, but that 8.9 second claim sounds realistic. Being an EV, delivery of torque is as you would expect — uninterrupted, quiet and effective. Compared to the older Nexon EV, you hear less of the motor whine in the cabin.
One bit that is new are the new paddle-operated regen settings. Like before, there are four levels of regen — starting at zero which doesn’t have any regen and three which is most aggressive. Strangely, the paddle to increase the regen is on the right, which is the opposite of every other paddle-based-regen car I have driven so far. The mode I was most comfortable in was level 1, I found level two and three a bit too sharp in terms of deceleration. One bit that I don’t like too much is the fact that you can’t control the rate of deceleration with the accelerator pedal. In other, generally more expensive EVs, you can set regen to the most aggressive mode but then get lighter regen by pushing in the throttle slightly. There’s progressiveness and adjustability to it, which Tata Motors’ EVs don’t have at the moment. Tata Motors has looked at this and customer clinics for them have led them to the conclusion that the customers prefer the way it is now, so fair play to them. However, I like that adjustability on the go.
2023 Tata Nexon EV ride and handling
On the chassis front, the suspension has been updated mildly to deal with the change in weight but that’s about it. Ride quality has always been a highlight of the Nexon EV and it feels impressively resolved on our roads. Small bumps can barely be felt, bigger bumps and breakers are dispatched off competently and it remains planted at speed. The older Nexon EV had a tendency to crash back down after a breaker due to its weight but that isn’t so bad any more. On a typical Indian road filled with bumps and undulations, little slows the Nexon down. As for handling, we drove the car on a rainy, rainy day so it wasn’t possible to really check out its dynamic ability. I was particularly keen on doing so as the Nexon EV is running new low rolling resistance tyres, and that could quite possibly have made a trade off for grip. Another day. What I can report is that if you floor it coming out of a corner in Sport, it will light up the TC button and there’s no way you can turn it off. Breaking is impressive — the iVBAC working seamlessly in the background to give you impressive stopping distances even in the wet.
2023 Tata Nexon EV battery
On the battery front, not much has changed. The LR variant that we were driving has a 40.5kWh battery while the MR gets a 30kWh battery, both of which are identical to before. That said, range has increased. The claimed range is now 465km, which is 12km more and Tata claims increasing real world range has been the focus. When I started my drive in the morning, a 95 per cent charged LR showed me 323km of range on the dash. It is hard to comment on exactly how much the range has increased considering a first drive involves a lot of static shooting which isn’t exactly ideal and can give you a lower efficiency read out. A longer test should shed more light. How has the range improved though? One way is the eco-tyres, another is the improved aero. For example, the new spoiler does affect drag and the fact that the rear wiper is tucked away under it does improve it even further.
As for charging times, the LR takes about 15 hours on a standard wall box and this drops down to 6 hours on the faster 7.2kW wall box. The Nexon EV also accepts DC fast charging and it can go from 10 to 80 per cent in just 56 minutes.
Another interesting feature that the Nexon EV gets is V2V and V2L. V2V means the Nexon can act as a mobile power bank and charge up other EVs, though not very quickly. V2L stands for Vehicle to Load and it means that the Nexon can power appliances when an electric connection is not available. There was a coffee machine set up at the launch event which was powered entirely by the Nexon EV. Mind you, you need to buy special cables that are available as accessories to use these features, and they are only available on the LR.
2023 Tata Nexon EV safety
Another aspect in which the Nexon EV is acing it. Six airbags come as standard, while ESP and a blind spot monitor are on offer. The structure has also been reinforced with more high strength steel to ensure better crash performance in side pole impacts — which is also one of the test in the upcoming BNCAP crash norms. This Nexon EV is based on the same 4-star GNCAP rated platform from before so there should be good frontal crash performance as well.
2023 Tata Nexon EV verdict
The best-selling EV in India just got significantly better. The Nexon EV feels uncompromising on every front — the drivetrain and dynamics feel as sorted as ever, the interiors are a significant step up and it is packed with equipment and you will turn heads on the road. At least until they sell so many that they’re everywhere. There’s very little to fault about it and I think it takes moves the bar up more than a couple of notches. If you’re looking for an EV and can afford a Nexon EV, I would highly recommend you get one. You won’t be disappointed. Now the only question is, how much will it be priced at. This is a significant update so I’m keen on seeing what it will be priced at, but this LR will certainly be more expensive than the Nexon EV Max which was on sale at Rs 19.9 lakh. We’re going to find out soon — the launch is slated for September 14.