First Drive Review: Tata Nexon HyprDrive

First Drive Review: Tata Nexon HyprDrive

Words: Aninda Sardar

Photography: Sachin Khot

Change has been in the air at Tata Motors for some time now and boy, is that showing in the company’s new range of products. The most striking sign of change of course has to be the Nexon. This new compact SUV not only walked away with the Design of the Year and Compact SUV of the Year awards at the 10th Times Auto Awards in partnership with evo India and Fast Bikes India but also ended up as top cat, bagging the prestigious Car of the Year title.

The newsmaker

After #LevelNex design and what have you, the big news this time is built around the humble automated manual transmission as it makes its entry into the Nexon. For the first time in this sub-4m compact SUV segment, consumers will be offered a choice of automatic convenience in both petrol and diesel variants. Christened HyprDrive (that’s not an error by the way), the AMT equipped Nexon however will be selling a lot more than just convenience even though that’s what headlines the HyprDrive story. Tata Motors has used an intelligent transmission controller, in addition to the hydraulic actuator that is endemic to this automated manual gearbox, to offer a whole host of extras that have not been around in the AMT equipped vehicles.

So, in addition to being clutch free, the Nexon HyprDrive will offer you a creep function, a kickdown mode and an anti-stall function. There is also a smart hill assist function and what Tata Motors calls Fast-Off. While the other functions are mostly self-explanatory, that last one merits some elaboration. Basically, the human tendency is to lift off the throttle as soon as an overtaking manoeuvre has been completed. This function preempts that and keeps the power delivery on to reduce jerks immediately after an overtake where you’ve demanded aggressive response from the engine.

The HyprDrive experience

Our primary aim was to find out if all the stuff on the presentation slides shown to us the night before actually worked in the real world the following day. So we skipped the part about the design, the quality and the interiors and space and such like. Instead we did what we were there to do, put the Nexon HyprDrive to the test.

Moving out of Pune’s hotel Conrad and cutting across the city to the highway that would lead us to the hill station of Panchgani, our turnaround point, the 1.2-litre Revotron turbo-petrol felt nice and smooth. Shift shocks were muted at our unhurried pace as we weaved our way fairly quickly through the morning traffic. But then muted shift shocks at a relatively leisurely pace in a petrol powered AMT car doesn’t really say much. The real test began at our first red light where we got boxed in by a bunch of other cars. Normally, you’d have to give an AMT equipped car a wee bit of throttle to get going. Not this one, because that creep function really works. Even if there is a fraction of a second’s worth of a lag when compared to a conventional automatic. Test one, passed.

Next up, Fast-Off. Having never heard of this particular innovation before, I just had to find out how it worked. This would also give us the opportunity to test the kickdown function. So as soon as we got on to the highway and spotted a clutch of trucks, we went for it. Unlike in the other AMT equipped cars I have driven where the downshift happens after the throttle has been mashed to the floor, here the gear shifted almost as soon as I had started accelerating more aggressively. The moment we got past the trucks I lifted off to see how well the system works. Basically, the system prevents the throttle from shutting suddenly and instead eases it off. As a result, the slowing down is more gradual. Test two, passed.

Finally, the smart hill assist. One of the principal difficulties of using an AMT equipped car on a slope is its tendency to roll back. In the absence of a manual clutch that can be modulated, one would either have to use the handbrake and then modulate it with the throttle to get going. Forward of course. Or the shift from brake pedal to throttle would have to be accomplished with lightning speed. Even then, you would have to give it some gas to overcome the vehicle’s natural tendency to roll back. Not in the Nexon HyprDrive. Get to a slope. Apply the brake and then move your feet to the throttle. The car does not roll back. It holds long enough for you to make the transition from brake to throttle without hassle. Another test, passed. Although I would think this is more an offshoot of that earlier mentioned creep function rather than a whole new function.

Petrol vs diesel

Well, like in all AMT equipped vehicles, the petrol feels smoother than the diesel because there’s less torque for the AMT to handle when it comes to the petrol powered car. That irritating head toss has definitely been reduced to some extent but not really eliminated. The rules of engagement remain uniform. If you treat the HyprDrive nicely it returns favour in strict adherence to Newton’s Third Law. Should you choose to exhibity any hyper tendencies in your drive then the going is palpably less smooth than you’ve been told to expect. This is felt more in the diesel as opposed to the petrol.

That said, the USP of an AMT, irrespective of all the lovely additions by Tata Motors, remains the convenience it brings to the package. And out on the twisty crowded Pasarni ghat up to Panchgani, that’s what stood out most. The #LevelNex convenience it offers.

Pricing and verdict

Well, can’t really say much since Tata Motors hasn’t commercially launched the Nexon HyprDrive. However given market trends expect the AMT equipped ones to be around fifty to sixty grand more expensive than their manual counterparts. Of course, you’ll only get this convenience if you pay for the most expensive trim. But even at that end of the Nexon spectrum we doubt you’ll feel shortchanged if you but the Nexon HyprDrive.

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