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From its debut as the H5X Concept at the Auto Expo earlier this year to the Harrier, Tata Motors’ latest has easily been one of the most anticipated SUVs of this year. The fact that it will compete with products like the Mahindra XUV 500, the highly successful Hyundai Creta and the runaway hit that is the Jeep Compass puts it in a segment where the spotlight hasn’t stopped shining. So does the Tata Harrier really have what it takes to start a brand new chapter for Tata or is it all just skin deep?
At a conversation with Tata Motors’ head of design, Pratap Bose, just weeks before the media drive of the Harrier in Jodhpur I had asked him about the significance of the platform to design. The platform was everything he had said, going on to tell me that the Tata Harrier’s OMEGA ARC platform that’s based on Land Rover’s D8 architecture is fantastic for a designer. The proportions were so beautifully done that putting a skin on top of it was not only less of a challenge but also a joy because the end result would be so attractive.
He wasn’t fibbing. There is absolutely no doubt that in the flesh the Harrier cuts a handsome silhouette. It’s butch and aggressive when it needs to be yet with a touch of class. The musculature is just right and not over the top. It’s face is that of a bold and resurgent Tata Motors that clearly wants to lead from the front, and I daresay that with the Tata Harrier Pratap and his team have succeeded in doing so. For some, this brave new design direction might take a bit of time to get used to, habituated as they are to more conventional, rather orthodox, SUV design but once they’re past that point the Tata Harrier’s appeal to the eye will be difficult to ignore.
The fact that it’s wider and longer than both the Compass and the Creta, which we expect will be its principal rivals at either end of the pricing spectrum, coupled to this standout design means that there’s no way you will be able to ignore the Tata Harrier’s immense road presence.
The first thing that strikes you is this perception of space. Or is it actual space? Probably the latter and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be the roomiest SUV in its class. Till date I have never seen a Tata vehicle that isn’t roomy. It’s almost part of the Tata Motors DNA but with the Tata Harrier, this has been taken to a new level. Even for a six-footer like me, kneeroom at the rear of this five-seater is plenty. As is headroom and shoulder room. And mind you, none of this is at the cost of boot space, which is a voluminous 425 litres.
The other thing that strikes you is the feel of quality. The wood finish on the dash along with the chrome and piano black accents look premium and nice. The layout with that 8.8-inch floating touchscreen dominating the centre of the dash looks clean and classy as does the aircraft control inspired unconventional parking brake lever. Unfortunately, with that parking brake functionality is somewhat hampered. The 7-inch colour TFT instrumentation is funky but takes just a wee bit to get used to the layout. The seats are nice and comfortable but they lack under thigh support, something a slightly larger or longer seat squab could have solved. Where everything gives off a feel of premium quality, the flimsy internal rear view mirror feels out of place, and the lack of an auto dimming function for it is simply inexplicable. As is the narrowness of the dead pedal. The other inexplicable thing is the absence of Apple CarPlay. Tata Motors says it will be included shortly but a vehicle in this segment should have it from the get go. Operation too could be a bit more user friendly than it is.
Under the beautifully sculpted bonnet of the Tata Harrier is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel that Tata Motors has decided to call Kryotec. The FIAT sourced engine, which is the same as in the Compass, produces 138bhp at 3750rpm and 350Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm. As you can see from those figures the entirety of the grunt is spread towards the bottom and middle of the engine’s rev range and with a linear delivery. Which proved to be great for the relaxed cruise that we did on the highway from Jodhpur to Khimsar. The low down grunt also meant that driving through Jodhpur’s crazy traffic, sometime at crawling and pottering pace, could be tackled easily. It’s a trait that should stand the Tata Harrier in good stead. For now, there is only a six-speed manual transmission and front wheel drive with both an automatic variant and an AWD variant due sometime later. This also means that the rotary knob next to the gear lever that allows you to switch between normal, wet and rough road modes is actually a bit misleading. It only alters ESP settings, which has a whole plethora of functionalities, but doesn’t really endow the Tata Harrier with any extra capabilities. To be fair though the Tata Harrier will not shy away from a bit of softroading. The engine modes, there are Eco, City and Sport, are more effective and switching between the three you’ll clearly feel the change in the vehicle’s response. Needless to say, Sport was our favourite.
While we couldn’t really test the vehicle’s handling thanks to Rajasthan’s arrow straight roads, the hydraulic power steering is a joy to operate. It’s precise and has adequate feedback and yet somehow Tata Motors engineers have managed to eradicate the usual sense of heaviness associated with hydraulic power steering units. The other thing that really stands out is the Tata Harrier’s ride quality. It is absolutely outstanding. As with roominess, Tata Motors has taken ride quality to the next level with the Tata Harrier.
The final word is actually impossible at this stage for we do not know the price of the product. That will be announced at a later date when Tata Motors does a commercial launch for the Tata Harrier. We expect it to start somewhere around Rs 13 lakh for the base and finish at around 18 lakh for the top-end. That would put it squarely between the Creta at one end and the Compass at the other. But that’s mere speculation for now.
What isn’t speculation at all is that Tata Motors has a genuinely good product with the Tata Harrier. It drives well, has plenty of equipment, has even more space than equipment and in the looks department knocks the ball right out of the park. So, if Tata Motors plays the pricing game right then the Tata Harrier does have what it takes to offer outstanding bang for buck. It’s minor flaws notwithstanding.
|Price||Rs 13-18 lakh (estimated)|
|Engine Type||1956cc, 4-cyl, turbo-diesel|
|Maximum power||138bhp @ 3750rpm|
|Maximum torque||350Nm @ 1750-2500rpm|