2023 Tata Harrier gets sharper styling
2023 Tata Harrier gets sharper stylingShot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

2023 Tata Harrier facelift first drive review

Tata Motors has given the 2023 Harrier more tech, sharper styling and a much needed mechanical update via the electric power steering. Does it finally pose a serious threat to the Creta, Seltos, Grand Vitara and Hector?

The Tata Harrier doesn’t have a straight-up rival, being slightly bigger than rivals like Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos and Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara. Yet these are the rivals the Harrier must take on if it has to grow volumes in the lucrative 5-seater mid-size SUV space, and the 2023 facelift must address the big drawbacks of the Harrier – chiefly the dated infotainment, poor steering and lack of powertrain options. The latter, a petrol engine, is still some time away, but the first two areas have finally been addressed and dressed up on top of that is a facelift that makes the Harrier a sight to behold. Here's the first drive review of the Tata Harrier, and tomorrow, October 15, 2023 at 4pm, we will have the review of its big brother, the Safari.

2023 Tata Harrier styling

Although Tata calls this update a generational change, the design of the new Harrier is more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It’s sharper and more modern than before. You can even call it futuristic looking, because Tata Motors have given the Harrier’s face a full-width LED light bar connecting the DRLs. This trend was pioneered by EVs and has now made it to ICE cars and I have to say it looks ace, especially at night. There’s also a bigger, completely new, all-black parametric grille up front with contrasting silver accents that honestly, I wasn't too sure about when I first saw it in pictures, but I have to say it looks a lot better in the metal. One thing which I'd like to point out though is the fact that the finishing of the silver inserts is an area that definitely needs improvement. On our test car, the paint on it had started chipping already.

The Harrier gets a new split headlight setup, but with vertically set units now and they also deploy LEDs for illumination, just like the facelifted Tata Nexon. Then there’s also a functional air vent at the edges of the bumper to aid aerodynamics by creating an air curtain around the front tyres. The front bumper gets a larger (plastic) skid plate and Tata Motors is also offering a bold colour option on the Harrier now — this Sunlit Yellow that you see in the pictures. More on that later.

In profile the SUV now features 'Harrier' badging on the front door and blackened window trim treatment. The Harrier gets the option of 17-, 18- and even 19-inch alloy wheels, depending on the variant, with the 19-inches only reserved for the #Dark edition. At the rear, there are two changes, the connecting light bar treatment like the front and a more prominent rear fog light setup. If you're a fan of fake exhaust tips, I've got some bad news for you. The new Harrier does away with those triangular exhaust inserts on the rear bumper and instead gets a larger skid plate. I have to say, after spending just a few hours with the new Tata Harrier, its design definitely grew on me. What also grew on me was the aforementioned Sunlit Yellow exterior shade. It's glossy but looks matte in certain light conditions, shows off the muscular lines and haunches of the SUV really well, isn't too bright and coupled with the contrasting black elements gives the Harrier a very youthful vibe. And that's what the brand is aiming the new Harrier to be. Youthful and techy.

2023 Tata Harrier interior and features

Yellow on the outside is acceptable, in fact, I'd actually recommend people to seriously consider this new yellow Harrier, but yellow on the inside is a really daring move. The stitching on the leather seats and on the dash is fine. But a large slab of yellow dash panel combined with those yellow grab handles is definitely a bit excessive. Moreover the yellows don't even match the exterior colour. But that's just with this Sunlit Yellow shade, other personas (read variants) of the Harrier get faux wood or blackened trim on the inside that looks tamer, classier, and a lot better.

The overall layout of the dash of the new Harrier remains unchanged save for a few things here and there. Taking centre stage now is a touch panel which controls your HVAC and things like the electric tailgate, fog lights and the 360-degree camera system. This makes the dash look a lot cleaner, but it's difficult to operate because there's no haptic feedback from it. Moreover, the touch areas for every function are tiny and on the move require you to take your eyes off the road, which can be risky. Above it, the new Harrier gets a floating 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen which supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A big yes. Tata Motors has thoroughly improved this system bringing it on par with class benchmarks. It isn't laggy any more, is responsive to fast taps and has a very intuitive user interface, plus the live feed of the 360 camera systems (including the blind spot camera) is crisp and very clear. The Harrier gets three drive modes – Eco, City, Sport – and three off-road modes – Normal, Wet and Rough Road – and those can be toggled with a rotary dial and a button beside it ahead of the gear lever. The rotary dial is borrowed from the new Nexon and features a screen on it for you to see which mode you're in, except you won’t need it because every time you press anything there’s an annoying female voice announcing what you’ve just done. If you opt for the automatic gearbox, you get a new and stubby little gear selector, like the facelifted Nexon, with a 'Park' button.

The biggest update to the 2023 Harrier's interior though is the new four-spoke steering wheel that's wrapped in two-tone leather. It's larger than the one on the Nexon, with two additional spokes, and it also features a digital panel with an illuminated Tata logo at the centre. This panel is flanked by touch buttons which are nice to use but don’t feel very high quality. As we will talk about in tomorrow’s Safari review, if you opt for the automatic gearbox you do get paddle shifters which also feel very cheap. This new Electric Power Steering (EPAS) is a big talking point of the new Harrier, as well as the Safari, and it has completely changed the way this SUV drives. More on that later.

Sitting behind the new steering wheel is a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster from the Nexon. It is a big step up on the semi-digital unit that the Harrier deployed earlier. It displays a lot of information and it can even display Apple Maps (our test car couldn’t throw up Google Maps out there). But the font size might bother some folks – especially the editor – for being a tad too small.

There is a wireless charger but the Harrier also features a 45W Type-C USB port, with a Type-A port upfront, that enables fast charging for your devices via a cable. A neat touch. Other features include a panoramic sunroof with mood lighting, Harman Audioworx sound system with 10 JBL speakers that sound very good with nice and crisp and deep bass, six-way power adjustable driver's seat, four-way power adjustable front passenger seat, front seat coolers and configurable mood light. Then there's also an air purifier, front and rear parking sensors, 360 cameras, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers and last but not the least the new electric tailgate with gesture control. Tata Motors have really thrown everything at the new Harrier to make it more appealing to prospective buyers.

The back seat of the Harrier remains the same, with sunblind's on either side, but the rear headrests now feature moveable extension which aid comfort, especially on long journeys when you're taking a nap. The Harrier is available in five variants, which Tata calls 'Personas': Smart, Pure, Adventure, Fearless and the fan favourite #Dark.

On the safety front this SUV gets seven airbags as standard, ABS, ESP, a tyre pressure monitoring system and a whole host of ADAS features from the Red Dark Harrier like lane keep assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear traffic cross alert and the new addition of adaptive cruise control with stop and go.

2023 Tata Harrier steering and dynamics

The ride quality has always been one of the Tata Harrier's strongest selling points. The way it dampens rough roads, allowing you to just hammer down them, has always been truly commendable and that remains. Even with the upsized rims, it irons out undulations and rides over small potholes with excellent poise. All while remaining stable.

One area where the Harrier required a much needed upgrade though, was its steering. And that's the only mechanical improvement on this 2023 iteration. The Harrier now gets Electric Power Steering (EPAS) and the transformative effect on dynamics is astonishing. The earlier hydraulic unit was never fully resolved. At city speeds it felt too heavy and at highway speeds it was too light. It was way too responsive at speed for an SUV, and it was also very reactive – kicking and squirming in your palms every time it hit an undulation or imperfection in the road. It meant you had to be really alert and fully concentrating when driving it fast on the highway and making quick lane change manoeuvres.

All that changes. The EPAS calms things down considerably. All those steering kick backs have been ironed out. At slow speeds it is light and makes a huge difference to how easy the Harrier is to drive in the city. Earlier it felt heavy, a tad cumbersome. We always said that for city driving you’d be better off with a Creta. No longer. The EPAS takes away the effort earlier required while fighting through the cut and thrust of the city. Hit the Sport button and the steering weighs up enough to tighten things up on the highway. The steering weight is remarkably well resolved, we had no complaints either in the city or out on the highway, and full marks to Tata Motors for getting this aspect properly sorted.

Nothing has changed with the suspension but the steering now lets you position the SUV accurately, there’s no hunting or second guessing your steering inputs, and the net result is that you can push it all the way to its dynamic limits. The clarity of feedback means you now know precisely what is going on underneath you and you can push it to its eventual point of understeer – and hold it just below the threshold – giving you the confidence to hustle the SUV. With the steering not taking up all your attention anymore you can now focus on the handling, notice the body roll, and realise the Harrier can actually corner rather enthusiastically, the wider rubber delivering good cornering grip. The way it handles its heft and size is really good.

I should also mention that the traditional stability at speed of the Harrier is retained and you can drive it hard and fast over typical Indian highways without a care in the world. Hit one of those million unmarked speed breakers and the robust suspension and underpinnings take the whacks in its stride without alarming either the driver or passenger. Same thing with the gazillion potholes. You have the confidence – and ability – to keep pushing without having to scan the road ahead like a military radar for unexpected surprises. The Harrier has always been a fantastic mile-muncher and the new EPAS has just made everything better.

The Harrier gets disc brakes all-round which deliver good stopping power. But the brake pedal is a bit too soft for my liking. Adding a little weight and progression will really up the dynamic competence of this SUV.

2023 Tata Harrier gets only the diesel engine

The new Harrier retains the Fiat, now Stellantis, 2-litre turbo-diesel engine which churns out 168bhp and 350Nm of peak torque. You can pair it with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque converter automatic. Our test car was running the manual 'box and I have to say that you are better off spending the extra lakh and a half rupees and opting for the automatic. It’s not like it's not enjoyable rowing through the gears, the gear shift action is actually pretty nice, but the clutch pedal position means you aren’t depressing the clutch straight into the firewall, rather downwards into the floor pan, and that is not very ergonomic. No complaints about the weight of the clutch though. Also the position of the armrest is such that your left arm snugly fits into the gap between the gear lever and aforementioned armrest so every time you shift gears you have to lift your arm which isn’t great. And, this being India, with all of the traffic, you will be shifting gears very frequently. Of course you get used to all this, as you will with the soft brake pedal feel, but the 6-speed Hyundai automatic is just so much better suited to the character of the Harrier and you are better off opting for it.

The engine wakes up as early as 1500rpm and revs all the way up to 4500rpm. It has superb low-end and mid-range pull, which makes possible brisk overtakes even at triple digit speeds. Although it's a diesel mill, it is fairly silent and doesn't transfer a lot of vibrations to the cabin, even when you're really gunning it. Yes there's a bit of that typical diesel clatter, but nothing that will bother you. In fact it makes a rather enjoyable and loud turbo wastegate chunter every time you lift off the throttle and that just adds to the driving experience. Even when fully loaded, this engine doesn't skip a beat and pulls like a freight train.

I've sampled the six-speed automatic in the new Safari, so stay tuned if you want to know how it performs. 2023 Safari facelift review drops October 15 at 4pm.

2023 Tata Safari verdict and expected price

"This is what the Harrier should've been right from the beginning." That's what the Ed said after testing the Harrier and I agree. In terms of features, this SUV has all the goodies to put up a solid fight to its rivals. It has it all. It looks new and feels more modern thanks to the updated styling and continues to grab eyeballs wherever it goes. It continues to be just as comfy and feels just as rugged as before. But the biggest change is the way it now drives. The new electric power steering has made it easier to drive in the city, calmer at speed on the highway, and more involving to drive. The Harrier was always a great mile-muncher, now it also becomes an easy daily driver. But there is room for improvement, particularly in quality and attention to detail. On our test car the steering wasn’t aligned properly and was tilted to the right, the finish around the gear lever was poor, the clutch pedal rubber came off, the paint finish on the wheel centres and even the grille wasn’t to expectations, and a panel fell off on the tailgate. I’m sure all this will get sorted out in the days and weeks to come, but it should have been sorted out right at the start.

As for pricing, the Harrier has always been more expensive than its rivals, and that isn’t going to change, but fact is the Harrier also feels more substantial than its rivals. The Tata Harrier and Tata Safari prices will be announced on October 17. Stay tuned to evoindia.com and @evoindia on Instagram for our thoughts and analysis on the pricing as soon as it is out.

Watch the Ed's first drive review of the 2023 Harrier facelift down below!

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