Tata Nexon EV first drive review: India’s own electric compact SUV
Tata Nexon EV promises to offer the practicality of an SUV along with ‘electric’ performance and sorted driving dynamics. Is this the electric car we were waiting for?
“We are not targeting fleet owners. The Nexon EV will stand out from the rest as a premium product; the one that appeals to your heart”, said Shailesh Chandra, President – Electric Mobility Business & Corporate Strategy, Tata Motors Ltd when we sat down for a quick chat about Tata’s latest electric upshot – the Nexon EV. The Nexon has been doing relatively well for Tata Motors, exceeding the carmaker’s expectations by a fair margin. It doesn’t really come as a surprise as SUVs in India are a rage and recent electric car launches, which include the Hyundai Kona and the MG ZS EV, justify the hype. And thus, Tata has decided to go the tried and tested way by plonking a battery under the hood of its first compact SUV. Well, the Tigor EV has already opened the floodgates for Tata thanks to its low running costs and of course, the sticker. With the Nexon EV though, Tata has gone all out in terms of the battery package and even the features. It has the right ingredients to be the go-to electric car for the masses and enthusiasts at the same time. Allow me to explain.
If you have seen the BS6 variants of the Nexon, there’s nothing new to see here. Absolutely nothing; with the exception of the new teal colour; which is exclusive to the EV. Let’s call this a facelift then. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it they say and they’re not wrong. The Nexon already looked handsome and thanks to the slightly tweaked bumpers and a single-slat grille, it looks even better. My only grouse are the 215-section MRF Wanderers which look disproportionate on a car this size.
Similar story continues on the inside. The dashboard layout remains the same although the cluster has thoroughly been revamped with a neater layout. The touchscreen has been picked up from Altroz’s basket and also is the flat-bottom steering wheel. The top-of-the-line XZ+ Lux variant also gets a sunroof along with leather seats. The centre console now gets an extra cubbyhole thanks to the omission of the gearshift and can hold your cellphone. The USB port is still difficult to reach though and the seats are still too high, even in the lowest setting.The ride and handling had me impressed way back in 2017, when we drove the Nexon on the picturesque streets of Kerala. To cater to the additional weight, Tata has tweaked the suspension. The ride on our car felt stiffer than on the diesel and the R&D guys said that it’ll be softened when the car goes into production. Despite being stiffer, the suspension felt pliant enough for the potholes and capable enough to hit the trails (it is a SUV after all). The steering is lighter though for more ‘comfort’ in city conditions but it’s direct nevertheless and works like how you’d want it to. What has changed drastically is the handling though. Thanks to a 50:50 weight distribution, the Nexon is now supremely stable in corners and doesn’t throw its weight around. The body roll is well controlled and so is the understeer. You will never feel that you’re driving a car that sits 205mm above the ground.
How does it drive?
Slot it into S (S for Sport), step on the accelerator and you’ll forget about the niggles. The 30.2kWh battery generates a healthy 127bhp and 245Nm, which can propel the Nexon EV to 100kmph in 9.9sec, claims Tata. That is more than 2sec quicker than its diesel counterpart despite tipping the scales at 1400kg (heavier by 95kg). The throttle response feels natural and so is the regenerative braking system. I was expecting the regen to not work as smoothly as it did, like in several other electric vehicles that I have driven thus far, but Tata needs to be lauded here. Currently, you cannot customise the regen settings but Tata will soon be updating the system in the near future to bring in the option. I digress. The acceleration is linear as expected and the Nexon EV pulls cleanly to 120kmph, without any flat spots. The top speed is limited at 120kmph though to keep the costs in check. The instant torque hits the MRFs more than it hits you as they struggle to keep up in the corners. Even in a straight line on wet surfaces, the tyres couldn’t keep up and there was some drama in a few situations during our drive. If you slap on wider and stickier rubber, the Nexon will become a hoot to drive. Maybe even on a racetrack like MMRT, where top speed isn’t really a concern.
The ride and handling had me impressed way back in 2017, when we drove the Nexon on the picturesque streets of Kerala. To cater to the additional weight, Tata has tweaked the suspension. The ride on our car felt stiffer than on the diesel and the R&D guys said that it’ll be softened when the car goes into production. Despite being stiffer, the suspension felt pliant enough for the potholes and capable enough to hit the trails (it is a SUV after all). The steering is lighter though for more ‘comfort’ in city conditions but it’s direct nevertheless and works like how you’d want it to. What has changed drastically is the handling though. Thanks to a 50:50 weight distribution, the Nexon is now supremely stable in corners and doesn’t throw its weight around. The body roll is well controlled and so is the understeer. You will never feel that you’re driving a car that sits 205mm above the ground.
The ARAI certified range is 312km and we expect the Nexon EV to do about 240-260km in real world conditions. That might not sound much but if you’re planning to stick to the city and head out on the weekends for a one-day trip, it will suffice. Tata Power is being brought into the game with the launch of dedicated fast-charging outlets, starting with five cities – Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi. That’ll make it easier to charge the Nexon on a day-to-day basis.
With a fast charger, you can charge it up to 80 per cent in 60min. On a regular 15A plug, it takes eight hours to top it up from as low as 20 per cent.
There are a tonnes of other features too, including geo-fencing, valet mode (geo-fences to 1km), service alerts and a lot more. The Zconnect app will go live at the launch which is slated to happen on January 28.
Check out our detailed review of the Tata Nexon EV
The prices haven’t been announced yet but we expect the Nexon EV prices to start at Rs 15 lakh, going up to Rs 17 lakh for the fully-loaded variant. Now that isn’t really affordable when compared with ICE-powered cars. In fact, that puts in the vicinity of soon-to-be-launched MG ZS EV but the Nexon EV has the advantage of Tata’s wider dealer network and Tata Power’s charging station support.
Don’t forget that the Nexon EV puts Tata motor ahead of the league as Maruti Suzuki hasn’t launched any electric car as of yet and the Hyundai Kona is quite expensive, despite being smaller in size (as compared to the Nexon). Tata is not expecting to bring in numbers with the Nexon but showcase what they are capable of. And the Nexon EV with its excellent performance and sorted driving dynamics is a great starter for sure for the soon to be launched Altroz EV.