Kia Sonet Driven: More Than Just A Great Brochure?
- Sep 11, 2020
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When the Nexon was first introduced in 2017, it was entering a fiercely competitive segment. Fast forward three years and not only does the sub-4 metre SUV segment remain fiercely contested, but it has also become saturated. So is there anything about the Nexon that will make it stand out in the sea of options?
Looks Like A Million Bucks!
One look at the Nexon and I was asking my colleague, “Are we sure this is just a facelift?” From the front, the Nexon hardly looks anything like before. The bonnet now sits higher than before and has been better sculpted for a more muscular look. This vastly improves the SUV appeal of the Nexon, by giving it a more upright stance. The headlamps too have become sleeker and sharper than before, compared to the earlier curvy-roundish design. The bumpers have been given a do-over with sharper creases surrounding the fog lamp housing, which in itself is new. The front grille is majorly a piano-black applique with the Tata logo sitting proudly in the centre and the air dam now has the new tri-arrow elements, which can be found in multiple places in the car.
At the side, you'll notice a new alloy wheel design, however, the tyre and wheel sizes stay the same as before. Take a closer look and you’ll find that the black cladding on the sides also gets the ‘tri-arrow’ design. From the back, you’ll be able to spot new LED elements in the tail lamp that now vaguely resemble the Union Jack in the British flag. A keen eye will also notice that the reflectors in the rear bumper have been redesigned and the stop light at the bottom of the bumper has been removed altogether.
The Nexon has always been a handsome car and with this new update, it looks even better. Driving on the road, we got stares and while filling up at the pump, people were quite surprised that this was designed by Tata. So that’s a big thumbs up for the Nexon’s exterior design!
On the inside, there aren’t too many changes. You’ll find a new plastic insert on the dashboard with the tri-arrow design, a new dot-matrix type digital instrument cluster and new fabric upholstery. Tata continues to use textured surfaces inside the cabin that feel nice to hold and touch. As such, not a lot has changed inside the cabin compared to the outgoing car when you consider the fact that Tata has literally redesigned the entire thing from the front.
You see, it might have looked handsome but the outgoing Tata Nexon had a few ergonomic flaws. And instead of correcting them, Tata has added one more. Typical. The cupholders continue to be inside this deep narrow storage area in the centre console, making them virtually inaccessible. Two more cup holders continue to be offered in the glovebox. The access to the USB is still narrow, so much so that maybe a baby’s hand might be able to get through. The ORVM adjuster was not reachable from my usual driving position and if you are a shorter driver, the steering wheel tends to be a little too close for comfort. The fact that you don’t get reach adjust for the steering only makes it worse.
But all of this was the case with the older car too. In the Nexon facelift, you get a new steering wheel design that has been lifted straight from the Altroz. Along with the flaw, that makes it quite a nuisance to use. The steering wheel has these buttons on its edge that allow you to sound the horn, without having to lift your hand. The trouble with these is that you can end up accidentally pressing them when you are turning the car or making a U-turn. Now we don’t want to ‘accidentally’ add to India’s honking problem, do we?
So you might not be able to get all those features in an easily accessible fashion but Tata sure has added quite a bit of new features to the Nexon. First of all, you now get an electric sunroof so that’s going to make a lot of people happy. Secondly, Tata has given the Nexon another feature that has been quite a rage: connected car technology. However, this piece of tech had not been activated on our test car so we couldn’t check it out for ourselves.
Other new features include cornering fog lamps, rain-sensing wipers, a tyre-pressure monitoring system, and a simple dot matrix-type digital instrument cluster. One thing about the new touchscreen that’s a plus, but also is its Achilles heel at the same time, is the layout. All the information on it is useful but it looks so cluttered that it becomes difficult to read in one glance.
Does More to Keep You Safe
Some new safety features such as electronic stability program, traction control, hill start assist and brake disc wiping have been made standard across the variant lineup. These join the likes of dual airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX mounts and rear parking sensors. The Nexon’s suite of safety features coupled with its robust build quality means that it still gets a 5-star safety rating from the Global NCAP.
10 More Horsepower. Really?
Boy was I excited to drive the updated 1.2-litre petrol motor as it brought with it the promise of 10 new ponies. Now we know 10 more horsepower in the grand scheme of things isn’t too much, but when you add 10 more horsepower to a car that only made 110 in the first place, that’s almost a 10 percent increase. Enough for you to feel it, right? But sadly, that’s not the case here.
The engine revs a lot more linearly than before, but it continues to feel dull at its bottom-end. Then when the turbo comes in, you don’t get that outright turbo-punch but there is good pull in the mid-range, before the engine starts running out of breath at the top-end. At that point, it makes more noise than power.
The drive modes continue to make a difference with City proving to be adequate for sedate driving and Sport mode upping the responsiveness of the engine. However, we felt that Eco mode was a bit too dull to be of any real use.
And while this engine is neither the most refined unit nor does it offer a 120PS experience,
Tata has worked out one kink that existed before. The outgoing model of the Nexon was notorious for flat spots in its power delivery, so much so that it made the entire drive experience quite jerky. Now that hasn’t fully disappeared, but if you aren’t really looking for it, you’ll hardly notice it.
The biggest letdown though is the gearbox. Pottering around town, it won’t give you any grief but put your foot down and things take a turn for the worse. At times we found it almost impossible to move to a higher gear when the engine was revving high. The only solution was to let the revs drop and in doing that, you end up losing a lot of time in between shifts. It was evident in our 0-100kmph run where the Nexon was almost 2 seconds slower than the outgoing 110PS version! And it’s all down to the gear shift quality. The proof being that in roll-on tests, showing accelerations in just on gear without any gear changes, the Nexon is faster than before. Both in accelerating from 30-80kmph in third gear and 40-100kmph in fourth gear!
Eats Speed Breakers for Breakfast
The one thing you’ll appreciate without a hitch is the ride of the Nexon. It's a tad bit firmer than before and coarse surfaces such as concrete can be felt inside the cabin, but not enough to cause discomfort. And going over speed breakers, the Nexon never once breaks its composure. The changes in elevation are well damped out but the real genius here is how quickly it settles back down.
There is an underlying stiffness though and when you go over a bad piece of road, typically under construction ones with a series of potholes, the Nexon’s cabin does tend to move about horizontally.
Inspires Confidence Even in NOOBS
The Nexon was known for its high-speed stability and that continues to be the case even now. It’s quite predictable in corners as well, giving it a surefootedness that everyone will appreciate. This allows you to push the Nexon to its limit, and even younger, lesser experienced drivers will be able to enjoy this feeling while staying and feeling relatively safe. The steering is light enough for city use, but weighs up well at highway speeds. Body roll too isn’t all that prominent, so you don’t end up praying for dear life in the middle of a corner.
Take the Back Seat
In the case of the Nexon, we suggest you step aside and let someone else take the driver’s seat. That’s because most of the joy the Nexon has to offer can be felt on that rear bench. It's wide enough to fit three abreast reasonably well for short city rides. The seat cushioning is soft which allows the middle passenger to be reasonably comfortable, despite the armrest doubling up as their backrest. The sculpted side seats mean that the two outer passengers are held snugly in their seats. There is ample amount of headroom, knee-room and legroom to stop six-footers from feeling claustrophobic. There is one slight issue though. With three abreast, the outer passengers will find that their thighs hang outside the seat base, and it’s not because the Nexon is not wide enough, but rather because the seat base ends abruptly and there is quite a gap between it and the door. However, with only two people in the back seat, this will not be an issue.
To answer the first couple of questions we posed at the beginning of the review, yes, the Nexon does some things better than before. It looks better than before and can boast of a few new features. But sadly, these aren’t the areas in which the Nexon needed fixing. The ergonomic issues, which put a dent in the Nexon’s reputation, are not only still there but have been added to. And while the engine has been retuned, we frankly expected a bit more to bring it on par with the competition.
Talking about the competition, the Nexon does have a couple of aces up its sleeve. The ride quality, though slightly stiffer than before, can still match up with the best in the segment. It’s sure-footed mannerisms mean that it makes you feel safe and its biggest ace is the rear seat experience, which can easily be termed amongst the best in the segment. So if you are looking for a car, that you will be driving often, we suggest you look elsewhere. But, if you are going to be driven around most of the time and will usually be taking up the back seat, the Nexon makes a great case for itself.
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