The Nexon has been a runaway success for Tata Motors, selling over 4500 units on an average for the past few months. While the compact SUV packs in all that a prospective buyer needs, lack of optional automatic versions kept a certain percentage of buyers away. The AMT versions took time coming but Tata surprised us by disclosing the fact that AMTs would be offered with both petrol and diesel engine options. It should be noted that in this segment, while the Ecosport offers automatic only with the petrol and the TUV with the diesel engine, the segment leader Brezza comes with a manual diesel set-up only. Hence on paper itself, the Nexon AMTs have a clear advantage. And how do they drive?
Before we get to the drive, lets talk about the design and interiors. The AMT Nexon will be available in the range topping XZ+ trims only which means you get 16 inch alloy wheels, dual tone roof in certain colors, DRLs etc. And there are no external changes to distinguish the automated manual transmission models from the regular ones. The only change here is the lone badge at the back. Tata has also rolled out a new shade of orange which is seen here.
Step inside and you are greeted with the same up-market changes. Like the exterior, the cabin of the AMT versions remain identical too. Apart from three changes. First is the different gear stick, second is the lack of a clutch pedal and third is the different display for gear indicator in the driver information LCD. The top end XZA+ version is rather well equipped too, offering a touch-screen interface with Android Auto, climate control, front arm-rest, smart keyless entry with push button start and wearable PEPS key – this allows customers to wear their car key as a smart wristband!
Where the Nexon leaves you impressed is the comfort factor. This along with good ergonomics make the cabin a good place to be. Tata has worked hard on upping the quality levels and this is evident here. Plus you get the same practicality with ample cubby holes, generous door pads, rear air-con vents and even a rear arm-rest with cup holders.
The biggest change here is the way the Nexon twins (petrol and diesel) drive with the AMT set-up. I picked up the petrol first and drove out of the showroom onto the busy Bangalore-Mumbai highway at Pune. The traffic was flowing and the petrol motor does build up speeds very easily. Overtaking slow moving commercial traffic is easy and all you need to do is go down on the pedal, thereby making the transmission go down a couple of gears instantly. This is also where I utilised the various modes, being in Sport one for the fast drive. The Sport mode also holds on to about 5600 rpm before upshifting to the next cog. It also does not run out of steam even at non-legal speeds of 120-130kph, something that this turbo-charged engine is known for. Things however take a different turn once you get into city limits. Slow speed drive is where the Sport mode should be ditched if you want a smoother experience. City mode works best, being a good combination in terms of response and fuel economy – power flows in a linear manner, even at lower speeds. Talking of which, the Eco mode is purely for extracting the maximum mileage and in this mode, the transmission upshifts early even if you are building up speeds with a constant tap on the accelerator pedal. But given the weak low end of the petrol, the Eco mode can leave you in a bit of a no-man’s zone at times.
The petrol AMT comes with manual tip-tronic function which allows you to take charge by flicking the gear lever to the left. I reckon this is best used when you want to extract the maximum possible out of the engine. Flat out, the petrol AMT is quite fast, sprinting from 0-60 kph in about 6.5 seconds and from 0-100 in 13.6 seconds. Given the weight, these are good numbers.
I switched over to the diesel AMT Nexon after a couple of hours and boy was I surprised! The 50% extra torque comes handy and at part throttle response, this one feels eager and lively at all times. The driving modes work here too but as compared to the petrol Nexon AMT, the diesel version is less jerk free in Sport and more responsive in the Eco mode, boiling down to the linear torque delivery. Yes, the oil burner is a lot more vocal at higher revs but this is compensated by the easier drive. The creep function too works slightly better as you can get more torque from the engine at idle speeds. Like the petrol, you also get tip-tronic here and flat out in auto mode, the gears change at about 4200 rpm. Talking of numbers, the diesel is almost as fast as the petrol till 60 but almost a second slower till the 100 mark. Still good by any terms.
The fuel economy for the AMT models should remain more or less similar to the manual models. I got about 11kmpl with the petrol and 15kmpl with the diesel in city driving, with the air-con working overtime to beat the Pune heat. Talking of which, the air-con had a tendency to trip in our petrol test car, not the diesel. I hope this is ironed out in the production models.
Tata will reveal the pricing for the Nexon XZA+ petrol and XZA+ diesel by next month. The manual versions of these models are priced at Rs 8.8 lakh and Rs 9.7 lakh (ex-showroom) respectively. It’s fair to assume the petrol AMT Nexon will be under Rs 9.5 lakh while the diesel model will be about Rs 10.3 lakh. While this pricing is justified, the on-road price starts rubbing shoulders with bigger SUVs like the Creta and Duster. I believe Tata Motors should have rolled out the option of AMTs in mid-trim levels as well, making the automatic Nexon more affordable to a wider set of buyers.
That said, the Nexon now feels like a complete compact SUV. It looks butch, is feature loaded, rides well and now offers ease of driving. The AMT will also allow the Nexon to overtake the Ecosport to become India’s second largest selling compact SUV. Celebrations it seem, will continue at Tata Motors for months to come! Here is our quick video of the Nexon AMT.