21 Jan 2020 Bunny Punia
There are more myths than facts surrounding electric vehicles in India and this is a shame. We Indians will leave no stone unturned to make sure we end up criticizing or questioning the EV space. These vehicles are expensive to manufacturer but we will still want our ideal EV to be under Rs 10 lakh, yet deliver a range of 300 and have enough punch to smoke tyres. This ideal world is still years away, or might not ever be a reality. But manufacturers aren't giving up and one such example is the new Tata Nexon EV. This is the closest you can get an ideal electric car, one that will tick almost all the right boxes.
While the Nexon EV will go on sale on the 28th of January in India, we were invited to fly down to Pune to get a sense of what this car is all about. Having driven the Hyundai Kona and MG ZS EV on earlier occasions, it was but natural for me to have high levels of expectations. This inspite of knowing the fact that Nexon EV would be about 20-30% cheaper than the other two e-SUVs. This is human nature after all, right? For the record, the Nexon EV will be offered in three trims of a mid-spec XM (to keep costs low), XZ+ and XZ+ Lux.
The Nexon is due for a facelift and the same changes will filter down into the EV model too. This was always muscular and a butch looking SUV and the new one improves on that by offering a modern-day touch. There is no taking away from the fact that this now looks like a baby Rover and the front end is best looking among the crop of compact SUVs. Those RR inspired headlights work like magic and get inbuilt DRLs which also double up as swanky indicators. Simply bling. And then new grille, an aggressive bumper and clever design inserts in a different shade - all these come together to make the Tata Nexon EV stand out on the road, in a positive manner.
Side profile remains the same as the regular (older Nexon) save for a new design for the alloy wheels. The older ones were great but old school, however, these keep up with time and gel in well with other modern design cues of the Nexon EV. The dual tone option gets you a contrasting roof, white in this case, paint quality was upto the mark. The rear greets you with a new LED pattern for the lights and a new bumper that looks far more aggressive. All in all, the design updates work well to make sure this Tata gets enough eyeballs on the road.
Changes continue on the inside as well. The flat bottom steering for one, and the new speedometer console too. This is a lift off from the Altroz and gets an analogue speedometer on the right and a display on the left for vital information include usable range left, EV 'tacho' that shows how much power consumption your right foot is resulting in, amount of charge left etc. Next, you notice the lack of a gear lever and instead, in comes a small rotary knob which looks oh so premium. This has four settings of R, N, D and S. The last one is what I like to call as the 'mad mode' and I will tell you why shortly.
Practicality and space remain a strong point of the Nexon and it continues so in the EV model too. While the XZ+ comes with black upholstery for the seats with contrast stitching, the XZ+ Lux gets a lighter shade of leatherette seats. I personally prefer the former as it goes down well with the sporty intentions of the car. Space at the back is impressive and this place feels better in terms of comfort as compared to say the Hyundai Kona! However, the charging outlet is placed behind the left head-rest and could have been positioned in a regular manner below the rear vents. Also, given the price one will pay, having an auto-up function for the driver side window would have been great.
And this gets us to the highlight of the Tata Nexon EV. For numbers, the 30.2 kWh battery pack helps the electric motor put out excellent numbers. 129PS of peak power and 245 Nm of torque - all this comes from the word GO which means you end smokin' those MRF tyres each time to go down hard in S mode. Infact, one needs to be careful of the amount of torque steer this EV generates and around corners, it can catch you off guard. During our acceleration runs, the torque flow had us grinning from ear to ear and we don't doubt Tata's claim of the Nexon EV doing the 0-100 km/h sprint in less than 10 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 120 km/h (genuine) and the same can be seen in the video below.
The world seems a lot different when you switch over to the D mode. About 60% of the power and torque are on offer here and this is a rather jerk free, smoother drive experience which most users would want to use during daily commutes. Make no mistake, the punch remains and you can easily close in on gaps and make fast progress. Further, the batteries have enough juice to give you a real world driving range of 250-300km when driven in D. In the 'beast' or the S mode, the same comes down to about 200 km.
The Nexon EV has a single level of regen - you cannot adjust it (like in other cars) but all this helps to keep costs low. The regen is aggressive and in traffic, you can soon learn the art of one pedal driving. Lift off your right foot and the EV set-up recovers the kinetic energy under braking, saving the same back into the batteries for use later. This is also shown on the screen in the speedometer console. However, as there is no option to switch off regen, you can't coast the Tata Nexon EV on open roads. Even taking off the foot gently results in the reduction of speed. Likewise, the lack of cruise control means you always have to keep the right foot at exactly the same angle. This can get a bit irritating for those used to using the cruise function on open roads.
Tata's first e-SUV supports fast chargings and it takes less than an hour to charge from 0 to 80%. The regular charging time stands at 8 hours - this is for the 20 to 100% charge via any regular 15A plug point. Tata Motors, like MG and Hyundai, will also help develop a charging eco-system so that range anxiety is taken care of.
The cabin remains silent for the large part and its only when you do pedal to the metal in S mode is when some levels of vibrations start creeping in from the floor. This is accompanied by low levels of resonance and can be felt by the driver easily. Not a big concern but this isn't the case with the Kona and the ZS. At higher speeds, road noise does filter into the cabin but otherwise, Tata has just a good job with NVH levels.
Dynamically, I am impressed with the Tata Nexon EV. Remember, the weight has gone up, thanks to the battery pack but being positioned under the floor means center of gravity is lower than the petrol or diesel Nexon models. This combined with the slightly stiff suspension results in far lower body roll than the regular models. The steering remains light and the Nexon EV can be enjoyable in the right hands. The underlying firmness of the suspension however can throw you around just a bit over broken tarmac but with more than one person on board, this is also taken care of. We had a chance to drive the Nexon EV through as much as 300 mm of water, including taking a halt right in the middle of the water filled stretch, but the battery pack remain unaffected. This test was performed all day long by various journalists but the Nexon EV went about doing the same without any issues cropping up. This surely is monsoon ready too.
This is also Tata Motors' first connected SUV. Owners get to make use of the ZConnect app that offers remote monitoring of the car at all times. You can remote cool the car, understand its current health, find the nearest charging station and even alter your driving pattern to increase the range of the car. The batteries are backed by an 8 year warranty and being an EV, your daily running costs come down to a fraction. Likewise, annual maintenance is less than half as there are fewer fluids to be changed. Given all these benefits, a premium of about Rs 4-5 lakh over the automatic petrol Nexon is ideally the price this EV should carry. If Tata Motors can make it happen, there is every reason for this SUV to be India's largest selling EV. Its a job well done Tata Motors!