Words - Mohit Bharadwaj
With the passing of time, almost every king loses his crown to a chosen descendant. The case is the same as the two major rulers of the fossil fuel dynasty, namely - Petrol and Diesel. As electricity slowly gains popularity and inevitably will be taking over the reign from fossil fuels, the transition will also affect the governance of internal combustion engines in the automobile industry. It is not going to be as fast as the expectations of administrative authorities, though the bottom line is that battery-powered EVs are going to replace the ICE-powered cars to a large extent in the near future. However, if we weren’t so sure about it earlier, our first-drive impressions of the new Nexon EV has definitely sealed that fact. So in the end, how is the car as an overall package? That’s what we are here to find out.
When introduced, the Tata Nexon was designed as an aesthetically imposing compact SUV with protruding wheel arches and sleek-looking headlamps. This time around, Tata motors has adopted a different approach by shedding all its pudgy-ness for sleeker and sharper lines to bring the car’s design in-line with Tata’s latest Impact Design Language 2.0. With this, the Nexon EV looks a whole lot sharper while keeping its iconic silhouette intact. The Teal Blue paint shade on our test car stood out with its dynamic looks complemented by an imposing stance and Tata’s signature EV-specific blue inserts all around.
Getting a better look at the car’s front profile, the Nexon EV has transformed itself radically from what the Nexon initially was. There is an all-new bonnet design, which sits a little higher and below it is a single-piece grille, which is finished in piano black and holds the Tata logo and EV mascot in place. Surrounding the grille from both sides are the newly-designed headlamps that also act as one of the most important parts in giving this car’s front a fresh new look in conjunction with the bonnet. Further sprucing up the front-end is a pair of LED DRLs, which are sharper than any we have ever seen on a Tata model. Below the one-piece grille and headlamps is its humanity line, which is now finished in a blue shade that is specific to Tata’s Ziptron range of EVs. The bumper also has sharper lines and is flanked by polygon-shaped fog lamps housings on either ends with blue inserts on the sides. Since EVs do not require a lot of ventilation points as compared to petrol and diesel cars, the Nexon EV one gets one air-inlet position in at bottom-half of the bumpers and finished with a blue tri-arrow pattern. The Nexon EV also gets black plastic cladding on the lower-end and a faux-skid plate that further amplifies its masculine appeal.
Walking past the front to the EV’s side profile, the Nexon EV is quite familiar but with a tinge of fresh appeal. The 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, blue shoulder line, new roof rails and a dual-tone roof with blacked-out pillars for a floating roof appearance are some of the changes that differentiate the Nexon EV from the regular Nexon. However, those with keen eyes will also be able to differentiate the EV from its fossil-powered sibling with the help of an EV badge mounted on the door.
From the rear, the changes are not as significant as the front or the sides. Tata’s EV-specific blue panels on the tail-gate refreshed tail lamps and a re-sculpted bumper are what make it different. The tail lamps now have a new glow-pattern that mimics the tri-arrow pattern also seen on the front air-dam. The bumper is now redesigned to hold the reflectors on the extreme edges of the car with sharper surrounds and blue inserts added here too. As an overall package, the Nexon EV’s design shows that Tata Motors has put in a generous amount of effort to give the car an imposing front-end that has a slight hint of the Range Rover Evoque’s design. However, the changes are mild at the side and rear-end but overall, the Nexon EV shows that Tata knows how to pull off a radical design.
Stepping inside the Nexon EV, the car welcomes you to a refreshed interior design. As such, there are hardly any changes you don’t notice till the time you sit on the driver seat. As the new flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel that is really nice to hold and operate. It gets an extended reach for the horn pads and the Nexon EV gives the driver quite a few soft touchpoints. The cockpit now gets an Altroz-like 7-inch digital display which informs the driver with loads of information, while it is also surrounded by similar blue inserts. Talking of blue inserts, the complete interior also gets blue trim inserts at certain places like on the AC vents, door pads and around its cubby spaces.
Tata Motors has focused on infusing the blue inserts and highlights alongside the tri-arrow pattern on this EV. That said, the seats also boast the same pattern. These seats get contrast blue stitching and a blue tri-arrow pattern on the fabric, which is going to be EV-specific only. Although, this isn’t the case with the XZ+ plus trim as it gets leatherette seats in place of fabric ones seen on the lower variants.
For the most part, the interiors are similar to what they are in the outgoing Nexon, it is the colour shade that is new and refreshing. The plastic bits on the inside now sport an off-white colour shade and the dark grey plastics on the regular Nexon are all finished in piano-black in the EV. The Nexon offers a lot of storage space and cubby holes to store bottles, umbrellas, and other knick-knacks, which are intact in this car as well. However, the Nexon EV gets one extra cubby hole where there used to be a gear lever. The rotary knob used to select the driving modes in the Nexon works as a gear selector here in the EV. Apart from these superficial changes, the Nexon retains its practical, spacious interiors and large-supportive seats intact in its EV guise.
To talk of features, the Nexon EV gets all the must-have features like automatic climate control, rear-defogger, rain-sensing wipers, wearable active key, keyless entry and go, tilt-adjust for the steering wheel, reverse parking camera, electrically operated ORVM, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, voice commands and a cooled glovebox. All of these features are also available in the regular Nexon.
Tata’s Nexon EV is a game-changer for the company and what makes it special is the permanent magnet synchronous motor that pulls power from a 30.2 kWh lithium-ion battery. With a capability to produce 123PS of power and 245Nm of torque at peak output, the motor uses a single-speed gearbox that has a reduction ratio of 9:1. With the amount of power on tap, the Nexon EV can sprint to a tonne in just 9.99 seconds. Yes, that is some serious performance. As the battery pack is mounted under the floor, the overall centre of gravity of the Nexon has dropped too by 40mm in comparison to the petrol Nexon.
While all of these technical attributes, power figures and claimed 0-100 timings, did thrill us while reading the spec-sheet, the Nexon EV did disappoint in reality either. It really does have the show to match the go. In Drive mode, where the torque is limited to just 160Nm, the car felt fast as the torque output was instantly available from the very first second that the motor starts spinning. However, the smile we had on our face reached our ears when we rotated the drive mode selector to Sport mode. With 245Nm of torque, which is 5Nm more than the diesel-powered Nexon, the Nexon EV started running out of traction every time the pedal touched the metal. However, a small credit for the intoxicating wheel-spin also goes to the low-rolling-resistance tyres.
The road we drove the EV on had steep inclines and fast corners, everything we needed to recognise that the tyres were grippy enough to hold the car in line while traversing them. Another thing that works in favour of Nexon EV through the corners is the 40mm drop in the COG over the regular Nexon.
By now, it is obvious to ponder over how would an EV perform in our daunting traffic conditions. Tata Motors has taken care of that. The company has been smart enough to make the battery and motor, dust and water-resistant with an IP67 rating for the same. To improve its ease of driving, the Nexon comes with hill-descent control, hill-start assist, and hill hold assist, which are tuned for a grade angle of up to 12%. That said, one can operate the car with just one foot in a traffic jam even on an incline. Also, it has a water wading depth of 300mm and thus can easily wade its way through water-logged streets in rain.
But how far can you go in one charge? 320 kilometres on a full charge is the answer! To charge it again, it takes 8 hours to juice up the battery from 20 per cent to 100 per cent with a 15 Amp domestic charger that comes as standard with the car. One can also charge the car from 0 per cent to almost 80 per cent of the battery’s capacity in just 60 minutes with a fast charger, which Tata Motors will provide at their service centres and showrooms.
All of it seems like a nice package since the ride comfort is not hampered by any means, as the car uses the Nexon’s proven suspension setup. But if we had to nitpick, the regenerative braking made us feel that the speeds were dropping a lot faster in comparison to a petrol or diesel car. It is not a major concern as such, but for first-time EV buyer, this would be a little scary. Also interesting fact to note is that the Nexon EV gets just one mode for its regenerative braking system, while the MG ZS EV gets a total of three - Light (highway), Medium (city) and Heavy (traffic/hill driving).
We have talked a lot about the car’s interior, though we chose to leave out the infotainment system previously as it deserves some special attention. To start with, the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system gets 4 speakers and 4 tweeters inside the car for a total rated output of 100W. However, the centre of attention here is the telematic operations that come with an embedded sim, giving it the ability to connect to the owner’s mobile phone, 5 emergency contacts, and Tata’s entire support network. Once connected, the user can operate the car’s parametric alarm, geofencing restriction, SOS assistance, remote AC control and more from any mobile phone connected via the Z-Connect app. The car also offers emergency assistance in the event of a mishap. It can send the location details to the SOS contacts of the driver and Tata’s support system as well. Not just that, it can switch to other networks in case the primary network is not available.
Doesn’t seem like a lot? Well, the infotainment system also shows the amount of charge left in the battery, health of the battery, hazard alerts, location of the vehicle, geofencing alerts, valet mode and more. With all of this offered on the Nexon EV, it is pretty obvious that Nexon EV has the most advanced telematics features of any Tata model out there and offers users a lot of convenience and safety.
The EV space is still an empty vessel in India and with products like Hyundai Kona and MG ZS EV, which are targeted at the premium audience, the Nexon EV is a more realistic approach to the world of EV ownership. With an ARAI certified range of 312 km, sharp exteriors, tech-laden interiors, telematics operations on its side, and even more tech under the car, the Nexon EV is worth considering as a primary runabout for a modern household. However, one cannot help but notice that the abundant availability of fuel bunks and scarcity of charging stations in India is its biggest hindrance. So if your daily run falls within a range of 312 km, the Nexon surely has the potential of replacing your petrol or diesel car.