Tata Motors used to be the pioneer of the SUV segment in India. The butch Safari still has a lot of fan-following; the 3-door Sierra has still considered the coolest of its time and the Sumo was a default choice if you are either part of a LARGE family or you’re the villain in a movie. Despite their flaws, all three SUVs were the Indian market favorites.
However, later on, Tata Motors changed its direction completely and focused 100% on hatchbacks and sedans, abandoning the SUV segment. When they tried to re-enter the UV segment, it was already too late. Mahindra had taken over the entire SUV/MUV market with the Scorpio, Xylo, and Bolero. The new Sumo Grande wasn’t that impressive, neither was the Aria in terms of design or technicality. Mahindra launched the new XUV500 in 2011 & took the SUV market by storm.
Come 2019 and It’s already been 8 years since that. With the Safari Storme discontinued, Tata Motors tried to re-establish their SUV credentials with the Hexa in 2017. It was basically a re-designed & re-engineered version of the Aria MUV. The Hexa was great in driving, comfort, and robustness, however, with the Soft-roaders like Hyundai Creta on one end and the arch-rival XUV500 at the full-size higher-end, Tata Motors needed to get radical.
The Tata Harrier was conceived as the new flagship SUV of Tata Motors, with stunning new Impact Design 2.0 philosophy, extraordinary comfort levels, segment-first safety and off-road tech (even though it was & is still a Front-wheel drive SUV), and the architecture derived from Land Rover’s D8 platform underpinning the excellent Discovery Sport. This platform was adapted for the price category by swapping Land Rover’s Aluminum with High Tensile steel. This platform was well-proven and claimed to be tough, agile, comfortable, and flexible for its size. It was named the OMEGA arc or the Optimal Modular Efficient Global Advanced architecture. Though the Harrier was considered to be a Land Rover for the masses, it had its fair share of issues. Initial batches had issues with electronics and a few cars had heating issues with the FIAT sourced 2.0L Turbo-diesel engine. The ergonomics also needed to be better. Moreover, the lack of an automatic gearbox option and premium features such as an electronic sunroof, powered driver seat, electro-chromic IRVM & dual-tone alloy wheels diverted a fair share of customers to MG, Hyundai & Mahindra showrooms.
It’s 2020 and Tata Motors has finally launched the updated BS6 version of the Flagship Harrier SUV. This version of the Harrier claims to have all those issues sorted out; there’s a new top-end variant, XZ+ on offer, and most importantly, the option of a 6-speed Automatic Transmission.
The updated Harrier brings new premium features on this new XZ+ variant:
- Panoramic Sunroof
- Auto-dimming IRVM
- Powered driver seat
- Dual-tone 17’ alloy wheels
There also have been a few ergonomic improvements across all variants:
- Sleeker ORVMs
- Repositioned USB & AUX ports for easy access
- New 5V charging socket in the armrest
All these improvements and feature additions have made the Harrier an even more solid and impressive SUV; adding up to the strengths of the Harrier which are as follows:
- The Looks: The Tata Harrier is a stunning looking SUV with immense presence. The proportions are perfect giving it a purposeful, butch stance. Simply put, the Harrier can even compete with SUVs which are almost double the price. The new Dual-tone alloys suit the Harrier better while the lower-spec XZ and XT variants are still available with the original single tone alloy wheels only. The entry-level XE & XM variants get 16’ steel rims with wheel caps. The Harrier is also available as an all-black DARK EDITION or with a contrast black roof only on the XZ/XZA & XZ+/XZA+ variants.
- Interior quality & design: The cabin of the Tata Harrier provides a soothing and classy ambiance with the soft-touch material on the dashboard, segment-besting leather upholstery, and leather padding quality, and convenient touches. The dashboard has a Wood trim running across the length, which can easily be mistaken for real wood! Even the all-black Dark edition cabin gets all the quality touches, with the wood finish replaced by a faux-metal finish trim. Almost all the Buttons and switchgear have a robust quality feel to them. The Sunroof adds to the cabin’s airiness.
- Space & Comfort: The Harrier being a Tata car stays true to its legacy. The front seats are large and accommodating and the rear seats are as good as Sofas in a living room. Seating three people abreast are not at all an issue, while rear AC vents on the B-pillars provide superb cooling. Tilt & Telescopic adjustable steering wheel is available as standard from the entry-level XE variant itself whereas a height-adjustable driver seat is available from the XM variant onwards. Driver seat Lumbar adjusts and rear seat armrest is available only from the XT variant onwards.
- Practicality: With 425 liters of extendable, square boot space and more than enough storage spaces inside the cabin including umbrella holders, a chiller box under the armrest, cup holders, bottle holders, and mobile phone holders, the Harrier is extremely practical. Split-folding rear seats are available only from the XZ variant onwards.
- Safety & build quality: Given the impressive safety record of all smaller Tata cars and the safety features on the Tata Harrier, this SUV scores very high on safety requirements. Although the Harrier has not yet been crash-tested by Global NCAP, we can surely expect a full 5-star rating. Tata has made the following safety features as standard across all variants of the Harrier:
- Dual airbags
- ABS with EBD
- Corner Stability Control
- Electronic Stability Program
- Traction Control
- Hill Hold control
- Roll Over Mitigation
- Electronic Brake Pre-fill
- Emergency Brake Assist
- Brake Disc Wiping
- Pre-tensioner equipped seatbelts
- Perimetric Alarm system
- Rear Parking sensors
Additionally, side & curtain airbags, Hill Descent Control, Front Cornering fog lamps with rear fog lamps & Off-Road ABS are available only on the XZ, XZA, XZ+ & XZA+ variants.
- Ride & Handling: The Tata Harrier is highly impressive in the Ride & handling department. The Suspension at the rear even though being a semi-independent unit, is very absorbent and keeps the car planted even at higher speeds. The recalibrated Hydraulic Power steering system improves driver confidence much better than before.
- Diesel Powertrain: The updated Tata Harrier comes with an updated BS6 compliant 2.0L KRYOTEC Turbo-diesel engine. This is the same engine as on the Jeep Compass and produces 170PS of peak power and 350NM Max Torque. The Harrier has been tuned with a focus on drivability and the midrange acceleration is really strong & linear. The 6-speed manual gearbox is slicker than before, while customers also have the option of a 6-speed Hyundai sourced Torque Converter automatic transmission available on the XM, XZ & XZ+ variants. The Automatic is impressively smooth, adequately quick, and responds well to any driving style.
- Multi-drive modes: The Harrier is available for various types of multiple drive modes. ECO, CITY & SPORT are the power-based drive modes (available from XM variant onwards) that alter the max power output and engine response. The Harrier also offers Land Rover derived Terrain Response Drive modes including WET mode & ROUGH mode (available on XZ/XZA & XZ+/XZA+ variants) which help this Front Wheel Drive SUV go a fair bit further than any other FWD SUV or Crossover. Even though you do not get any sort of AWD system, these electronics are more than sufficient for most off-road conditions.
- Infotainment Experience: The Tata Harrier is available with an 8.8’ Landscape oriented VISTEON-sourced touch-screen infotainment system complemented by 9 JBL speakers including a Subwoofer and Amplifier on the XZ, XZA, XZ+ & XZA+ variants. Media options, Climate control, Phone contacts, and calls can be controlled by a Voice recognition system. These variants are also paired with a 7” TFT color instrument cluster which displays all the essential details including the current playing media, navigation directions, and drive modes. The XM and XT variants are available with a 7” touch-screen with 6 and 8 speakers respectively but without the color TFT instrument cluster. Be it any variant of the Harrier, the audio experience is fantastic; even better on the top-spec variants. Android Auto, Apple Carplay & Reverse camera are available from the XT variant onwards. You also get the option of controlling & monitoring the media and Climate control through an app on your smart-phone when you are inside the Harrier.
While the Harrier has its list of positives, it also has a few weaknesses, just like any other car.
- Connected Car Technology: With its key rival, MG Hector bringing Smartphone-based Connected-car technology to the next level, Tata Motors is yet to bring in such features on the Harrier. With the BS6 Nexon compact-SUV offering such features, we expect Tata to introduce the features on the Harrier too.
- No Petrol engine: While the diesel engine of the Harrier is impressive, Tata Motors is unable to cater to the needs of premium customers who prefer the refinement & performance of petrol-powered SUVs. Tata Motors has started work on a new 1.5L Turbo-petrol motor for the Harrier, but this engine is expected to see the light only by 2021.
- Reliability: While the 2020 Harrier is a significant improvement in all aspects, the reliability factor is yet to be proven. We hope that all the niggling issues seen on the 2019 initial batches have been ironed out.
- Ergonomics: With the 2020 Harrier, most of the ergonomic issues have been taken care of. However, there still seems to be a little discomfort for taller drivers with their left knee brushing against the dashboard edge, while working with the clutch pedal. The dead pedal shape and positioning could also be better.
- Few more features: Though the Harrier offers quite a lot of features and technology, there are still a few more features it could offer especially at the price point. Features like rear disc brakes, rear window sun-blinds, ambient lighting, reclining rear seats, LED headlamps could have been provided at least on the top-spec variants.
- Consistency in quality: Although overall quality has been improved significantly, there is still some room for improvement. The cabin has quite a lot of hard surfaces; the door-pads are comprised of largely hard and scratchy plastics, a few panel-gaps are still inconsistent & the material on the steering-wheel boss isn’t very much in sync with the rest of the cabin. Fit & Finish could be improved overall.
- Service: Like any brand, Tata Motors also have their fair share of good customer-friendly dealers and not-so-good ones. But being a company that already didn’t have a good history in terms of overall service experience, we expect Tata to really pull up their socks and tighten up their sleeves when it comes to service. A flagship product like the Harrier definitely needs a more premium service experience.
Conclusion: Tata Motors as of now is one of the most rapidly developing automotive brand names in India and the Harrier is their current flagship. As expected, it is modern, sophisticated, comfortable, powerful, and very, very safe. The prices for this flagship, Land Rover based SUV is not what you would call the most affordable. Prices for the manual range start from Rs.13.6L for the XE variant and go all the way up to Rs. 18.7L for the new XZ+ (Rs.10,000 extra for a dual-tone roof; Rs.20,000 extra for the DARK edition). The Automatic range starts from Rs.16.2L for the XMA variant and goes all the way up to 19.9L for the XZA+. (All prices ex-showroom)
At this price, the Harrier is a near-perfect mix of stunning looks, extremely capable & tough characteristics, comfort, and power; A combination that most of its rivals don’t offer. All it needs is a little ironing out to eliminate the minor inconsistencies and QC issues.
When it comes to service, you can see more than a few dealerships improving drastically with stricter norms, but on the whole, especially in the North, Tata needs to work harder to improve the customer experience. Find a good dealer with good customer reviews and experienced personnel and you will be happy for years. As for the car itself, the Harrier is one among the best mid-size luxury SUVs in the current Indian market.