TATA HAR­RIER

The lat­est from Tata Mo­tors is a wa­ter­shed for the com­pany, cour­tesy this bold and trend­set­ting new de­sign lan­guage. But does it have the rest of the goods to de­liver the bang for buck that peo­ple would ex­pect it to?

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FROM THE FAN­TAS­TIC fire­works and that rock con­cert setup in the mid­dle of sand dunes at Khim­sar, to the gen­eral at­mo­sphere, there is a sense of ju­bi­la­tion at Tata Mo­tors. This is their mo­ment of pride and joy, when they present the Har­rier to us for the first time. For the Har­rier, which we first saw as the bril­liant H5X Con­cept at the Auto Expo ear­lier this year, marks the start of a brand new chap­ter at Tata Mo­tors. The pro­logue of course was the Nexon that marked the com­pany's en­try into a new SUV seg­ment with a brand new de­sign lan­guage. But it is truly the Har­rier that seems to have what it takes to set Tata Mo­tors firmly on a new path. A new path head­lined by a stun­ningly bold de­sign lan­guage and a foray into gen­uine pre­mium for the first time with a prod­uct that, like the Nexon be­fore it, should see far more in­di­vid­ual tak­ers than fleet own­ers. The fact that it will com­pete with prod­ucts like the Mahin­dra XUV 500, the highly suc­cess­ful Hyundai Creta and the run­away hit that is the Jeep Com­pass, puts it in a seg­ment where the spot­light hasn't stopped shin­ing. Tata Mo­tors' ask of the Har­rier isn't small and the team that cre­ated it would have worked to de­liver on ev­ery sin­gle count.

Plat­form and de­sign

“A lot of peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate the value of a plat­form ar­chi­tec­ture. I just men­tioned to you the OMEGA. Hav­ing the wheels in the right place, in the right size. Hav­ing the cabin to body pro­por­tions. These are fun­da­men­tally de­cided in the ar­chi­tec­ture. That's what I call de­sign re­ally, the rest is all styling.” These were the words of Tata Mo­tors' head of de­sign, Pratap Bose, just weeks be­fore the me­dia drive of the Har­rier in Jodh­pur when I had met him and asked him about the sig­nif­i­cance of the plat­form to de­sign.

Clearly, the OMEGA ARC plat­form lends it­self to great styling for there is ab­so­lutely no doubt that in the flesh, the Har­rier cuts a hand­some sil­hou­ette. It's butch and ag­gres­sive when it needs to be yet with a touch of class. The mus­cu­la­ture is just right and not over the top. Its face is that of a bold and resur­gent Tata Mo­tors that clearly wants to lead from the front, and I dare­say that with the Tata Har­rier, Pratap and his team have suc­ceeded in do­ing so. For some, this brave new de­sign direc­tion might take a bit of time to get used to, ha­bit­u­ated as they are to more con­ven­tional, rather ortho­dox, SUV de­sign, but once they're past that point, the Tata Har­rier's

ap­peal to the eye will be dif­fi­cult to ig­nore.

The fact that it's wider and longer than both the Com­pass and the Creta, which we ex­pect will be its prin­ci­pal ri­vals at ei­ther end of the pric­ing spec­trum, cou­pled to this stand­out de­sign, means that there's no way you will be able to ig­nore the Tata Har­rier's im­mense road pres­ence.

On the in­side, the first thing that strikes you is this per­cep­tion of space. Or is it ac­tual space? Prob­a­bly the lat­ter, and I wouldn't be sur­prised if it turns out to be the roomi­est SUV in its class. Till date I have never seen a Tata ve­hi­cle that isn't roomy. It's al­most part of the Tata Mo­tors DNA but with the Tata Har­rier, this has been taken to a new level. Even for a six-footer like me, knee­room at the rear of this five-seater is plenty, as is head­room and shoul­der room. (ar­chi­tec­ture can take a 7-seater con­fig but that's not avail­able right now and nei­ther is any­one at Tata con­firm­ing if there will be one any­time soon).

Go­ing back to my con­ver­sa­tion with Pratap, he had said that al­though Tata Mo­tors has moved away from the old Indica's de­sign and style, he con­tin­ues to draw in­spi­ra­tion from the spirit of the Indica. “The Indica in its time was one of the global hatch­back de­sign lead­ers. If you look at some of the con­tem­po­raries of the Indica in 1997, it re­ally was up there with the best. It was a hatch­back that re­ally stood out and it was known for its roomi­ness. I know there is a sci­en­tific ex­pla­na­tion for what DNA is but for me it is Do Not Al­ter. That means there are some core things that you do not change.” With the Har­rier, roomi­ness in the cabin is some­thing that Pratap's team has cer­tainly not al­tered. And mind you, none of this is at the cost of boot space, which is a vo­lu­mi­nous 425 litres.

The other thing that strikes you is the feel of qual­ity. The doors shut with a solid re­as­sur­ing thud and the wood fin­ish on the dash along with the chrome and pi­ano black ac­cents look pre­mium. The lay­out with that 8.8-inch float­ing touch­screen dom­i­nat­ing the cen­tre of the dash looks clean and classy as does the air­craft con­trol-in­spired un­con­ven­tional park­ing brake lever. Un­for­tu­nately with that park­ing brake func­tion­al­ity is some­what ham­pered and it doesn't feel as sturdy as the rest of the stuff. The 7-inch colour TFT in­stru­men­ta­tion too is funky but it takes just

a wee bit of time to get used to the lay­out while some of the fonts on the warn­ing lamps are too small to be de­ci­phered. The seats are nice and com­fort­able but they lack un­der thigh sup­port, some­thing a slightly larger or longer seat squab could have solved. Where ev­ery­thing gives off a feel of pre­mium qual­ity, the flimsy in­ter­nal rear view mir­ror feels out of place, and the lack of an auto dim­ming func­tion for it is sim­ply in­ex­pli­ca­ble, as is the nar­row­ness of the dead pedal and the way the left knee keeps touch­ing the sides of the cen­tre con­sole. The other in­ex­pli­ca­ble thing is the ab­sence of Ap­ple CarPlay. Tata Mo­tors says it will be in­cluded shortly but a ve­hi­cle in this seg­ment should have had it from the get go. Op­er­a­tion of the mu­sic sys­tem too could be a bit more user friendly than it is and it showed a ten­dency to switch An­droid Auto off at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals al­though that lat­ter bit could be down to a faulty ca­ble. Speak­ing of ca­bles, the USB and Aux-In ports are hid­den from plain sight, so you'll need to look for them.

At the heart of the Har­rier

Un­der the beau­ti­fully sculpted bon­net of the Tata Har­rier is a 2-litre four-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel that Tata Mo­tors has de­cided to call Kry­otec. The FIAT sourced en­gine, which is the same as in the Com­pass, but pro­duces a lower 138bhp at 3750rpm and 350Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm. As you can see from those fig­ures the en­tirety of the grunt is spread to­wards the bot­tom and mid­dle of the en­gine's rev range

In the flesh the Har­rier cuts a hand­some sil­hou­ette. It’s butch and ag­gres­sive yet with a touch of class

and with a lin­ear de­liv­ery, which proved to be great for the re­laxed cruise that we did on the high­way from Jodh­pur to Khim­sar. The low down grunt also meant that driv­ing through Jodh­pur's crazy traf­fic, some­times at crawl­ing and pot­ter­ing pace, could be tack­led eas­ily. It's a trait that should stand the Tata Har­rier in good stead. For now, there is only a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion and front-wheel drive with both an au­to­matic vari­ant and an AWD vari­ant due some­time later. This also means that the ro­tary knob next to the gear lever that al­lows you to switch be­tween nor­mal, wet and rough road modes is ac­tu­ally a bit mis­lead­ing. It only al­ters ESP set­tings, which has a whole plethora of func­tion­al­i­ties, but doesn't re­ally en­dow the Tata Har­rier with any ex­tra ca­pa­bil­i­ties. To be fair though, the Tata Har­rier will not shy away from a bit of soft road­ing but with­out 4WD, those modes don't re­ally of­fer any func­tional value. Es­pe­cially be­cause in 99 out of 100 cases, de­fault ESP is all you need to drive on a dry road, a wet road or even on a trail or graded road. The en­gine modes, there are Eco, City and Sport, are more ef­fec­tive and switch­ing be­tween the three you'll clearly feel the change in the ve­hi­cle's re­sponse. Need­less to say, Sport was our favourite.

While we couldn't re­ally test the ve­hi­cle's han­dling thanks to Ra­jasthan's ar­row straight roads, the hy­draulic power steer­ing is a joy to op­er­ate. It's pre­cise and has ad­e­quate feed­back and yet some­how Tata Mo­tors en­gi­neers have man­aged to erad­i­cate the usual sense of heav­i­ness as­so­ci­ated with hy­draulic power steer­ing units. So even when we were cut­ting our way through the chaos of Jodh­pur, it didn't feel like a chore. The other thing that re­ally stands out is the Tata Har­rier's ride qual­ity. The setup is def­i­nitely on the softer side, which makes it ab­so­lutely out­stand­ing. Yet, it isn't wal­lowy as is of­ten the case with soft sus­pen­sion set­ups. The fact that Tata Mo­tors has deemed fit to stick to 17inch wheels shod with 235/65 pro­file tyres also aids ride qual­ity. Soon enough how­ever there will be the op­tion of 18-inch wheels.

Bang for buck

The Har­rier there­fore is a bit of a mixed bag. It has some great things go­ing for it and at the same time it is far from be­ing flaw­less. It drives well, has bril­liant ride qual­ity, a great feed­back-rich steer­ing and bath­tubs of style. Me­chan­i­cally and vis­ually, there is no doubt that the Har­rier is a well made prod­uct. It has plenty of equip­ment, al­though strangely there is no sun­roof, and even more space than equip­ment. Fi­nally, in the looks de­part­ment I would think Pratap and his team de­serve a gi­ant pat on their backs for knock­ing it right out of the park. But for those nig­gling flaws that I have men­tioned, the Har­rier would have been the bulls­eye prod­uct that Tata Mo­tors wants it to be. Even so, this will eas­ily be a great pur­chase propo­si­tion for those look­ing for a good look­ing, spa­cious SUV that is easy to drive and live with. The only con­di­tion, is that the com­pany plays the pric­ing game just right. We ex­pect the pric­ing to be be­tween `13-18 lakh, which will put the Har­rier squarely be­tween the Creta and the Com­pass. And now, we wait to find out if we're right on that pric­ing count. ⌧

Above right: That's no ter­rain re­sponse. It just al­ters ESP set­tings. The Har­rier is a 4x2 as of now.Fac­ing page, top: Cabin feels pre­mium for the most part and stylish for sure

Top: Can get close to the dune but don't go dune bash­ing. Cen­tre: Don't go look­ing for top end per­for­mance there. Above: Looks good, works well

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