Tata Motors has launched an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) version of its radical looking Nexon compact SUV. Available in petrol as well as diesel, the compact SUV, albeit radically styled, has its AMT based on the six-speed manual transmission. Standing out from the crowd with its styling and dual-tone colour scheme (the roof is in sonic silver), the Nexon AMT is found in top-spec XZA+ trim only. Witnessing no change inside, except the AMT shifter in place of the manual transmission gear shifter, the compact SUV feels premium. The cabin has plenty of well-executed and clever touches like the massive cooled glovebox with recesses for holding cans, front door pads with a smart holder for small folding umbrellas with channels to drain out water, and an elbow box with a magnetic lid. The space freed by the parking brake lever — slightly off-set to the left, is utilised for storage with the premium sliding shutter concealing it.
Offering easy-to-operate flip-up cup holders and a large rotary drive mode selector, the compact SUV comes fitted with a reverse camera. If the thick A-pillar can be obtrusive when turning, the large front glass provides the driver with a good view ahead. With good space in supply, the entry to the rear may call for lowering the head to avoid brushing against the tapering roof. The small-ish rear windows can make one feel lacking in space, but the fact is, the Nexon is roomy at the rear. If the (60:40 split) seat contours signal comfortable seating for two, three can sit. Some sacrifice in comfort is eminent even as they are treated to a dedicated air-con vent with blower control. Offering storage space at the rear worth 350-litres, the Nexon AMT comes with a smart activity band. It is a wristband that can lock, unlock the doors and even start the engine.
3 drive modes
Laced with three drive modes (Eco, City and Sport) and a creep function, the 110bhp, 1.5-litre diesel engine powered variant moves away from standstill smoothly. The AMT shifts gears smoothly. Low and medium throttle inputs provide an impression that the vehicle has been fitted with a conventional torque-converter tranny. Getting the engine to turn in the power range, the SUV accelerates well. A pause between shifts is noticed though, and a slight jerk is felt as the ratios change. Shifting down quickly, and at times two cogs, when the pedal is floored, the AMT also shifts up quickly as the throttle is eased. Up-shifts in the Eco mode happen earlier than expected, and smoothly. In the City mode, the box holds gears longer. Part-throttle action is smooth. In the Sport mode, gears are held for long, proving handy when in a hurry. Shifting the gear lever to the left engages manual mode.
Petrol version feels less smooth
The 110bhp, 1.2-litre turbo-petrol Nexon AMT feels less smooth. On-off throttle movement feels a little jerky, and may have to do with the way power is delivered. Part throttle response makes for a smooth drive.
Throttle input has to be carefully applied. If the progressive shifts happen smoothly with part throttle input, and support smooth city drives, upon pushing the pedal in a hurry, the AMT seems to get caught. It feels hesitant when called upon to achieve quick shifts. In the three drive modes, the petrol Nexon AMT responds differently. In Eco mode, the box upshifts early. In City mode, the box holds revs longer, but the accompanying action does not feel as smooth or progressive as in the diesel. The Sport mode holds gear for long, but the experience that follows is not the most exciting. A welcome feature is hill-hold assist, and eliminates the use of parking brake when starting on inclines.
Priced at Rs 9.4 lakh for petrol, and Rs10.3 lakh for diesel, ex-showroom Delhi, the Nexon AMT in either form is approximately Rs 35,000 costlier than the respective manual version. Both the versions make good city vehicles but the diesel version is better. The high ground clearance helps tackle broken roads. Though with a stiff edge, the ride quality is quite good, and the handling is good too.
Pros: Impressive diesel AMT, ease of city driving in either variant
Cons: Petrol not as impressive as diesel.