2023 Tata Nexon facelift review, first drive - focused on the positives

Tuhin Guha Updated: September 07, 2023, 12:15 AM IST

The story of the Tata Nexon has taken an arc that is the exact opposite of what usually happens to a car over its life cycle. It's been around for quite a while, but instead of fading away, the Nexon has grown steadily to become one of the best sellers in the cutthroat compact SUV space.

Tata Motors has managed this by making incremental improvements to the Nexon and widening the range to offer something for everyone. So does this new update to the Nexon, its most extensive yet, take this further?

2023 Tata Nexon facelift styling

The Nexon was always a pleasant-looking car, but with this facelift, it's now one of the more striking small SUVs out on the road. Tata Motors has done well to incorporate its new sharper family face, first seen on the Curvv, into the softer existing theme of the Nexon.

To this end, there are a few more changes than you would otherwise see on a mid-cycle update. This split-headlamp look is now increasingly common but the Tata Motors interpretation is one of the better-executed ones with the gloss black top accent and the DRLs incorporated into this discreetly.

This is a nice foil to the sharp sculpting below and around the grille. The detailing is thoughtful and helps reduce the grille's mass. The full LED lighting, again in a deep vertical indent, is a good complement to the face. It's discreet when not in use although unlike competitors Tata Motors continues to offer fog lamps. The bonnet and front fenders have been reworked to go with the new front. It's a thoughtful design that's not too fussy or loud but still draws attention with its clean execution.

Expectedly, the changes to the Tata Nexon aren't as extensive in profile. The distinct contrasting window line accent has been done away with. It goes with the more mature theme of this design, also seen with the crisper treatment of the C-pillar that brings the roofline in line with the new look. The most noticeable addition here though is the aero-focused 16-inch alloy wheels. Wheel sizes haven't changed but these go with the linear theme of the lighting and draw attention.

At the rear, the lighting is the biggest draw with the full-width signature looking especially premium. A fact amplified by the welcome swipe it does, right up there with some luxury brands. That reduced, angular theme is seen here with the wiper now hidden in the spoiler, much like a Land Rover, and with the sculpting on the new boot lid. The complementing vertical themes are seen with reflectors in the new bumpers and the details around these. The boot is not the most spacious but is easily accessed by a low load lip. The addition of a 60:40 split should make this space more manageable.

2023 Tata Nexon facelift interiors, tech, space, features

The changes on the inside of the facelifted Tata Nexon are again quite extensive as far as facelifts go. The basic layout of the dash hasn't changed but you have a much crisper, more contemporary look to this space. This is mainly with the simplified middle section with the wider air vents, which also feel nicer to use, and the horizontal theme.

The sense of quality has improved too. This optional purple theme is well executed. It's not tacky and suits the cabin's gloss black highlights well. The plastics on the top and lower reaches of the dash haven't changed but the imitation carbon fibre weave in the new panels has a realistic texture to it and is offset by a softer panel below the vents. A greater sense of quality comes from the dark capacitive panels for the centre console and the glow-up Tata logo on the new steering wheel.

There has been a consistent improvement in fit and finish levels with every new Tata offering and that continues here too, although the Koreans still have a clear edge. That said, the new shifter for the automatic variants feels especially premium. It too seems inspired by Land Rover's latest, with a crisp toggle action and a good finish.

But there are some clear giveaways of the Nexon's quite old bones. Like earlier, the cabin isn't generous with storage spaces. The central tunnel continues to be tightly packed with the new Type A and C charge points quite difficult to reach. The wireless charger is well-placed but there still are no cup holders here. The large glove box helps but the central bin and door pockets aren't quite as large as in similarly sized SUVs built on newer architectures.

This also shows in rear-seat space. Considering that the Nexon is no smaller than its competitors there could have been better legroom, although with the placement of the front seats, there's quite a bit of footroom. The sloping roofline also limits headroom if you are taller than average. Tata Motors has worked on seat comfort and the new seats have added more lower back support. This ties in well with the already good under-thigh support and well-judged cushioning.

The new infotainment package is about as modern as you can expect at this price point. There were some glitches in the time we spent with the Nexon, which we were told would be fixed, but as it stands both the new 10.25-inch screens are vibrant, and intuitive to use. The instrument cluster offers up quite a bit of information cleanly and is easy to toggle through. The various views are well-thought-out too. Especially useful is the Google Maps feed on this screen. If anything, we would have liked slightly larger fonts.

This isn't an issue with the central touchscreen. Touch responses are crisp and phone pairing is seamless too with the wireless Android Auto/Apple Carplay. The widget-based layout brings most functions within easy reach, almost enough for you to not miss physical controls except for the audio. The smartphone-like sub-menus are similarly thoughtful and come with a host of kit like Alexa voice assistance and sound modes for the new 9-speaker JBL sound system. The redundancies in the touch panel below are tied in well with the screen's functions. It's not as easy to use as the earlier physical dials and buttons but the new toggle switches are tactile and the capacitive panels are better executed than in some other cars around this price.

A vast list of features is tied in with this. You get ventilated seats, connected tech with remote engine start/stop, a PM 2.5 air purifier, height adjustment for both front passengers, auto headlamps and wipers and a single pane sunroof being highlights.

2023 Tata Nexon facelift Safety

The Nexon was the first to begin establishing Tata Motors' safety credentials and that sense of security continues with the new version. This variant hasn't been tested to the newest testing regulations yet but you get an especially handy 360-degree camera setup with blind view cameras and a 3D view. The high-quality screens and cameras and many angles make navigating tight situations simple. Aside from this, there are six airbags, an auto-dimming inner mirror and TPMS.

2023 Tata Nexon facelift Driving Impressions - petrol-DCT, diesel-MT

Expectedly, the experience from behind the wheel of the Nexon hasn't changed all that much with this update. So you still sit fairly high up and the awkward angle to the steering wheel remains. That said frontal visibility is still good although the larger new wing mirrors from the Harrier make for a greater blind spot around the A-pillars, as much as they help with rear-ward visibility.

The 1.2-litre turbo-petrol continues with its 120PS and 170 Nm but now comes paired with the seven-speed DCT from the Altroz. Like before, this motor isn't quite like similar turbo-petrols seen in the Nexon's rivals. It's at its best when driven sedately and makes for consistent but mellow progress.

The new DCT seems to smoothen this out, doing a great job of ironing out any lag in the powertrain. Like the engine, this gearbox too is more attuned to sedate driving. Instead of the quick, sharp gear changes you expect from a DCT, it's more measured with softer shifts that aren't all that exciting. But this might suit most prospective Nexon buyers, helped by the fact that the gearbox is well-timed with its shifts and works in cohesion with the motor. The added gear also makes the petrol Nexon a calm highway cruiser.

You do get paddles that seem inspired by the ones in a Land Rover and with a nice cold feel to them. Using these does quicken gear changes and comes in handy if you want to make faster progress.

Carried over is the 1.5-litre diesel with its 110PS and 260 Nm, paired with a six-speed manual. It's again laid-back in its demeanour with some lag noticeable below 1,500 rpm. There's a growing swell of torque past this and over 2,00 rpm you have that pleasing, and now increasingly rare, flat diesel torque that makes progress easy. The diesel is more adept at overtaking and getting up to speed on highways and despite the lesser gear count is a better highway machine.

The manual's clutch is light and shouldn't be too cumbersome in traffic, as much as you might have to row through the gears. Although there's no dead pedal with the slightly cramped footwell. The gear shifts don't take too much effort but we would have liked for the throws to have been shorter and crisper.

Both get drive modes that work as before. These alter torque outputs and responses and help bring some variety to the driving feel.

But, the Nexon could do with better refinement in both versions. The petrol engine note has a rough edge to it especially at idle and low revs, with vibrations felt through the pedals and wheels. This is slightly better contained in the diesel but here the clatter never seems to fade away as speeds rise. Also, the shift to second with the diesel isn't easy to pull off smoothly.

Tata Motors has slightly reworked the suspension but generally the Nexon rides and handles like it used to earlier. So yes, like most new Tata cars, there is a firm edge to the ride at low speeds. This is well damped but you do feel larger potholes and broken surfaces filter into the cabin at these speeds. This improves notably as speeds build and the Nexon becomes solid and comfortable feeling on the highway.

That said we would have liked for there to have been better steering feel. It's light enough to not feel tiring but it could have been more direct. Turning in is not quite precise and you are somewhat second-guessing the movements of the car, and you also sometimes have to put in small corrections at higher speeds. This aside, there's good body control. Body roll is kept in good check. The Nexon leans into turns quite predictably and makes for a stable driving experience in these situations, the relatively wide tires adding a sense of grip. In this regard, the slightly heavier front in the diesel seems to keep it better planted than the diesel.

2023 Tata Nexon facelift expected price, verdict

We expect the refreshed Nexon to be priced at about Rs 1 lakh more than the existing versions given the extensive feature additions. With this facelift, Tata Motors seems to have worked on strengthening the Nexon's positives. The DCt does smoothen out the petrol's performance but we would have liked to have seen better refinement to go with this. That said, the Nexon now looks special and comes with a cabin that feels more premium in look and in the tech that's packed in. Pair this with the great value that Tata cars usually promise and this update should see the Nexon continue on its upward trajectory.

Images by Anis Shaikh

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Price (Ex-Delhi)
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