2023 Tata Safari review - a new chapter in Tata's SUV evolution
Tata Motors has been making significant strides in reshaping its SUV lineup. They recently introduced thoroughly refreshed models of the Nexon and Nexon EV, and the eagerly-anticipated Punch EV seems to be just around the corner. What is creating headlines of them at the moment though is the flagship Safari and its 5-seater counterpart, the Harrier - both of which have been updated significantly. We have a detailed review of the Harrier, too, but now we delve into the new 2023 Tata Safari's most striking features, starting with its design.
The 2023 Tata Safari introduces a range of exciting design updates. Most notably, a large grille with a single-piece design sets it apart from the Harrier, giving it an imposing stance. Subtle 'Safari' branding on the doors with an updated logo adds a touch of class to the SUV.
One design element that particularly caught our eye is the stunning 19-inch wheels. Their two-tone finish and intricate hexagon centre design not only look fantastic but also injects a sporty element into the overall design. Regrettably, these wheels are not transferrable to the older Hexa, but they can be retrofitted on both old and new Harrier models.
The straight lines on the bodywork emphasise the Safari's upright stance and length, clearly distinguishing it from the Harrier. Even the grille protrudes forward a bit more, adding to its upright fascia. The tie-pin-like Safari badging in the headlights adds a touch of sophistication.
The front end is dominated by a full-width LED strip, vertically stacked headlamps, and two-pot fog lamps, creating a commanding presence. The startup animation for the headlights and taillights further enhances the premium appeal. Moving to the rear, the design strikes a perfect balance between sophistication and ruggedness, with horizontal lines and vertical sculptural elements. Notably, there's a distinctive light signature that sets it apart from the Harrier.
One standout feature is the use of hot foiling technology in the grille, a first in the segment, which adds an extra layer of sophistication and establishes a stronger visual connection with the Land Rovers.
Stepping inside the 2023 Tata Safari, you'll be further impressed. The cabin retains its spaciousness, but now, there are pinstripes in the inlay panels, reminiscent of luxury cars. While these pinstripes provide a nice touch, it's worth noting that they are printed and not actual metal veins.
The cabin is loaded with screens, featuring a 12.3-inch central infotainment screen, a 10.25-inch instrument cluster, and even a tiny screen for the terrain mode selector, akin to a smartwatch. These screens are controlled by a new standalone processing unit, ensuring smooth performance and a more intuitive user interface. Soft-touch materials throughout the cabin add to the premium feel. Electronic touch controls for the air conditioning and a four-spoke phygital steering wheel with an illuminated logo make it clear that this is a high-tech cockpit, though some switches and plastic touchpoints in less common areas still feel somewhat basic.
However, there are a few downsides to consider. Glossy surfaces in the cabin are visually appealing but prone to scratches. Some of the controls, like the stalks behind the wheel, can be a bit of a reach, which might be inconvenient while driving. In the instrumentation, there's no MAP view for Google Maps on Apple CarPlay, only Apple Maps. The suede panels around the windows tend to accumulate dust, and the large wing mirrors create wind noise and affect cornering visibility. The shift-by-wire gear selector in the automatic variant, while a step forward, could be smoother. These are personal nitpicks and may vary from one person to another.
Tata has placed a strong emphasis on safety, offering six standard airbags, with a seventh available in top trims. The inclusion of features like 'Boss Mode' for the rear left passenger adds convenience, and various exterior and interior trim combinations known as Personas allow for a somewhat personalised experience while making colour and upholstery choices.
The lighter upholstery option may soil easily, so keep that in mind. On the tech front, the integration of Alexa Car2Home is a welcome addition. If you have compatible Alexa devices at home, you can use voice commands to control various home functions, adding convenience to your daily routine - like starting the coffee machine, switching the home lights or air conditioning etc as you are arriving home.
Connectivity is a strong suit then, and you also get voice-controlled dual-zone automatic climate control. However, it's worth noting that there are no individual microphones to detect driver and passenger commands, so you'll need to specify whom you're addressing. Rear window blinds and ventilated seats in the second row create a comfortable atmosphere. Ambient lighting extends to the panoramic roof too, which can be opened using voice commands, offering a convenient experience much like the competition. Additionally, the JBL audio system is upgraded with a tenth speaker placed on the dashboard. There are 13 audio modes, including one that activates only the front speakers, perfect for keeping the rear passengers undisturbed.
In terms of driving dynamics, too, the 2023 Tata Safari has made some strides. New driving modes affect the weight of the Electronic Power Steering, addressing past concerns about the heavy steering feel with the hydraulic setup. Sport mode continues to provide the weighted feel, while Comfort or Eco modes make the steering significantly lighter and more convenient for daily chores.
The Sport mode enhances throttle and engine response too, making it especially useful on mountain roads and inclines, even for non-enthusiasts. The introduction of three terrain modes - Normal, Wet, and Rough - allows for adaptability in various driving conditions. Although the Safari is front-wheel drive and lacks all-wheel-drive options, the tire choices and suspension setup mitigate the need for frequent traction control interventions. Most mild off-road trails can be tackled in Normal mode itself.
The safety features are well-rounded, including ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), and the addition of Adaptive Cruise Control that adjusts speed to match the vehicle in front, with a 3-second acceleration delay built in to anticipate unexpected obstacles. In panic situations, the vehicle uses automatic emergency braking and includes features such as pre-brake fill. Even in non-emergency braking, the Safari activates hazard lights when the rear radars detect a tailgating vehicle. Some features like Lane Keep Assist, are expected to be added to the production model.
As before, the Safari continues to use the Fiat-sourced 170PS diesel engine, which is inherently a bit noisy and unrefined, but there are no pedal vibrations to complain about. It delivers a decent performance with a punchy midrange. There's some turbo-lag, but it's manageable and the crisp response of the Sport mode shadows that shortcoming.
The Hyundai-sourced automatic transmission now comes with a shift-by-wire as mentioned and you also get paddle shifters, marginally improving the driving experience. It's not the quickest, but the shift times are respectable.
Aerodynamic efficiency is improved in the updated exterior design, with wind curtains near the headlights contributing to slight gains in overall fuel economy, but we will verify that later with a road test.
Suspension tweaks ensure that ride quality remains excellent despite the large wheels. The handling is quite good too for such a large car and the aforementioned Electronic Power Steering helps shrink the perception of the car's size.
In conclusion, the 2023 Tata Safari is a compelling SUV. With its refreshed design, impressive features, and a strong safety package, it marks a significant step forward for Tata Motors. While the front-wheel-drive configuration and the absence of an all-wheel-drive option may not cater to Safari purists, the new Safari distinguishes itself with its rich feature set, connectivity options, and striking design, tailored to meet market demands.
Words Rohit Paradkar
Photography Anis Shaikh
Starts Rs 14.99 Lakhs