2020 Tata Harrier first drive review

TATA Harrier
2020 Tata Harrier (Image: Gaurav Chandrasekhar)

I can draw up a list of cars (and SUVs!) that are/were good but didn’t quite see the kind of
market acceptance they deserved. The Tata Harrier is one such product – when I drove it
first I was impressed despite the few rough edges. Not to forget, the Land Rover pedigree. It sure has gained popularity but hasn’t enjoyed the kind of success it should have. A slew of launches from other manufacturers also hampered its fortunes, as did glaring omissions on Tata Motors’ part, like the lack of a sunroof or an automatic gearbox to name a few. So Tata Motors has taken up the BS6 norms as an opportunity to package it better. Not surprising, as most manufacturers are doing precisely that – using the stricter emission norms as an opportunity to make their cars better!

 

2020 Tata Harrier (Image: Gaurav Chandrasekhar)

First things first, the Harrier now gets the full-fat, 168bhp version of the FCA-sourced 2.0-
litre diesel motor as opposed to the relatively meeker 138bhp version that powered it
earlier, though peak torque remains unchanged at 350Nm. Another big fix is the introduction of a six-speed torque converter automatic (the same as the previous version Hyundai Tucson). Tata has added a sunroof as well – the biggest in segment. Clearly, the main pain points have been addressed, though there is more to the 2020 Harrier and we took it for a drive, across highways and some hills too, to see what the updates bring to the table.

Look at it and you’ll notice that the face is the same but a bit of chrome has been added,
though thankfully the garnishing is subtle enough to not look bling. The Harrier also gets
new alloy wheels that look way better than older ones. The wing mirrors are also smaller
now – I distinctly remember the larger mirrors on the outgoing version causing blind spots
and wind noise too. The sides remain unchanged otherwise and so does the rear, which
means the Harrier name is writ large across the boot lid just like before. The rear bumper has been restyled though and looks sportier, adding more oomph to an already good looking derriere.

Let’s take a look inside the cabin too, where the biggest draw is the panoramic sunroof. It is large and helps in offering a more upmarket feel inside. It also gets an anti-pinch function, rain-sensing and a heat resistant film which is pretty thoughtful. The rest of the cabin remains unchanged largely, except for the addition of more colour themes to the
infotainment and part-digital instrument cluster. But it is worth noting that fit-finish levels
have improved vastly, adding to the more premium feel inside. The lack of a dedicated door lock/unlock button is still a bit of a bummer though. One small yet significant update is that the USB port has been brought further out from its cavity. The port sat deep inside earlier which made plugging a cable into it a pain.

The infotainment screen layout could have been better, as the phone’s interface on
connecting via Apple CarPlay is too small, with blank spaces on either side. This means the
phone’s icons onscreen are too tiny and call for careful touching so as to not touch the wrong icon. On the positive side the Harrier continues to offer excellent space, be it the
front row, legroom in the second row or the boot space. And that’s courtesy its long
wheelbase – there’s acres of legroom in the second row despite a six-footer in the front,
while boot space is good enough to put in a couple of big suitcases and more. There’s a JBL
sub-woofer in the back as well and as we know, the audio system in the Harrier is top class
and offers brilliant audio quality.

Once we got going I also noticed that the engine also feels smoother and more refined now. When given the stick from low speeds it does sound tad noisy, though admittedly it is
quieter at speeds. The additional 30 horses make their presence felt too, more so in the
manual. The automatic feels slightly more laidback in terms of sending power to the wheels
though that’s not a bad thing, as convenience is the name of the game here. Shifts from the automatic gearbox are smooth, besides which it helps you do away with the heaviness of the clutch pedal. Driving modes remain the same as before – Eco, City and Sport and
the difference in power delivery is pretty distinct. Interestingly, in the automatic version, even if you are in Eco or City and you move the drive selector to the left to change gears manually, the system engages Sport mode automatically for better responses and you can hold gears for longer too.

The automatic is sure to appeal to those who want a more relaxed drive, be it in the city or the highway. I liked the manual more though as it affords greater control of the 168 horses, thereby allowing you to have more fun! I reckon the updated engine will allow it to sprint to 100kmph at least a second quicker than before if not more. The engine also pulls harder now, even at triple-digit speeds. The SUV thus feels more engaging from behind the wheel, is more confident and quicker to overtake at highway speeds and should make long drives more fun too. The updated powertrain aside Tata Motors has also reworked the suspension and improved cabin insulation. The better insulation means the cabin is quieter now with lesser road and wind noise.

And thanks to the slightly reworked suspension the Harrier’s ride quality has improved,
without compromising the confident feel in terms of handling. It thus soaks up bad roads
better, while feeling rock solid on the go thanks to its robust build quality. On the same note the doors also shut with a reassuring thunk, though you do have to slam them hard at times to close them properly. Coming back to the ride and handling the Harrier still feels a little bouncy when going fast on broken roads. It does feel very confident around bends though and despite its size and heft, is willing to attack corners with aplomb. The steering also offers good feedback though I would like it to offer slightly quicker responses when driving enthusiastically.

In a nutshell, the updated Harrier has a lot more going for it – 30 additional horses is a
significant number, not to forget, the convenience of an automatic. In fact, the automatic
version is what is expected to attract more buyers than before, besides which you have the
one feature that’s become de rigueur, the sunroof. The Harrier thus feels more competent
now – it has always looked muscular and now has more go to match that show too. With
prices retailing from Rs 13.69 lakh ex-showroom it is quite a compelling SUV to look at given the size. Prices go up to Rs 20.25 lakh for the fully-loaded automatic version which is on the higher side, but with thanks to the updates – and the more powerful engine – the Harrier is certainly a lot more enticing now.

 

ENGINE 1,956cc, four-cylinder diesel
POWER 168bhp@3,750rpm
TORQUE 350Nm@1,750rpm
DRIVE FWD
TRANSMISSION 6-Speed manual/automatic
PRICE Rs 13.69 lakh onwards (ex-showroom)