Tata Harrier is one the most eagerly awaited SUVs in India and probably one of the best cars to come out of Tata Motors yet. We got to sample one in Rajasthan ahead of its launch next year.
Based on the L550 platform which underpins the Discovery Sport, the Harrier is a handsome and well-proportioned SUV. There is massive road presence, unlike the Jeep which looks really small -especially from the rear. The striking front end with the LED DRLs and the big grille stretching between them are unmistakably Tata. The window line is pinched towards the rear, and is given a wraparound look. The styling is quite striking. Mr. Pratap Bose is the best thing to have happened to Tata in the recent times. How he has taken the brand forward in terms of appeal and made design, one of the key USPs of Tata cars deserves a big round of applause. The low set headlamps may polarize opinion but not so much when you see it in flesh. Still, it would have helped if they had black innards to make them feel part of the bumper than look like headlamps. That and the small 17 inch alloy wheels are the only faults you can find in an otherwise great looking design.
The interiors look like it belongs to a car several classes above. Tata has used soft touch materials on the top of the dash, a very convincing oak wood finish plastic trim on the dash and lashings of brushed aluminium trim everywhere. The seats are finished in chocolate brown leather and you can see the finish carried over to the door pads and grab handles with perforated leather trim.
The generous dimensions also make it very spacious. The rear seats in particular have very good legroom, ample width and headroom making for comfy three abreast seating. The seat has very good underthigh support and contours to make you feel comfortable for long hours. The front seats are well shaped too, and give you good visibility. The rear view mirrors however create massive blindspots at junctions although they never looked too big from the outside. Also, the USB and aux input for the audio system which are made to be hidden away from the line of sight, takes some getting used to.
The Harrier has an 8.8 inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. You also get a 7 inch screen in the instrument cluster that displays vehicle related information as well as audio and navigation data. The infotainment gets its audio via a 9 speaker JBL sound system that even has a subwoofer in the boot. The audio quality is brilliant as is with most modern Tatas these days, right from the Tiago onwards. You also get cruise control, automatic headlamps, automatic wipers, driving modes, rear view camera etc. On the other hand, the seats aren’t electrically operated, the climate control is single zone and you don’t get a sunroof which we think are deliberate to keep price competitive.
It uses the same 2.0 litre diesel and 6 speed manual gear box as in the Jeep Compass. The engine has been slightly detuned from the 170bhp in the Compass to 140bhp in the Harrier, although the torque remains an identical 350Nm. What’s also different is the clutch; the gearshifts are lighter and take less effort than in the Jeep. It responds well at low revs and has adequate performance. It gets to triple digit speeds rather quickly and you can cruise along in fifth or sixth gear all day long. There is noticeable difference in each of the driving modes –Eco, City and Sport. The engine lacks the refinement you expect, with the classy interiors. It is a bit too loud when you are driving, whether it is at low speeds or when you are going in for an overtake. The handling is surefooted, although not as sporty as you’d think for its development by Jaguar and Lotus. You would be impressed by it straightline stability at high speeds and how it can tackle broken patches without losing its composure. Ride quality is good too, with adequate suspension travel and excellent bump absorption. The high profile 235/65 R17 tyres also help. You also get a terrain response knob like in the Discovery which lets the ESP improve traction in wet and rough road conditions. Although it is only front wheel drive, the Harrier was still able to pull itself out of sand like no other front wheel drive would.
Tata has also equipped the Harrier with six airbags, ABS, EBD, Traction control, ESP, hill hold, hill decent control etc. Prices for the Harrier will only be disclosed in Jan 2019 during the launch, but we expect Tata Motors to undercut its rivals. With expected prices around Rs.13.5-18 lakhs (ex.showroom), it will give everything from Creta, to the XUV and even the Compass, some competition. The imposing looks, stunning interiors, performance, ride quality and the massive space are all in its favour. The way we see it, it is a Discovery Sport for one third the price.