2020 Tata Harrier BS6 automatic review: Hits and misses

The Harrier was supposed to be Tata’s second coming. But the SUV had its hits and misses with a detuned engine, no automatic offering and sparsely equipped interior. Despite being a handsome looking vehicle, the demand for the Harrier just never arrived. Now in 2020 guise, Tata claims to have ironed out all the niggles. We drove it to find out what’s new and does it have what it takes to reclaim lost ground.

By:Published: March 16, 2020 7:57 AM

After arriving with a bang at the 2018 Auto Expo with the H5X Concept, Tata promised the final production model was going to be extremely similar to the show car. The design team lived up to its promise when the Tata Harrier made its official debut in production form. The SUV with an all-new design language and butch proportions made the Harrier very desirable. But when the spec-sheet was released, it left a lot to be desired. The Harrier had a 30hp deficit, missed out on an automatic transmission, and there were some initial glitches with the vehicle as well. Now Tata says those glitches are no more, so we drove the new 2020 Harrier to find out.

At first glance, the Harrier looks identical to the one introduced last year. That is because the designers haven’t tried to fix what wasn’t broken in the first place. The Harrier is just as good looking as before. But, there have been some tweaks, should you inspect closely you would find that the large ORVMs have been downsized to a smaller pair, the 17-inch alloy wheels now get a new set of diamond cut pieces with a new design and the orange paint option has been replaced with “Calypso Red” offered in a dual-tone black roof which makes the Harrier stand out even more from the crowd.

Speaking of the roof, Tata has now given the Harrier a large panoramic sunroof which Tata claims is the widest in the segment. This neatly brings us to the interior of the Harrier. Apart from the aforementioned roof, which also does eat a little bit of headroom for the rear passengers, the cabin has largely been left untouched. But there have been some ergonomic issues that Tata has tried to iron out in the Harrier. Little things like the auto-dimming IRVM has now been included, the hard to reach USB ports are now easily accessible, there is also an additional USB port in the centre armrest compartment, however, there is no wireless charging option and no tyre pressure monitors. Also, while the upper half of the dashboard is all premium and plush, the plastics used in the lower half of the dash do seem a bit inferior and out of place.

The Harrier continues to get the 8.8-inch touchscreen as before and the graphics and touch response seem to be a little smoother since we last used it. However, due to the orientation of the screen itself being extremely wide, using Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or even the reversing camera, the system does not take advantage of the large real estate available on the screen.

But, larger changes to the Harrier can be found under the skin. The Kryotec 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine has now been upgraded to BS6 compliance and it produces 170hp, rather than 140hp from before. The torque output remains a competent 350Nm. You continue to get three drive modes- Eco, City and Sport. In BS4 guise, the engine felt extremely restrained in Eco and City modes. Tata has fixed that issue and you can comfortably drive the Harrier in Eco and City mode around town. But in Sport, the Harrier is allowed to rev freely, although if you cross the 2,500rpm range, the engine noise does tend to seep in, otherwise, the Harrier’s cabin is a fairly well insulated from outside noise and NVH levels are kept low.

Tata has finally given the Harrier an automatic transmission The 6-speed gearbox is sourced from Hyundai which was used in the Tucson. The transmission is paired well with the motor and the shifts are smooth and predictable. While in Eco and City, the characteristics of the transmission remain unchanged – upshifts usually happen around the 2,000-2,500rpm range. Although in Sport mode, it does tend to hold the gears a little bit longer. Should you chose to change gears manually, you can slot the lever to ‘M’ but, that would change the drive mode to Sport by default.

We also spent some time with the 6-speed manual version. The manual Harrier maintains its easy of driving with a light clutch action and changing gears is not as spongy as it was as before. However, the gear shift throws are a tad bit long, and so is the clutch pedal travel.

The Harrier continues to use the hydraulic steering rack and the large 235 section tyres mean that it is a bit on the heavier side. It does require a bit of muscle at slow speeds, but it won’t make you sweat. The Harrier has always offered a firm but supple ride. To accommodate the added weight the suspension has been tuned to manage that. While the underlying firmness of the suspension aides to its handling and high-speed stability, it never feels unnerving from behind the wheel, and body roll is kept to a minimum. Also any small to medium-sized potholes are absorbed by the chunky tyres so all in all, the in-cabin experience of the Harrier is quite comfortable.

While the NVH levels have been kept on the low entirely in the Harrier, the earlier version came with massive wing mirrors. These were prone to creating huge blind spots and also at high speeds, the wind noise was pretty apparent. Thanks to the shrunken mirror on the updated model, not only is the blind spot been fixed, the wind noise is no longer that apparent both of which makes driving the Harrier much easier.

To sum up the new 2020 Harrier, Tata has done a good job to iron out the glitches to improve the in-cabin experience and also improve the drivability of the car. Safety features are plenty and the ESP package being offered as standard. The Harrier although largely well equipped and is calming to drive, I can’t help but feel the Harrier should have been priced more aggressively as the top trim eclipses the Rs 20 lakh barrier. At that price, one may also consider a similarly equipped Jeep Compass automatic, or save some money and opt for the Kia Seltos or the upcoming Hyundai Creta. The Tata Harrier does well to fill the gap, but unfortunately, it is just sandwiched between two segments that offer good alternatives.

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