When Tata first showcased the Nexon at the 2014 Auto Expo, it created quite a stir, for it looked like nothing ever seen before from the brand. Fast forward to today, and the Nexon looks properly contemporary, and has even undergone a facelift after the introduction of the Nexon EV. Tata has been very ambitious about this model, and the Nexon is a significant product in its model portfolio. We pit it against Hyundai’s hugely capable Venue that offers great looks, a well built cabin, sorted driving dynamics and a large equipment list, to see where it stands.
The front fascia of the new Nexon looks very different from the older one that had a curvier nose. It features an upright bonnet, Range Rover like projector headlights with twin LED DRLs, a reworked grille and a large air-dam. From the side, the Nexon remains more-or-less the same with that up-sweeping character line and the bulging wheel arches. Even the 16-inch machined alloy wheels are new. At the rear, it sports revised tail light cluster with new LED inserts. In the compact SUV space, this is easily the most stylish looking SUV you can buy.
In comparison, the Venue looks boxy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t good looking. Up-front, it gets a large, chrome-finished grille that is flanked by headlights mounted in the bumper and the LED DRLs placed on top. Lower down, you will notice a grey skid plate, while the sides include 16-inch alloy wheels. The flared wheel arches and the strong shoulder line give it a good definition from the side, while the rear, the tail gate gets a huge depression in it, a silver skid plate on the lower half of the bumper and smart-looking tail lights with LEDs. It also gets roof rails.
The cabin of the Tata Nexon facelift is very modern and well finished. It gets a dual-tone grey and white theme, and we love the sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel from the Altroz. The 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster features various details. The seats at the front offer good support, and the rear is quite spacious, thanks to the width of the cabin. Up to three occupants can be seated at the back with the bench offering good comfort. However, the sloping the roof line is responsible for the lack of sufficient headroom. The quality of the piano black inserts could’ve been better though.
We can’t really nitpick in the Venue’s cabin either, for it is well built and ergonomically laid out. The plastic, fit and finish are very impressive. The dashboard isn’t as contemporary as the Nexon’s; it’s rather simple and straightforward. But the free-standing tablet-like touchscreen infotainment display was to our liking. The leather-wrapped steering feels solid, but is cluttered with too many buttons. However, the plastics on the door pads feel a bit hard. Visibility from the front seat is wonderful and the seats provide plenty of cushioning and support. The rear bench too offers good legroom and headroom.
In the Nexon, you get a whole lot of features like front fog lamps with cornering function, height-adjustable front seatbelts, 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, voice alerts, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring system, iRA connectivity suite, leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-wrapped gearshift knob.
The Venue gets a raft of features like ESC and vehicle stability management (DCT only), hill-assist control, keyless entry, rear defogger, body-coloured wing mirrors, dark chrome front grille, roof rails.
Performance & Handling
The 1.2-litre turbo petrol motor on the Nexon has a lot of turbo lag and one needs to work to the gearbox to keep it in the powerband. The 6-speed manual transmission isn’t slick, and the motor simply lacks the punch to pull this compact SUV. Power delivery isn’t so impressive but after 2000rpm, the motor begins to feel lively. It has a punchy mid-range, making it good for highways. You get three drive modes. In City mode, there isn’t much torque that can be felt, but in Sport mode, it pulls rather effortlessly. As for Eco mode, well, the Nexon feels quite underpowered. Refinements levels have been worked on extensively, and it shows. The steering feels eager to change direction, but there is some body roll evident. The car feels very stable at high speeds, and road undulations are dealt with easily, thanks to the supple suspension. The SUV stays composed at high speeds as well without feeling unsettled. We would’ve liked stronger brakes though.
The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo petrol in the Venue that makes 120bhp and 172Nm of torque feels like the better engine of the two. The throttle is quite responsive, and right from the get-go, the Venue has strong performance on offer. The motor pulls with a lot of vim, and you can literally push this baby to the red line, and you still won’t experience coarseness from the engine as the revs climb. The clutch is light and the gearbox is a delight to use. As all new Hyundai, the Venue rides and handles remarkably well. It is nimble, but the steering is light and lacking in feel. However, the chassis feels well balanced. The Venue won’t soak in bumps the way the Nexon does, as it bounces about quite a bit.
While the Nexon is the better looking of the two, the Venue comes with the better built cabin. It also has the sprightlier of the two engines, but doesn’t ride over the rough stuff in the same manner the Nexon does. In terms of driving dynamics, the Nexon feels like the more accomplished of the two, but then, the Venue comes with a larger equipment list. The Venue is a better rounded product, and for that reason alone, it wins this test.