On the face of it, the Tata Harrier has everything that an SUV buyer in India is looking for – imposing road presence, ample space and comfort, a diesel engine and, finally, a much-needed automatic transmission. The 2020 Harrier also gets more power, a panoramic sunroof and other features to enhance its appeal. With a lot more thrown into the latest Harrier, it’s certainly a step forward from the 2019 model. But how big is that step? That’s the question we answer in this full-blown and fully instrumented road test.
Xenon lights for low beam are satisfactory. High beam is halogen.
Broken roads that would make some of its competitors wince are a piece of cake for this hardy Tata SUV. Its Land-Rover-derived underpinnings give it a sense of toughness and solidity that you’d otherwise get only from some body-on-frame SUVs. For this version, the suspension mount point stiffness has been altered to reduce component sounds inside the cabin. The large, 235mm-wide tyres do well to iron out tinier road imperfections and dismiss potholes. But, being on the firmer side, the suspension doesn’t deal with sharper bumps as nicely as the MG Hector does, and like the earlier version, passengers seated at the back especially will feel more of the road shocks. The manual version feels a bit tauter and more composed than the automatic, and while both variants are well behaved on the highway, neither feel as rock-stable as the Jeep Compass.
Land-Rover underpinnings give it a sense of toughness that you’d otherwise get only in body-on-frame SUVs.
With its wide track, firm suspension and wheels pushed to each corner, the Harrier does boast of a solid mechanical grip, and even its handling and body control really impress. Its steering is chunky to hold, but piloting this SUV does require some effort, as the hydraulically assisted power steering is on the heavier side, particularly at low and parking speeds. This heft does offer a degree of confidence at high speeds, but the manual’s steering especially feels a bit too sharp and sporty for this SUV, with no free play at the straight-ahead position. Its brakes require a firmer press than usual to shed speed, and still lack a strong bite (as reported in our earlier road test), and the pedal feel isn’t very confidence-inspiring.
An auto-dimming inside rear-view mirror is one of the new features added to the Harrier’s list.
New equipment on the 2020 version includes electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, an auto-dimming inside mirror and the rain-sensing panoramic sunroof. As before, you get ESP, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, six airbags, Xenon projector headlamps with LED DRLs, leatherette upholstery, a part-colour-screen instrument cluster, drive modes (Eco, City, Sport), Terrain Response Modes (Normal, Rough, Wet), auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control and an 8.8-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a nine-speaker audio system from JBL. Stuff like LED headlamps, 360-degree cameras, connected-car tech and a powered tailgate are features we’d have liked to have seen on the Harrier, all of which are available on the MG Hector.
Sound quality from the nine JBL speakers is crisp, clear and punchy.
The Harrier’s updated diesel engine offers better performance as well as improved fuel efficiency (manual), over the outgoing version. But while it is quieter than before, this diesel is still quite clattery, and the overall refinement falls short of class standards. What’s nice are the new panoramic sunroof and additional equipment, which lift the cabin experience. Spec-for-spec, the Harrier is pricier than its key rival, the MG Hector, by as much as Rs 1 lakh, but the real ace up the Tata’s sleeve is its diesel-automatic configuration, which gives it an edge over the MG, as well as the much more expensive Jeep Compass. This 6-speed automatic is smooth, seamless and the answer to what the majority of Harrier buyers were looking for. The addition of an automatic and extra features builds on the Harrier existing strengths to make it a complete SUV and a far more compelling buy.