MIDDLE GROUND
evo India|July 2020
Answering the question you all have been asking. Can the Harrier take the fight to the best-sellers?
SIRISH CHANDRAN

IF YOUTUBE COMMENTS ARE anything to go by, the Harrier has an extraordinarily large fan base. And a rather vocal one at that. Among the gems on the evo India channel, one particularly strident Harrier enthusiast accused us of being “biased to foreign brands” for not including the Tata in our Creta v Seltos comparison test. “Being an Indian try to promote Indian cars n (sic) help Indian manufacturers,” hollers Jachin before delivering a crushing verdict. “U (sic) reviewers are so disappointing.”

Well, we can only feature cars that we can get our hands on and believe me when I say your comments spurred us to pull whatever strings we could to get hold of the 2020 Tata Harrier. Here, then, is the comparison test you have all been clamouring for. And we will try our damndest not to disappoint you.

The nicest on the eye Now styling is a matter of personal taste but let’s not take away from the fantastic job Pratap Bose and his teams did with the Harrier — so much so that two years later it still looks fresh, contemporary and on the money. Apart from new rims there are no visual tweaks to the 2020 Harrier and, truth be told, it didn’t need any, save for the urgent re-profiling of the wing mirrors to reduce giant blind spots. Even today, the Harrier turns the most heads and that’s despite the Seltos, in a very flashy shade of blue, running in the same convoy.

I also think the Kia looks excellent. Conventionally handsome, well-proportioned and using lighting elements to create an unmistakable visual signature, the styling is one of the big reasons for the unprecedented sales success. But if I had to choose, I’d lean towards the butch SUV-ness of the Harrier, especially the Dark edition that looks pretty gangsta (though I wish it had up-sized wheels to ramp up the thuggery).

As for the new Creta, Hyundai haven’t done themselves any favours by going totally radical. Not since the Hector has anything drawn such strong comments. But then again the Creta was the bestselling car in India in May, proving that styling is a rather personal preference. Not open to interpretation though is build quality and both the Creta and the Seltos boast tight and consistent panel gaps and an overarching sense that nothing will break, come loose or go wrong. The Harrier cannot match either the consistency or precision of the Koreans though it is a clear step ahead of the Hector.

All four SUVs here run 17-inch wheels but on the Hector they look two sizes too small. The wheel arch gaps are huge as are the panel gaps, and the styling — while unmistakable — is not something that appeals to me. The red plastic strip joining the taillamps, the blanked-out cut out on the right of the bumper for a tailpipe, the Internet Inside badging, all aren’t to my taste. But then again you see so many Hectors on the road, so what do I know about styling.

Buy any of these and you will spend more time looking at them from the inside, and here the Hector definitely ups its game. That massive 10.4-inch vertically-oriented touchscreen is the party piece and lends the cabin a clean and sophisticated look and feel. Build quality on the inside is good, the materials are par for the course and the panoramic sunroof along with the longest wheelbase makes this the most spacious cabin. If you want to be chauffeur-driven this should be at the top of your list, no question.

On the space front, neither the Hyundai nor the Kia can compete with the Hector. Both have identical dimensions and five inside will be a bit too snug. It’s not like you will be rubbing knees against the back of the seat if you sit behind me but you won’t have much free space to stretch out either. The Creta scores ever so slightly over the Seltos on comfort with the cushions on the rear headrests and the panoramic sunroof. I also think the conventionally-styled dash of the Creta looks better than the Seltos but that, again, is a matter of personal preference. What nobody can complain about is the build quality, materials used and equipment levels on both these mid-size SUVs. Both get a 10.25-inch touchscreen that, while smaller, is more responsive than the Hector’s and I prefer this setup with separate (physical) air-con controls rather than waiting for the MG’s screen to boot up and then go into the sub-menu to operate the climate control. I really like the cooled seats up front and the air purifier — both of which are unique to the Koreans. There’s also an inbuilt e-SIM that offers a range of functionality including remotely starting and cooling the car via an app, geo-fencing it, tracking and immobilising the car, breakdown assistance and even a concierge service. Because Hyundai has an electric handbrake, the remote start also works on the manual gearbox, unlike the Kia or MG. The Hector too gets the same connected car features but adds voice commands, is 5G ready (for whenever India gets 5G), features over the air updates and the in-built Gaana app is rather good. And the Harrier, well, it has none of this.

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