Tata Harrier XZA+ Diesel AT Review. Mid-cycle refresh makes it better and stronger

The Tata Harrier has been around for almost four years now. During this time, it has successfully managed to maintain its position as one of India’s most popular SUV offerings. Despite stiff competition from legacy brands and new entrants like the MG Hector, Harrier has managed to retain its strong position in the mid-size SUV space. We tested the Harrier when it was first launched back in 2019, and were left with mixed feelings. We loved its adventurous design, cabin space and comfort, but felt that it lacked the refinement and driving capabilities that some of its competitors offered. Since then, Tata Motors has responded to customer feedback and given the Harrier a mid-cycle refresh which addresses many of the drawbacks that we also pointed out during our review. With a redesigned facelift of the Harrier possibly on the way in the coming months, we decided to spend a week with the outgoing model to see how much of a difference the mid-life update has made.

In terms of styling, the Harrier remains unchanged from its original iteration, which is a good thing. When launched, the Harrier signalled a major design departure from Tata’s earlier offerings, and took the brand’s design philosophy in a whole new direction with its bold and innovative exterior design. The Harrier’s road presence remains unmatched in this segment, with strong lines, bulging arches and a menacing front fascia. There’s now some added chrome lining the front grille, LED DRLs and headlamps, along with a new set of alloy wheels which look more upmarket than the previous ones. Other than that, the largely unchanged exterior design of the Harrier still continues to turn heads. Despite its age, the SUV retains its aesthetic freshness and contemporary vibe. And we still stand by what we said when we first drove the Harrier – it’s the best looking car to come out of the Tata stable till date.

The interior of the updated Harrier also remains largely unchanged in terms of design, and while the Harrier’s cabin is spacious and comfortable, it does feel a bit dated and not as tech-inspired as some of its rivals. The dashboard is dominated by the 8.8″ ‘floating island’ infotainment display, which while aesthetically pleasing, fails to provide the functionality of modern tech. The horizontally skewed resolution of the infotainment display means that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can’t fill the whole screen, making the actual display area rather small and cumbersome to use. The abnormally thick bezels around the screen don’t help either, and the touchscreen’s responsive could be improved as well. The resolution is poor and it’s a strain to view information against the sun. Having said that, the rest of the cabin is well appointed, with the combination of brown upholstered seats and piano black finishes around the cabin lending a touch of elegance to the interior. The Harrier also comes with a decent feature list including wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity (it only worked with wire in our test variant), automatic climate control, auto headlamps, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, 7” partially digital instrument cluster and a great JBL-tuned sound system. At its price point, it would have been nice to see features such as ventilated seats, wireless charging and 360 degree camera make way into the top end variants. But that will have to wait. One of our other major complaint with the Harrier was the lack of a sunroof, even in the top-end variant. Tata has responded by giving the Harrier a massive panoramic sunroof which makes the large and spacious cabin feel even more airy now. Other changes include a much more accessible USB port and far better build quality with consistent panel gaps and better quality materials, all of which were points of contention for us when we first drove the car. Even though some of the material could be better in their finish, such as the faux wood on the dashboard, the cabin quality overall has been significantly improved. Some of the switch work continues to be sub-par, and we aren’t a big fan of the clunky hand brake lever and would rather have an electronic parking brake instead. At least in the automatic variants.

In terms of space and cabin comfort, the Harrier remains one of the top contenders in the segment, with the front seats providing good bolstering and back support. The second row is even more comfortable, and the width of the Harrier means you can comfortably seat five passengers with enormous amounts of leg and head room. Storage is also ample around the cabin, with spacious door pockets big enough to hold large water bottles and other knick-knacks.

The main mid-cycle changes to the Harrier comes under the hood, and that’s what we were most excited to try out. In our initial review of the vehicle, we pointed out how the Harrier could do with a significant power upgrade to its Fiat sourced engine, and how it desperately needed an automatic variant as well. Tata once again responded well to these criticisms and customer feedback and provided a fix to both these issues. The refreshed Harrier comes up with a significant bump to its power numbers, with the Kryotec Turbocharged diesel engine now producing 170 bhp of power and 350 Nm of torque. The engine now also comes with the option of an automatic transmission, a 6-speed torque-converter unit. While an extra 30 bhp might not sound like a lot, the real world difference is tangible. The increase in the Harrier’s power is instantly noticeable, and the car now provides the kind of surge we always longed for. Acceleration numbers are slightly improved, but what feels new is the relentless nature of the Harrier’s power delivery. While there’s still a bit of turbo lag in the lower RPMs, once you cross the mid range mark the Harrier pulls like never before. Reaching triple digit speeds is much easier, and the Harrier doesn’t stop there, continuing to provide considerable thrust even past the 130 km/h mark. The new 6-speed automatic transmission also works very well in tandem with the engine, providing relatively prompt shifts every time you put your foot down to give you that surge of acceleration while performing overtaking manoeuvres. We loved the way it surges ahead even on flyovers, steep inclines and sharp bends quite effortlessly, leaving everything else on the road far behind. The gearbox performs even better in the city, making low speed driving during stop and go traffic a breeze. The brakes on the Harrier, however, were a bit of a letdown. Though they perform really well during high speed braking, the enormous amount of pedal travel makes the experience a tad jerky and unnerving for rear passengers in stop and go traffic.

One of our complaints with the earlier iteration of the Harrier also centred around the engine’s noise and vibration levels, especially at high speeds or under hard acceleration, and we are happy to report that Tata has taken forward strides in that department as well. The engine, at least inside the cabin, sounds more refined than before, while sound and vibration levels at high speeds have also improved to provide a more insulated and refined driving experience. Sure, the Harrier does get a bit raucous when you put your foot down, or when you stand outside the vehicle during idle, but that’s to be expected from a heavy diesel unit such as this.

The Harrier comes with three driving modes – City, Eco and Sport. Eco mode is much better than before, and provides an efficient drive without stifling power too much. Sport mode on the other hand gives slightly improved acceleration and the Harrier’s engine feels punchier when compared to City mode. For most of our test, we left the car in city mode, and it did the job well. 

The Harrier’s suspension remains mostly unchanged, which means that the car stays as planted during cornering as before. The suspension feels confident when thrown around a tight bend, and while there is a bit of body roll, that’s just to be expected from a car this size. In terms of steering, the Harrier did leave us wanting a bit more, due to its heavy steering which made parking and low-speed manoeuvring tedious, although the added weight to the steering made high speed cornering more enjoyable. One thing we noticed was a fair amount of steering kickback while driving over particularly bad stretches of road or big potholes, which makes the experience a little less reassuring.

Overall, the mid-cycle refresh of the Harrier has done wonders to build upon the strong foundation that the Harrier provides. The extra grunt thanks to the uptick in power has made it significantly better than before, and the car now provides a punchy driving experience to match up to its looks. The automatic transmission option and added features like the sunroof make the Harrier a great package, and combined with its strong aesthetics and spacious cabin, it is much better placed in the premium mid-size SUV segment than ever before. It’s great to see Tata listening to feedback from customers and critics, and its response in the form of the updated Harrier shows that this one is still work in progress, and we are yet to see its best version yet. Hopefully in a few months from now it would get even better.

Prices for the Harrier start at INR 14.80 lacs for the base manual variant, and go up to INR 22.35 lacs for the range topping automatic variant. For this review, we drove the Harrier XZA+ Diesel AT for over 750 kms, which has an ex-showroom price of INR 21.99 lacs.

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