2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): A Benchmark For Future SUVs In India?

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Tata Motors recently unveiled their all-new Safari SUV for the Indian market. The 'Safari' is one of the most popular nameplates in the Indian market, which dates back all the way to 1998. Over the years, Tata Motors introduced multiple updates and generation changes, until it was finally discontinued in 2019.

Now, the company is all set to bring back the iconic 'Safari' nameplate to the Indian market, in the form of their new flagship seven-seater SUV offering. The new Safari carries forward the pedigree with a dominating stance, plush interior space, spirited performance and a robust build.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The 2021 Tata Safari uses the brand's latest ‘Impact 2.0' design language and combines it with their OMEGA architecture - derived from Land Rover's renowned D8 Platform. The new Tata Safari will be positioned above its five-seater Harrier sibling, in the brand's product portfolio, with its launch expected sometime in February 2021.

Ahead of its launch in the Indian market, we spent a day behind the wheel of the all-new seven-seater SUV to see if it lives up to the legacy of the ‘Safari' nameplate. We drove the new Tata Safari on the streets of Bengaluru and out on the highway and here are our first impressions.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Design & Styling

The new Tata Safari carries forward a design very similar to its smaller five-seater Harrier sibling. Starting from the front and all the way up to the C-pillar, both the Tata Safari and the Harrier are almost indistinguishable. The only change between them is the new tri-arrow mesh grille seen on the Safari.

The new Safari SUV carried forward the same dual headlamp setup as the Harrier. This includes the LED DRLs featuring on top with integrated turn indicators, below it is the main Xenon HID projector headlamp units.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The Tata Safari also features its fog lamps just below the main headlamp unit in the same housing. The Safari also comes with black cladding on the front bumpers, which house the central air intake, along with the silver-finished skid plate at the bottom.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The black cladding carries forward to the sides and rear of the SUV as well, giving it a more rugged appeal. The Tata Safari features flared wheel arches, housing 18-inch machined alloy wheels, blacked-out ORVM covers, chrome window line and door handles; all of which add to the premium appeal.

The Safari SUV remains almost identical to its smaller five-seater sibling from the sides, right until the C-pillar. Post this, the Safari features a significantly noticeable long overhang, larger quarter panel, and a more upright rear section, compared to the Harrier. The seven-seater SUV also features roof rails with chrome inserts with the ‘Safari' inscription and a stepped-roof - a homage to the older generations of the Safari SUV.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Coming to the rear, the SUV features a new boot-lid, more upright than before, along with a tweaked set of LED taillights, connected together with a gloss-black finished element, sporting the Tata logo at its centre.

The rear section also features a roof-mounted spoiler with an LED stop light at its centre, while the boot receives a single ‘SAFARI' badging positioned at the centre, below the number plate.

Overall, the Tata Safari features a similar design, yet manages to incorporate some of the elements from its predecessors. The Tata Safari with its longer overhang and updated styling, offers a commanding presence on the road, something which will be appreciated by its customers.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Interiors, Features & Practicality

Moving to the interiors, here again, the Tata Safari carries forward a layout similar to its five-seater sibling. The Safari SUV comes with the same set of features, equipment and technology as the Harrier.

However, the seven-seater now features soft-touch material all around the dashboard and cabin. Tata Motors has also introduced a new dual-tone colour scheme on the interiors of the Safari.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

While the dashboard comes finished in a soft-touch Nappa layer, along with the signature ‘Ashwood' trim. The steering wheel, gear knob comes wrapped in leather. There are also silver-finished elements on the dashboard, around the AC vents and on the steering wheel, which further add to the overall premium look and feel inside the cabin.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The seats on the Tata Safari are finished in premium Benecke Kaliko Oyster White perforated leather upholstery. The white upholstery with the large windows and the panoramic sunroof, give the cabin a light and airy feel for all passengers, including those in the third row.

Talking about the seats, the SUV is offered in two seating configurations. This includes a six-seater version with individual captain seats in the second row or a seven-seater version with bench seats. Both variants, however, feature bench seats as standard in the third row. All three rows of seats are finished in the same premium leather upholstery, adding to the look and feel inside

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The driver and front passenger seats are comfortable, but both of them miss out on ventilation function; a feature which is becoming common in newer cars. The driver's seat also comes with electronic height and lumbar support adjustability.

The front and second row of seats also offer a good amount of headroom and legroom for all passengers. Both the bench and the captain seats in the second row offer excellent comfort, with good under-thigh support and also feature reclining functions.

The bench seats in the second row also come with a one-touch tumble function, for ease of ingress and egress to the third row. However, they do miss out on AC vents.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The third row itself does feel a bit cramped. While the stepped roof does help improve the headroom, the legroom and under-thigh support is limited and is best suited for children, especially on long drives. The third row though does feature AC vents, along with a number of storage spaces, mobile holders and charging sockets as well.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Coming back to the features and equipment on offer, the Tata Safari carries forward the same 8.8-inch touchscreen floating infotainment system from the Harrier. The touch operation on the infotainment system is responsive, with a large and simple layout, making it easy to operate even when driving.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The infotainment unit on the Safari features the brand's iRA connected technology, which first debuted on the Tata Altroz i-Turbo. The iRA technology offers a host of additional functionalities, from location-based services, live vehicle tracking, remote vehicle controls, security features and gamification. The touchscreen also comes with voice assistance, able to understand over 70 commands in Hindi, English and Hinglish.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Apart from the connected features, the Tata Safari also comes packed with a host of other equipment. Most of these have been carried over from its five-seater sibling, including the semi-digital instrument cluster, steering wheel with mounted controls (for audio and call functionalities) and ambient lighting all around.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Another important change on the Safari is the addition of an electronic parking brake, which replaces the old uniquely designed manual pull-up handle. The inclusion of the electronic parking brake has now allowed Tata Motors to free up space on the console, adding more cup holders in its place.

The Safari also comes with a 9-speaker JBL audio system which is impressive, fully-automatic climate control, a large panoramic sunroof, AC vents for the third row which are really effective and plenty others.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Coming towards the practicality aspect on the Tata Safari, the SUV comes with plenty of storage spaces, cubby areas and cup holders all around. There are also multiple electronic charging points, including 12V-sockets, USB charging ports even for the second and third row of passengers.

The third row of seats on the Tata Safari comes with a 50:50 split, while the second row of seats on the seven-seater version is offered with a 60:40 seat split. The Safari can be used with different seat folding configurations, offering varying levels of boot space. However, with both the second and third row of seats folded down, the SUV offers a maximum luggage capacity of an impressive 1658-litres.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Here is a brief comparison of dimensions between the new Tata Safari and its five-seater Harrier sibling:

Dimensions Tata Safari Tata Harrier Difference
Length 4661mm 4598mm 63mm
Width 1894mm 1894mm 0mm
Height 1786mm 1706mm 80mm
Wheelbase 2741mm 2741mm 0mm
Boot Space 447-Litres (with third-row folded) 425-litres 23-litres
2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Engine Performance & Driving Impressions

The Tata Safari carries forward the same 2.0-litre ‘Kryotec' diesel engine, which powers the Harrier SUV. The latest BS6-compliant version of the engine produces 168bhp and 350Nm of peak torque and is paired with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission options.

The engine powers the front wheels via a 2WD system. None of the variants, including the top-spec trim come with an optional 4WD system. This is disappointing, considering that all the predecessors with the ‘Safari' nameplate had 4WD systems and were capable off-roaders.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The engine on the Tata Safari offers a good amount of power and also feels extremely refined and smooth. The power delivery itself is linear and with a good amount of it coming past the initial 1800rpm mark. The extra weight of the Safari, compared to the Harrier definitely has an effect on the performance of the engine. However, at no point does the engine feel sluggish or under-powered.

The mid-range on the Safari is excellent, allowing the large SUV to seamlessly cruise along at triple-digit speeds without any stress. There is also a good amount of power towards the higher end, however, the car feels most comfortable in the mid-range.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Push the acceleration hard and there is a slight lag, but post that the engine offers a good surge of power all the way. This also makes light work of overtaking, especially out on the highway.

The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth, allowing easy and quick gear shifts. The gears slot into place easily without any jerkiness. The gearbox also has short throws, which combined with the light clutch, makes easy work of gear shifts even in the city.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Both the manual and automatic variants of the Tata Safari are offered with different driving modes: Eco, City & Sport. There is a noticeable difference between the three, while the Eco and City mode is tuned to offer better fuel economy, the Sport mode as the name suggests offers a more aggressive driving characteristic.

Even the power delivery of the engine varies noticeably between the three modes. The power is offered in a more linear and progressive manner on the City and Eco mode. The gear shifts on the automatic are also quicker, allowing for better fuel economy in both city and highway conditions.

The ‘Sport' mode instantly feels more responsive, with even small throttle inputs offering good feedback. The gear shifts are also delayed, which gives the Tata Safari a more aggressive and sporty driving characteristic.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Talking about the automatic transmission itself, while the six-speed torque converter is good, it does feel a bit sluggish. The gear shifts take a few seconds to shift even when the car is pushed hard, which does interfere with its otherwise fun-to-drive characteristic. However, the automatic gearbox does get better when the car is switched to Sport mode.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Apart from the regular driving modes, the Safari also comes with Terrain Response System, again with three modes: Normal, Rough and Wet. This further adds to the SUV's off-roading credentials, allowing it to tackle all kinds of terrains with ease.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Engine Specifications:

Specifications Tata Safari
Engine 2.0-litre in-line 4-cylinder Diesel
Displacement 1956cc
Power 168bhp @ 3750rpm
Torque 350Nm @ 1750 - 2500rpm
Transmission 6MT/6AT
2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Suspension, Brakes & Handling

The Tata Safari is a large SUV, however, the company has managed to offer good stability and handling on the seven-seater. The steering wheel is responsive and offers a good amount of feedback. It is lightweight which does help ease manoeuvrability in the city, however, at high speeds on the highway it does feel a bit out of place.

The steering could have weighed up better at high speeds, which would have immensely improved the confidence of the driver to push the SUV harder. The Tata Safari is also not afraid of quick changes in directions.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Although large, the SUV feels well planted and stable even while being pushed into a corner at relatively high speeds. There is a bit of body roll, however, considering the length and width of the Safari it can be neglected.

The suspension on the Tata Safari is a bit on the softer side. This is good as it helps the SUV soak up and easily glide over any and all road undulations and potholes with relative ease. Braking on the Tata Safari is sharp, with a good amount of bite. Also, the brakes have a good amount of progression, so as to bring the large SUV to a halt relatively quick.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Variants, Colour & Pricing

The Tata Safari once introduced in India will be offered in a choice of six variants: XE, XM, XT, XT+, XZ and XZ+. The mid and top-spec variants of the Safari (XM, XZ and XZ+) are offered with automatic transmission choices, while the remaining three trims are offered with just the manual gearbox.

All variants as standard come with bench seats in the second row (seven-seater), with just the top-spec XZ+ variant offered with the captain seats.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

The Tata Safari once launched in India will be offered in a range of three colour choices: Royale Blue, Orcus White & Daytona Grey. Pricing for the SUV is yet to be revealed, with the announcement set to take place at the time of its launch in the Indian market.

2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

Competition & Fact Check!

The Tata Safari once introduced in the Indian market will be positioned above its five-seater Harrier sibling, The Safari will take on rivals such as the MG Hector Plus and Mahindra XUV500, alongside the upcoming 7-seater Hyundai Creta and the 7-seater Jeep Compass.

Fact Check!

Model/Specs Tata Safari MG Hector Plus Mahindra XUV500
Engine 2.0-litre diesel 2.0-litre diesel 2.2-litre diesel
Power 168bhp 168bhp 155bhp
Torque 350Nm 350Nm 360Nm
Transmission 6MT/6AT 6MT 6MT/6AT
Starting Price (ex-showroom) TBA* ₹13.34 Lakh ₹13.77 Lakh
*TBA: To Be Announced
2021 Tata Safari Review (First Drive): Performance, Handline, Specs, Features, Design, Expected Price, Rivals & Other Details

DriveSpark Thinks!

The Tata Safari will now be the brand's newest flagship offering in the Indian market. The SUV seamlessly combines all the modern features, equipment, design and styling expected in today's cars, while still paying homage and carrying forward the pedigree of its predecessors.

The 2021 Tata Safari offers good performance, robust build quality, excellent comfort and is packed with features.

However, the only disappointment is that the Safari comes with a standard 2WD system, missing out on the 4WD option; something which was standard on all its predecessors. It now comes down to the pricing of the SUV in the market, which will determine the success of the Safari SUV.

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Read more on: #review #tata motors
Article Published On: Monday, February 1, 2021, 9:00 [IST]
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