February 5, 2021

2021 Tata Safari Review – Is the Legend back?

The original Safari was the result of Ratan Tata’s ambitions for the brand and the Indian market. And the Safari created a new segment in the country. It was the first proper SUV for us Indians, and has been through various updates and facelifts over the years, making it a rather significant model among enthusiasts and off-road junkies who enjoyed its four-wheel-drive abilities? After a few years of discontinuing the Safari Storme, Tata have decided to revive the nameplate, once again, for 2021. The aim was to make it a 7-seater SUV, whilst being rugged, comfortable and of course, packed with equipment. The design, however, matters a lot since most customers tend to expect a bit much. But with the new Safari, we’re sure Tata will have this one rolling off showroom floors in big numbers. We find out, after taking it for a drive.

Looks do matter

The new Safari is, indeed, a good-looking SUV, but then again, it’s just a larger Harrier. But we’re not complaining, because the Harrier had us equally impressed when we drove it after its launch. It gets a sharp nose with Harrier detailing, a chrome grille, dual-tone bodywork and a slightly raised roof towards the rear. The machined 18-inched alloy wheels fit the SUV’s size perfectly, and the extended length doesn’t seem to have had a negative impact on its proportions.

Room for all

The dashboard looks familiar too, but Tata cars seems to have learnt from the Harrier and better certain design aspects in the new Safari. The USB ports now fall easily in hand, and the wing mirrors appear smaller. The quality, overall fit-and-finish is excellent and it’s a cabin you’ll like to spend long hours in. A host of features in the Safari include a 9-speaker JBL audio system, panoramic sunroof, an 8.8-inch touchscreen multimedia system and a 7.0-inch display in the instrument cluster, among other goodies. The most prominent of changes, however, is the ‘Oyster White’ leather that gives it a premium feel, particularly with the massive panoramic sunroof and massive glasshouse area. However, maintaining the upholstery might be a bit of a task. Having three rows, there’s ample room, and the second row is great since the second-row seating is set higher than the front seats and provides great comfort.

Access to the third row of seats isn’t tough, thanks to the large doors. And there’s decent space as well, for full-grown adults in the rear-most row. You also get AC vents for the third row, USB charging points and a fan speed controller. Even children will fit in effortlessly.

Grunting to glory

The Safari is based on the D8 platform that it shares with the Harrier, and this proves to be rather beneficial. It is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces 168bhp and 350Nm of torque, mated to either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual gearbox. However, you’d be put off knowing it won’t be coming with four-wheel-drive since there isn’t demand for one here in India.

The engine pulls well with good mid and top-end performance, making it drivable in the city and out on the highways. There are three driving modes to choose from: Eco, City, Sport and three ESR-based terrain modes suited to varied road conditions. In Sport mode, the Safari is a hoot to drive with better responses and power delivery. While the 6-speed manual ‘box is smooth to shift, the automatic version is our pick. It also gets an electronic handbrake and auto-hold function.

The rear suspension on the Safari isn’t the same setup found on the Harrier. It has been manufactured by Lotus Engineering, giving it fantastic ride quality and stability at high speeds. However, at low speeds, the bumps can be felt quite a bit. Just like the Harrier, the steering feels a bit heavy at parking speeds and the boot space just doesn’t seem enough.

A true Safari?

The Safari is extremely desirable, and we find it hard not to recommend it to those who’d love to have one. What’s not to like about its looks, that powerful engine, great on-road driving characteristics, and of course, an automatic transmission. The steering could’ve been lighter, but we don’t want to nitpick with this one. What’s clearly evident though, is that Tata has made a better Harrier, with the new Safari. Also, grab the latest info on the Kia Seltos, only at autoX.

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