Passage through India: Negotiating Mumbai in a Tata Harrier

Not the ideal location to test a car, then. Yet it’s a much calmer place at dawn, as I meet colleagues from Autocar India who have readied the Harrier for us. Mumbai is serene and beautiful in the early morning light, and this is the only real time you can get on the road if you want to move at more than about 10mph or have the chance to get out of second gear.

So I don’t spend too long looking at the Harrier before it’s straight to our first destination. Even on this short drive, I find a reassuring familiarity about the Harrier. Some of the switchgear and even the fonts used on the instrument screen and other controls are straight out of the Land Rover parts bin (and why not?), while the perceived quality is good for a car priced from the equivalent of around £13,500 (less than half of what an original Discovery Sport cost new), rising to about £17,500. Our test car sits nearer the top of the range. There’s a good, honest robustness to the Harrier on first impression.

Our first port of call is Bombay House, which is Tata’s global headquarters. A lovely old Edwardian building in the pleasant Fort district, it’s also known for being a friendly home for Mumbai’s stray dogs; when it was refurbished in 2018, a special kennel was opened inside it as a safe place for them to go. Company grandee Ratan Tata is known for his love of dogs, and they quickly surround me and the car – in a way nowhere near as threatening as that sounds.

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Parked outside Bombay House, the Harrier looks a smart-enough vehicle. It’s fairly generic and nondescript, a bit like a previous-generation Hyundai. Hyundai, incidentally, is a brand that you now see everywhere on the roads in India, having become the second-biggest-seller in the country behind Maruti Suzuki, which holds a monopoly over the cheap small cars that continue to dominate.

So the Harrier is by no means offensive, even if it hasn’t inherited the visual flair from Land Rover’s design department like it has its underpinnings from the engineering team.

Back on the road and the traffic is starting to appear. We’re on a photographic picture tour as much as a road-testing one, and if this is a tricky place to be writing about cars, that’s nothing compared with what the photographers have to do. So it proves at our next stop, the bustling Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (still known by most locals as Victoria Terminus), an extraordinary gothic Victorian railway station that’s one of Mumbai’s several Unesco World Heritage landmarks.

The ‘no rules’ aspect of Indian roads is now in full view. Waiting patiently for the storm to subside to appear in a picture, I’m swarmed by all manner of vehicles by the side of the road, anticipating the cue from the photographer. We get one clear shot of the Harrier after 15 minutes of set-up, so I’m glad not to stall the car’s rather sensitive clutch and then manage to collect my colleague ahead of our next stop.



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