The Tata Nano was the buzz around the world ever since Ratan Tata hinted towards the development of a 1-lakh rupee car approximately a decade ago. His vision was to create a car that even a lower middle class family consisting of up to four members could afford – which in turn would allow the entire family to commute from point A to point B without worrying about the weather. But in spite of the Tata Nano having fulfilled his dream, one would still not call it a poor man’s car – for it’s a lot more exciting than what you can expect!
Design and Features
While there were many speculations and apprehensions about the design of the 1-lakh rupee car being similar to a rickshaw, the Nano in fact turned out to be a stunner. With its unique, tiny bean shape the Nano looks cute no matter what colour, perspective or variant you are looking at. Though it’s a sacrilege for an automotive purist, I would still go ahead and say that the air ducts for the engine are placed next to the wheel arches in a manner similar to the Lamborghini Gallardo’s design. The engine is mounted at the back of the car but this time I would rather compare the mounting arrangement to a rickshaw than maybe umm, a Porsche! The design has somehow restricted the engineers to incorporate any hood to make the engine easily accessible. Instead you need to strip down the rear seats to gain access to the Nano’s powerplant. What looks like a conventional bonnet up front is actually a ’boot lid’ for the spare wheel and air-conditioner’s routing. Don’t expect any space for luggage here – the Nano is strictly a city car and not recommended for weekend getaways with the family!
Depending on the variant, you either get a plain vanilla car with no frills (not even body-coloured bumpers), or some essentials like an air-con, adjustable passenger seat and central locking as you move up the variants. There is no denying the fact that the Nano is a puny car; so puny that only one wiper is enough to clean the entire windshield, and there is space only for four adults and a pack of chips maybe. The interiors on the top end model get two tone fabrics and floor mats with ’Nano’ written all over, while the lower priced versions get all-black interiors with no mats at all. The centre-mounted instrumentation console looks as cute and unconventional as the rest of the car and makes no attempts at packing unnecessary information – what you get instead is a basic speedometer, odo, tell-tale lights etc. The cheap quality of plastics is evident but you can’t expect anything better from a 1-lakh rupee car!
Engine, Driving abilities and comfort
The Nano is powered by a 624cc two-cylinder petrol engine while produces a little over 30 horses. But nevertheless, the Nano can still attain a respectable and electronically governed top speed of 105 km/h. Acceleration figures are not what the Nano is all about, so we are leaving those aspects unsaid. The engine note sounds a lot similar to the diesel rickshaws running around town, but some intelligent cabin insulation has kept the ridiculous burble from reaching the passengers. After the 70 km/h mark the body tends to vibrate as if it were a motorcycle – consider that as a speed limit warning!
The tiny 12" wheels are a tad too puny for the tallish design of the car and hence hint towards unnerving handling characteristics especially when making sudden direction changes. But since you are going to use it mainly in the urban environs, toppling over the Nano doesn’t look like an easy probability. Their slim form reduces rolling resistance and contributes to the high fuel efficiency of the car. The ARAI approved figures revolve around the 20-21 kmpl mark which is not too optimistic for a car of this size and weight. The suspension of the Nano is comfortable enough for the city, but like the first generation Indica, even the Nano’s rear suspension tends to squat under a four-person load, leading to an increased inner wear on the rear tyres. The high front seats are comfortable and eradicate the need for a conventional head rest. Overall, with 21% more cabin space than the Maruti 800, the Nano feels roomy while the ride quality is decent enough for the city commutes.
The Nano’s only competitors as of now are the used Maruti-Suzukis (Altos, 800s, Zens etc.) and the Santros in the aftermarket. But for a prospective buyer looking at buying a brand new car for his family, the Nano ends up being a great choice for its value for money performance and features and small size which makes a highly convenient city car.