Tata Nano Expert Review

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Introduction

Tata’s Nano is a special car. It’s a car that started its journey more than half-a-decade back as India’s most affordable four-wheeled offering but has been suffering from an underwhelming response, to say the least. Ratan Tata’s dream of delivering a One Lakh Rupee Car to the world, very soon, became a lesson in marketing don’ts.

If I put it briefly, the number of Nanos sold annually is equivalent to the number of Altos sold in a month. But despite this, Tata hasn't given up and continually improving the product and investing in it. Twist and then the current GenX model with an AMT, Tata has left no stone unturned but I guess, that first impression spoiled it all.

Pros
  • Priced more than a lac lower than the Alto AMT
  • Light power steering & small footprint makes it a breeze to manoeuvre in urban condition
  • Openable tail-gate & bigger fuel tank for enhanced practicality
  • Powerful air-conditioner
Cons
  • Sluggish performance of AMT
  • Sub-standard plastic quality
  • Bumpy Ride Quality; Suspension tuning could have been better
  • Too light to handle cross-winds – Fast heavy vehicles passing by can really disturb Nano’s motion

Stand Out Features

  • The cheapest Automatic car in India

    The cheapest Automatic car in India

  • Fuel Efficient – Delivers close to 20kmpl in combination (city and highway)

    Fuel Efficient – Delivers close to 20kmpl in combination (city and highway)

CarDekho Verdict

The Nano, in the newest Gen Next avatar, is a great offering for someone who wants a small and efficient city car. The in-built flaws of its original like the top-heavy shape, tiny wheels, limited cabin storage and small boot are still there with the Nano and digesting that at a price equivalent to country's most successful car- Maruti Suzuki Alto, seems like a difficult call.

"The Nano, in the newest Gen Next avatar, is a great offering for someone who wants a small and efficient city car."

But Tata Motors have tried their level best to bring it up to speed with the segment standards and has added Bluetooth-equipped audio system, power steering, an openable hatch and, of course, the automatic gearbox, which makes Nano – even better at being an intra-city compact car.

Exterior

After seeing a Nano, the first word that comes out of your mouth is ‘Cute.’ Just 3164mm long and 1750mm wide. Nano has quite a proportional design and stands taller than most of our regular hatchbacks at 1652mm high.

The 2015-launched GenX Nano gets a new face, an automatic gearbox and above all a fresh appeal. It retains the familiar shape though. We quite like the Grinning face of the Nano with the new smiley-shaped bumper. But the same smiling bumper looks out of place at the rear, though it's functional. The plain headlamps are now replaced with smoked units with Nano engraving in it and chrome garnishing around the turn indicator. There’s a piano black strip between the headlamps, which seems looks like a radiator grille and adds appeal to the front fascia.

Side profile, on the other hand, remains away from any alteration. That profile of the Nano has been the same for all these years. Tyre upsizing is one thing that Nano desperately needs because the 12 inchers are too bad for the visual appeal. The ground clearance is 180 mm.

On the rear, as we mentioned before, gets the same smiling bumper and kind of misfit. There’s an integrated rear spoiler in place, which looks way better than the earlier unit. This newest Nano’s tail can be opened but the way to open it – is with a key as there’s no remote boot opener given. The exhaust pipe, which used to be in centre, now peeps out from the left. 

Apart from the regular colours(except Orange) Nano GenX is available with two new colours, namely the Sangria Red & the Persian Rose. I’m not a big fan of Red, so plain colours are still my cup of tea. Also, interior colour codes change with the different body colours & trim levels – Funky!

Exterior Comparison

Renault KWID Maruti Alto 800 Hyundai EON Tata Nano
Length (mm) 3679 3430 3495 3164
Width (mm) 1579 1490 1550 1750
Height (mm) 1478 1475 1500 1652
Ground Clearance (mm) 180 160 170 180
Wheel Base (mm) 2422 2360 2380 2230
Kerb Weight (kg) - 715 - 735

Boot Space Comparison

Maruti Alto 800 Hyundai EON Tata Nano Renault KWID
Volume 177-litres 215-litres 110-litres 300-litres

Interior

The dashboard of the Nano GenX is the one that we first saw in the Nano Twist. It gets different colour combinations for different trims and looks way better than the old model. The centre console is now finished in black and the flashy silver is out.

The orange-lit instrument console is still there in the centre and houses a MID with clock, distance to empty counter, an instant fuel economy bar and two average fuel economy counters. Additionally, the unit gets a 'low fuel' warning. The steering wheel(sans the piano black inserts & audio controls) is good to hold and has been borrowed from the elder siblings Zest and Bolt(smaller of course.) Aircon is fantastic and works fantastically even in peak summers.

Front seats have a dash of orange on them and offer decent comfort. Though their skinny structure causes discomfort with a tall rear occupant, as his/her knees can be felt at the back of front seats. Comfort on the rear seats is also good, but only for short drives due to a very strict posture and lack of support.

One thing that has always impressed me – is the space in Nano. Due to its compact dimensions, buyers generally pre-assume that Nano is cramped on the inside. There’s ample leg-,head-,shoulder-room for at least 4 occupants, if not 5. Also, the ingress and egress is effortless.

Another factor that makes the new Nano more practical – is the option of an open-able boot. It’s not a big boot and good for carrying two small to medium-sized bags at best, but ‘something is better than nothing.’ Also, folding the rear seat can give you a boot equivalent to a full-sized sedan.

Performance

Tata has left the 624cc, two-cylinder, rear-mounted petrol engine unaltered. As per company claims, the unit has been tweaked for a minor bump in real-world fuel efficiency, rest it’s all same and puts out the identical 37 Bhp @ 5,500 rpm and 51 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm. So, the only addition that you’ll notice in this regard is the availability of a 5-speed AMT gearbox, alongside the regular 4-speed manual. This AMT gearbox, like most manufacturers, has been sourced from Magneti Marelli.

Performance Comparison (Petrol)

Tata Nano Hyundai EON Maruti Alto 800 Renault KWID
Power 37.48bhp@5500rpm 55.2bhp@5500rpm 47.3bhp@6000rpm 53.3bhp@5678rpm
Torque (Nm) 51Nm@4000rpm 74.5Nm@4000rpm 69Nm@3500rpm 72Nm@4386rpm
Engine Displacement (cc) 624 814 796 799
Transmission Manual Manual Manual Manual
Top Speed (kmph) 105 Kmph 135 Kmph 140 kmph 135 Kmph
0-100 Acceleration (sec) 12.6 Seconds 19 Seconds 19 Seconds 16 Seconds
Kerb Weight (kg) 725kg - 695kg -
Fuel Efficiency (ARAI) 23.9kmpl 21.1kmpl 24.7kmpl 25.17kmpl
Power Weight Ratio 51.696551724137926 bhp/ton - 68.05755395683454 bhp/ton -

Nano is a delight to drive in city driving conditions. For a sub-650cc engine, it feels pleasantly peppy under initial acceleration and continues to be so till 80kph. One of the biggest contributors for this performance is its light weight that tips at just 600 kilograms. Driveability is great and the tiny engine never feels underpowered (as compared to sub1000cc cars) in the start-stop condition. You’ll hardly need any frequent downshifting when commuting around the city. Even in 2nd gear, you can crawl in slow moving traffic, save for the times the Nano comes to a complete halt.  It’s really checkable – compact dimensions, small footprint, quick steering with a turning radius of just 4 meter turning make the Nano really enjoyable in traffic.

Now the AMT. While the manual version doesn’t allow you to complain, performance of the auto version is a wee bit lacking. Automatics anyway sap more power than manual transmissions and the Nano already have very few horses to exhaust. Cruising at normal speeds is not much of a bother and the AMT works well during that. However, the problem arises when you try to overtake a vehicle and the Nano at times wheezes and feels a bit reluctant to overtake. Then there is a sport mode on offer, which tries to hold the revs for a little longer. But that doesn’t suit the character of li’ll cute Nano. While the gearbox isn’t best in class, the overall drive feels like an absolute boon in dense traffic. 

Yes, the sound from the two-pot unit is annoying at times, especially when you try to go too hard with the right foot.

Ride & Handling:

Nano gets gas dampers and independent suspension at its each end. This kind of independent suspension layout was integral to the space packaging of this tiny offering. If you’ll notice, the wheels are placed at the four extreme corners of the car and seem pushed out as far as they could be. And this is the main contributor for Nano’s respectable road manners.

Suspension is tuned for city and at those speeds, the Nano is a great car to live with. We won’t call the ride quality great but the overall experience is decent. It feels slightly bumpy over imperfect roads, especially for the rear occupants. So, for its core use as a city car, you’ll find the ride quality to be at acceptable mark, if not above. 

Nano has decent road manners, in fact way better than a car that’s feather light. As long as you are not trying to be too enthusiastic, the Nano will never really disappoint you with nice overall behaviour. However, crossing the 90kph mark on the speedo will make things a bit nervous, the cross winds starts affecting. Also, if a faster vehicle passes by, the Nano loses a bit of its composure.

The SUV-like ground clearance & short wheelbase make the Nano – a perfect companion for the Indian roads. The steering direct and feels great to use on the move. Feedback from the unit is also decent.

Safety

While safety has always been a point of concern for the Nano, Tata now claims that they have enhanced the torsional stiffness by using stronger materials and strengthened members. The C-Pillar of the latest is also beefed up for the opening tailgate. Increased length has helped the Nano to gain some more crumple zone and enhanced frontal protection. In addition, the doors get side impact beams, and there is an anti-roll bar as well. Having said all this, Nano still lacks Airbag and ABS in the range-topping trim.

Safety Comparison

Tata Nano Renault KWID Maruti Alto 800 Hyundai EON
Airbags close close righticonClose close
ABS close close close close
EBD close close close close

Variants

  • CNG
Variants Features Price
Nano CNG XM Sharp Leak Detection, Booster-Assisted Brakes, Interlock Sensor, 2.97 Lakh*

Tata is offering Nano in three trims, namely the XE, XM and XT. Even the base XE costs twice the Nano of 2008 and still misses on some very basic equipment such as power steering. While features like the music system, centre locking, power windows(front) and fog lamps are restricted to only the top XT model that costs more than INR 2.5 lacs.  So, the basic idea of making the Nano seems vanished when you see the prices of the current gen. model. And this is also the main reason behind its poor sales. The automatic gearbox is not available with the base model and the CNG is only available with the middle XM variant.

Tata Nano similar cars to compare & consider  
*Ex-showroom price

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