What you see here is the first proper update of the Tata Nano. It’s not merely a facelift but a car that comes across as a vastly improved update. Feedback from the consumers has been taken at various stages, niggling issues have been ironed out and most importantly, it feels like a well put together little hatchback. Changes have been made to the way it looks, feels and drives and as expected, the new Nano comes with an openable boot and an optional AMT.
How different does it look:
One glance at the car and you know it looks different, but not by a huge margin as compared to the outgoing version. Up front, the headlamps are ‘smoked’ and also get a small “Nano” engraving on the side. There is in an inclusion of a black bezel between the lamps and gives the car a ‘rich’ look. The bumper is all new and houses the ‘smiley’ grille which Tata calls as the ‘Infinity Motif’ grille. Look closely and you notice the ‘infinity design’ – the same is carried over to the rear bumper, seat stitching and so on.
Side profile remains largely unchanged but at the back, you notice the new bumper. The tail gate is also revised, especially at the bottom – there is a horizontally running black bezel present here too. Lifting the tailgate gives access to the boot – 110litres of space of the manual versions and 94 for the AMT. The reason for lower capacity of the AMT is due to the extra electronics for the transmission. Tata has introduced two new colours, one of them is the Sangria Red, the one you see here.
Overall, the Nano remains as cute as ever. We would have loved to see alloy wheels on this top end version though.
And on the inside?
Step in and the Nano continues to impress you with space. Large windows add to the airy feel. You sit upright and this also ends up freeing a lot of leg / knee space. Now the biggest change you notice is the new steering wheel. It’s almost like the one found on the Bolt and Zest twins but ofcourse comes without controls for the audio system.
The second biggest change is the AMT console. The gear lever looks nice and feels good to hold. This unit however has eaten up a lot of space but you still get a places to keep knick knacks – little storage space ahead of the gear lever, a deep console ahead of the handbrake and ofcourse those two useful glove boxes on top of the fascia. Quality seems to have taken a leap and you don’t feel as if you are sitting in a ‘cheap’ product, or a car that has been built to a price.
In terms of features, the Nano really shames all other rivals. From keyless entry to a 4-speaker audio system that supports Bluetooth telephony, you also get a comprehensive driver information display that has two trip meters, display for average and instantaneous fuel economy, distance to empty etc. Tata, if you can provide this on 3 lakh rupee car, why not on the Rs 12 lakh Safari Storme?
Moving on, not being a pain-in-the-backside critic, but engineers could have probably worked on the door pads, making them wider. Also, there isn’t any place to keep knick-knacks at the back – a small bottle / cup holder located behind the hand brake lever could have been a nice touch.
The audio system really sounds nice for a car of this price and I must add that Maruti should learn a few things from Tata in this regard.
How does it drive?
Now this is the single biggest change in the new Nano. The optional AMT (automated manual transmission) is basically a cheaper version of a conventional automatic transmission which means the price gap between a manual and AMT version of a car isn’t too high.
The good news is that the Nano gets a 5-speed AMT with a creep function. This basically means the moment you lift your right foot off the brake pedal (while in A, M or S mode), the car starts moving ahead at a slow pace. This is very useful while crawling in slow moving traffic. The gearbox gets three driving modes: A or automatic is the one you will need to use for most of the situations. The transmission upshifts depending on the throttle inputs. In M or manual mode you can shift gears yourself by flicking the lever ahead (for upshift) or back (for downshift). Ofcourse if you keep going down hard on the throttle, the gearbox will eventually upshift once the engine hits redline. The third mode is the S or the Sports mode – as expected, in this mode, the transmission holds on to a gear till higher rpm.
Now let’s come the actual driving part – press the brake pedal and with the gear level in N or A mode, twist the key to start car. Lift off the brake and the Nano starts moving ahead. Press the throttle and you finally start moving properly. If you keep in mind that this is a 624cc engine with just over 35 horses and 51Nm of torque, you will have no reason to complaint. Performance has taken a hit and there is a noticeable delay in shifts. The best way to enjoy the AMT is by playing with the throttle – whenever you lift off the throttle, the transmission upshifts (provided you are in the correct rpm zone) and so on. If you want to overtake traffic, plan in advance and go down hard on the accelerator pedal – half a second later, the transmission responds and downshifts. The Nano AMT is not a peppy city car or a car that can be driven enthusiastically. It’s basically a city tool that can be used to commute on a daily basis. And yes, it frees up your left hand, left foot and the mental agony of shifting gears every few minutes.
We drove the car on both narrow lanes and open roads around Pune and as I said earlier, the best way to enjoy this AMT is when you aren’t in a hurry. The car still has a 100km/h limit (around 105 on the speedo) and the same goes for the 20km/h speed limit in the reverse gear.
ARAI certified economy for the manual version has dropped to 23.9 kmpl while the same stands at 21.9 for the AMT version. Tata claims the actual usage economy (for the manual) has gone up though. They have remapped the ratios slightly after taking into consideration the actual usage pattern. They have also increased the fuel tank capacity from 15-litres to 24.
Does it ride well?
Inspite of running on small 13-inch wheel, you will be surprised with the way the Nano eats up bad roads. Yes, there is enough body roll to scare your mother-in-law and passengers get thrown around over broken roads but in comparison to other ‘cheap’ cars, the Nano does just fine. I will start with steering – the power steering works brilliantly. It does what is required from a power assisted wheel and is very light to use. It also has an ‘active return’ feature and weighs up nicely as speeds built up. You can literally throw the Nano into narrow twisty lanes or steer through traffic gaps without an issue.
We did drive through an ‘off road’ course and again, the suspension did an able job. The capability to compress and rebound quickly is not really its forte but again, considering the price segment, we don’t really have a reason to complain. The Nano can also hold 80-90km/h on open roads without a worry – it gets affected by crosswinds but nothing that the driver can’t correct with steering inputs. Braking however concerns us – during emergency brake tests on our media car, it swerved to the left all three times. Further, for safety concerns and to win hearts, Tata should seriously consider ABS as standard on the top end model.
Does it feel good?
Now this is an important point of discussion. Tata’s biggest challenge will be to erase the memories attached with the Nano. This car no more feels cheap and if they can convey this properly to a prospective consumer, the new car will sell well. It really feels better now. The air-con for example has 15% better cooling than other ‘cheap’ hatchbacks. You get features not even present in cars that cost 50% more. Flip down the rear seats and you get 500 litres of usable space. Maintenance cost and warranty offerings will keep customers happy. And so on!
Summing it up:
The new GenX Nano is not a perfect car because the definition of a ‘perfect car’ doesn’t really exist in the Indian car market. This one has its own share of shortcomings – absence of a remote boot release for example. For an owner driving into a mall, switching off the car, removing the key and handing it over to the security guy will not be a pleasant feeling, especially in front of other motorists. The AMT does not perform well in all driving conditions. Absence of a day-night internal mirror is a shock when you consider you get a Bluetooth enabled system.
However if you look at the Rs 3-4 lakh rupee bracket (on-road prices), the Nano AMT suddenly starts making sense, inspite of all the gaps. The new GenX version has ironed out earlier issues, feels like a nice little car and ticks almost all the right boxes for a prospective customer. If the marketing honchos at Tata Motors can pull off a great job of giving this car a new brand identity, expect to see a lot of ‘new’ Nanos in the coming few months.