The first thought that comes to you in the driver’s seat of the Tata Nano is that while it is small on the outside, it is roomy inside. Around 8% smaller than the Maruti 800, Nano has 21% greater interior volume. It is easy to get in and out of, even from the rear seat— something senior citizens will appreciate. It is a four-seater, and legroom in the rear is also ample. The car’s dash is rather unconventional to look at, but it is functional with lots of space (there is no glove box though). The speedometer is like that of a two-wheeler’s, complete with a “green zone” that indicates the best speed to stay at to maintain higher fuel efficiency.
Initial pick-up is sharp, and, in fact, the Nano exudes a peppy, ready-to-run feel. It is important not to shift gears too quickly if you want zippy acceleration. The Nano’s top speed is an impressive and stable 105kmph, which is faster than many expected it to go. However, the little tyke could perhaps go at least another 10kmph faster, were it not for the speed cut-off that Tata has put in. The four-speed gearbox feels good enough, though the Nano could easily have done with another gear in overdrive.
Also See Facts and Figures (PDF)
Even at high speeds, the car manages to maintain its stability. It negotiates the corners at high speed commendably, helped along by the wider tyres at the rear, and narrower ones up front. The car does have a slightly light feel overall. That’s not entirely surprising since the kerb weight is just 600kg on the base version. Throw in four adults, and the picture changes just a bit—the extra weight helps make the car feel more sure-footed, but turning the steering becomes a bit more cumbersome—oh yeah, before I forget to mention—there’s no power steering! Not even in the high-end Nano! Tata engineers felt it really wasn’t necessary, given the car’s size and weight—and for the most part I agree with that, since even parking the little baby is a snap.
The top-end version has all the frills, including body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, fog lamps, a spoiler and power windows, though no music system. It also sports cloth seats, and two-tone plastics. Overall in fact—across variants—the plastic quality is pretty good, as is the fit and finish for a car in this class. The lower versions can be upgraded with these features at the dealer end.
Subsequent variants are expected to sport an electronic power steering, larger alloy wheels, offer a diesel engine option, automatic transmission, and much more. But for now, the value your money gets you is still pretty good.
The verdict: The Nano should not be confused or compared with super hatches on sale today. But for what it set out to achieve, and also for what I expected from it, I must say that Tata has outdone itself, and done India proud. Even if you’re not keen to buy one, go test-drive one. I guarantee it will at least put a smile on your face!
Photo by Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor (auto), NDTV.