The Tata Nano, touted as the world’s cheapest car, did put India on the world map as far as automobiles go. I have frequently read comments on various American blogs where readers are hoping that Tata Motors launches one in the States. Be careful what you wish for.
The Tata Nano is the cheapest car in the world, it retails for around Rs. 2.18 lakhs for the top-level variant (with all taxes, registration and insurance charges paid). This amounts to US $4,230. You get an air-conditioner, electronic trip meter, 3-spoke steering wheel, front power windows, body colored bumpers, full wheel covers, and rear spoiler for this price. While this might not sound much, the Nano is at least $1500 cheaper than its nearest rivals, which offer less space.
Step inside the Nano and there is a good amount of leg and head room. Dashboard quality is decent, nothing spectacular but not so bad either. The Nano can seat 4 passengers in utmost comfort and the AC is quite a chiller too. There is space on the dashboard to keep stuff. hat’s good. because the Nano lacks a useable trunk. The engine is mounted in the rear, the space under the hood is used for the spare tyre and tool kit. The instrument cluster is centrally mounted and there is only one wiper on offer.
Start the Nano and it starts with a noisy roar. The exhaust sounds more like of a Rickshaw and is not pleasing to the ear. The 624cc gasoline engine is a 2-cylinder unit which produces 38 PS of power at 5500 RPM and 51 Nm of torque. This might look very underpowered for a car, but remember the Nano weighs just 615 kgs. 100 kmph are reached in 27.5 seconds. And that’s it: The top speed is limited to 105 kmph. The Nano decent enough grunt for city driving but is not the vehicle you would want to take out on the highways. Tata Motors claims a mileage of 25.4 kmpl, which would be 60 miles per US gallon, if the standards would be the same. Which they are not.
The Tata Nano has a rear-wheel drive layout which gives it go-kart like characteristics. Even with no power steering or disc brakes, the Nano is fun to drive, just like a go-kart. You can chuck the Nano into corners and it goes with the rear sliding out. The small turning circle of 8 meters makes it a breeze to maneuver the Nano in crowded city traffic. Brakes could have been better though. High speed stability is good if you can call 105 kmph high speed!
The Nano is a budget car, which aims to get people from point A to point B on 4-wheels. It does this job very well and there is little taking away the fact that it makes for a splendid replacement for a 2-wheeler. But as a car it does not offer what one would expect from a modern day vehicle. The brakes are below average and the performance is unfit for the highways. Tata Motors is developing a more feature rich and powerful version known as the Nano Europa for first world countries and that should do the trick. After having extensively driven the Nano in India, I can comfortably say that the Nano does live up to the hype with the fantastic cost engineering pulled off by Tata Motors.
Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the auto industry of India.