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Old 19th August 2009, 23:12   #1
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Default Tata Nano: full test and review

Note from Mod : GTO's 2012 Tata Nano Review has been uploaded at this link (Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review).






Logic of Lakhtakiya

“A promise is a promise.”
-Mr. Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Motors

Logic says making promises is one thing but sticking to it and delivering is a different ball game altogether. After all, how many of us Indians really stick to our promises that we make and deliver truthfully? Maybe only some of us.

India. A country of more than 1.5 billion people. A country, once proudly known as “a golden bird”.

Logic says that a golden bird must have golden resources and minds and a golden finesse to fly.

Logic says that in order to attain golden targets, you have to think out of the box, that is, use your golden brain to score a golden goal.

Logic says that in a country where still only 8 in a 1000 people can afford to own a single car, something different, out-of-box automobile has to be designed with only one thing in mind-cost and back to basics engineering.
India-a country where 60 % of GDP comes from services sector also happens to be home of the world’s largest population below 30-a tender age and that age where majority of people actually buy their proper “first car”.

Still, more than 65% percent are engaged in agriculture which hardly contributes to just about 20-25 % of India’s GDP, so where do they go?
These people can’t even afford their basic necessities-roti, kapda aur makan (Food, Clothing and Shelter), leave alone of dreaming to even own a cheap car.

Logic also says that In a country where a huge number of persons are killed in road accidents every year, safety should be of prime importance while designing a car for our country. But, after all, how much percentage of car buying public cares the hell about safety? Less than 1% at the most?

Logic says that in a country where “more for less” rules, that is discounts and mileage with resale, cracking the car market can prove to be a hell of an experience for many manufacturers.

However, logic also says that despite all the odds, our public needs a car at a price that majority of urban and semi urban buyers (with a hint of rural buyers thrown in), that is the lower middle class can actually afford and proudly call it their own.

There are perhaps, countless used cars available for the target price (Rs. 1,00,000) but all of them are either abused, or obsolete, or phased out etc. Besides, owning a “brand new” car for a lakh can be an altogether different experience rather than owning a bruised and battered decade old used car.

Logic told Mr. Tata’s brain
“Look, Mr. Tata, the entire country loves you. Just look at that family of 4 riding on a two wheeler. Husband facing a difficulty controlling a motorcycle with a child sitting on his front, with his wife sitting on his back holding her baby/ child dangerously trying to maintain balance.”
Don’t you think that these people should deserve the safety and comfort of a proper mass produced motor car? The car that goes back to basics in terms of simplicity in design, engineering, safety, comfort and above all, affordability?

It was this logic that prompted Mr. Tata to come up with an idea that no one on earth has never came before- designing a car keeping cost factor in mind, and a shocking price target-RS. 1,00,000.

The year-2003. The project was announced. The entire world was in shambles, stunned, shocked, scratching their heads as how can ever a project like this can be feasible?

The world defined the word “logic” in an illogical manner for this project as:
  • The car may be 2 attached scooters with a tent
  • The car may have plastic body panels
  • Is it an auto rickshaw on 4 wheels?
  • What about pollution, safety and comfort?
  • Will it even have an engine?
  • A bread box attached on 4 cart wheels?
Ok, enough of it. Critics questioned the feasibility of the project, citing that the dream may never be accomplished, and that we do not have the required infrastructure or resources to carry out the execution of making this dream come true.
Moreover, rising cost of raw materials like steel, plastic etc made life difficult for Mr. Tata to undertake the challenge and come out with a triumph.

However, the “logical” world failed to understand a new word, “ingenuinity”.
Tata motors were masters in low cost design, engineering and mass production and again, few small cost cutting measures would lead it to big savings, was the company’s logical motto.

The results of this motto is out.
January 2008. Auto Expo. New Delhi. The world is waiting. We are waiting. And waiting. And finally, Mr. Tata arrives in his masterpiece called the Nano. Yes, the car the world has been closely watching and waiting for the past 4 years.

The dream became a reality. India is going ga-ga over it. The car is affectionately called as “lakhtakiya”.The world is shocked. Stunned. Awed. Drooled. How is this possible?
Yes, the result is in front of you and the Indian engineers have made our country proud by conceiving, designing and producing a car for a lakh, touted as the world’s cheapest car.

Mr. Tata is proud of fulfilling a dream that every lower middle class Indian wanted- basic transportation of 4 people in the safety of a 4 wheeler at a price they can actually afford.

A new plant in Singur was already nearing completion, and the planned capacity of 2,50,000 units per annum was already put in place meant that the car would be launched as planned, in 4th quarter of 2008. Time for public to test Mr. Tata’s latest creation and give feedback. Time for people to get hands on one. A car that they can proudly call it “my car”.

But there is trouble. A series of agitations lead by Mamta Banerjee claiming that the land is reclaimed forcibly from farmers and that the compensation being paid is not sufficient meant that the long awaited car is delayed even further.
Making matters worse is that she is reluctant. Fighting. And fighting. And finally forcing Mr. Tata out of Singur. Again, the projct ios delayed by 6 months.

Meanwhile, rising prices of steel and other raw materials meant many questions were raised that if ever the car is launched, the finally price had to be jacked up or every car sold will be at a loss, not good for a conglomerate the size of Tata.

Logic says that despite all odds, the one who keeps promise, delivers and with triumph is the winner in public’s eye and garners respect. And love.
“Where there is a will, there is a way”.

March 2009. Mumbai. The car is finally launched, and at a promised price of 1 lakh, ex factory and rolls out of their makeshift plant in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand while a new mother plant has been shifted to Mr. Modi’s home in Gujarat, to be completed by Fall 2010.

Bookings start, and more than 2,03,000 are booked. No test drives for common people. Huge booking amount, 95% of the showroom price of the car. Despite these odds, the bookings are satisfactory.
July 2009, deliveries finally start after announcing the first lucky 1,00,000 allottees via-a computer generated draw.

Among the first to get cars is an undisclosed dealer which was courteous enough to allow me to take the car through its paces and compile a review, exclusive for team-bhp.

Once again, presenting the complete Tata Nano review, from the point of a common man.

Last edited by GTO : 20th December 2011 at 16:10. Reason: Adding link to 2012 review
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:15   #2
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Tata Nano

List Price (Ex Showroom, Delhi, in rupees for BS 3 models)
  • Nano -1,23,361 (racing red, ivory white and summer blue)
  • Nano CX- 1,48, 361 (racing red, ivory white and summer blue)
  • Nano CX metallic- 1,51,361 (lunar silver and sunshine gold)
  • Nano LX- 1,72,361 (yellow, lunar silver and sunshine gold)
What works:
  • Price, of course
  • Cute and refreshing out of box curvy design that turns heads wherever it goes
  • Outstanding space management
  • Good fit and finish for the asking price
  • Peppy from 0-60.
  • Outstanding engineering innovations for the price point
  • Modern interpretation of classic rear engine, RWD layout
  • Fun to drive with possibility of powersliding
  • Good AC
  • Lightweight car which is incredibly easy to drive
  • The most fuel efficient car in India
  • Good ride quality
  • Headroom is amazing
  • Comfy front seats
  • Really VFM for what you get.
What needs work:
  • Long waiting periods due to production constraints
  • More power is needed
  • Front is grossly undertyred
  • Small fuel tank restricts range
  • Stepney provided does not match the rear tyre size
  • Questionable high speed stability
  • Fuel cut off at high speeds
  • We need more jazzy paint shades.
  • Battery placement under front seats poses rick of safety in case of leakage
  • Hatch does not open from outside, restricting to the boot access from inside which itself is miniscule.
  • Difficult to open the engine for service due to its location.
  • Below par Tata after sales service.
Bottom line:
  • The Tata Nano cuts costs, not corners. Simplicity works, and back to basics has its rewards. Quiet simply, the best Tata car. period.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:19   #3
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Exterior design: 8 /10

Logic says that when a car is designed in a restricted price bracket, it should be simple with straight line with easy to construct body panels from rudimentary dyes.

Not anymore. First look into the car and you will immediately fall in love with it. No one should ever believe that a back to basics object should look dull and bland. The nano, is easily one of the best and cutest looking cars on the road today. Itís an original clean sheet design with lots of proportionate curves and has a street presence that other small cars would die for.

Quite simply put, it actually looks more expensive than what it really is and key to its successful design must be credited to collaboration between Ratan Tata and I.DE.A, which played a important role in the exterior design.

The classic cab forward design looks chubby and egg-like, almost resembling a computer mouse and it draws admiring glances wherever it goes. I was driving a red non AC nano before testing the golden LX one, and boy count the number of heads it turns. Girls, especially, gave it thumbs up and asked for a ride.

The front looks cute with those huge petal shaped headlamps drawing your attention and seamlessly integrating with the curvy windshield and the huge trapezoidal bumper (LX model has fog lights superbly integrated into it) giving it its own identity which means that you would not mistake it for anything other than a nano.

Going to the sides, the curvy profile grows on you and you begin to admire the simplicity of the design, especially the lower half which has a character curve and houses cooling vents for the engine, highly functional. The huge glass area looks proportionate and lends it with loads of character. The 12 inch wheels may initially look awfully small, but for a car this size, are a perfect fit and gel well with the overall design.

Coming to the rear, it resembles the Indica, but in a good way. The tailgate is simple and the vertical taillights are seamlessly integrated with the rest of the design which looks good, if a bit plain. The rear bumper is thoughtfully designed with a central exhaust tip, again looking good and in the LX version, it also houses a rear fog lamp, feature not found in many cars thrice its price.

Overall, itís a cute and timeless design, a hit especially with the girls, means that you draw admiring glances wherever you go and despite its increasing popularity, it will age very gracefully in years to come.

Only wish some more brighter colours were offered with the LX version rather than just 1 shade of yellow.
Attached Thumbnails
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:22   #4
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Build quality: 7/ 10

For the asking price, the nano is decent built with superb exterior paint finish with consistent panel gaps, and better than expected interior plastics.
The stout body feels rattle free and hopefully will hold on to its own to the tough abuse that our roads throw on it. In fact, it is actually one of the best finished Tata cars ever, and for the asking price,a commendable achievement.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:26   #5
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Chassis Engineering: 7.5 /10

Design called for maximum utilization of space in a compact footprint and the only solution-place the engine in the rear to liberate huge amount of front space. And boy, it works!

Moving the wheels to all corners also forms a key to liberate maximum space (a lesson from Hondaís Man Maximum, Machine Minimum concept) and Tata wanted to keep the car as light as possible to gain maximum fuel efficiency and lower emissions. So an entirely new compact 2 cylinder all aluminum engine was designed to comply with this chassis, which itself is lightweight and aids handling.

All the mechanicals were tucked onto the rear including the transmission and the ingenious engineering tricks applied have worked wonders as far as packaging is concerned. The chassis feels solid, stiff and coupled with an all wheel independent suspension, makes for a good ride and handling package.

In an effort to save costs, the number of wheel bolts was reduced from 4 to 3, a second wiper blade was eliminated, fuel tank cap was done away with (you have to open the bonnet to fill fuel) and the hatch was glued to the rest of the body.

The front tyre is narrow (135/70R12) so as to maintain balance with the rear where all the weight is concentrated, which is provided with wider 155/65 R12 (tubeless in all versions), as in case of many high performance sports cars.

One gripe is that the stepney provided matches the front tyre size only, in case of a puncture, the rear tyres have to be repaired ASAP or else the dynamics will be affected adversely, pretty inconvenient to daily dwellers who will use the car in city streets.
Attached Thumbnails
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:27   #6
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Buddy, Very detailed review.

If you could take this thread futher by making a general comparisions with similar hatchbacks like

1) M-800 Vs Nano
2) Alto Vs Nano
3) Estilo Vs Nano
4) A Star Vs Nano
5) i10 Vs Nano

Not the engine comparision but a simple comparo of Space/Maintenance Cost/Price/Features offered. It might help
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:30   #7
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Interior Design: 7 /10

While the exteriors are good looking, same goes for the interior, quite simple and funky looking. The dashboard looks superb with centrally mounted dials occupying the pride of place in the dash.

The fuel gauge is digital, easy to read, so are the odometer. The colourful speedo looks superb and again, is clear on the eyes. The rotary AC controls are again ergonomically placed and easy to use, on the driver’s eye level. Besides that, the interiors lack any design flair, but that’s t be expected from a 1 lakh rupee car. The seats are well designed with durable fabric and the door pads are superbly finished. Even on the non AC model, the insides are tolerable and you don’t get a feeling that you are sitting in a car this cheap. The interior plastics are cheap but better then Maruti 800, but again, decently finished.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:33   #8
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Interior Practicality: 5 /10

The interior design may be good, but absence of storage space is clearly a major drawback. Other than the slot on the dashboard (there is no glove box), there is no place where you can keep your items and knick knacks (a small cup holder is standard on the LX, but thatís about it) and you have to use your seats or floor to keep them.
Even though the door pads have pockets, they are too shallow to store anything.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:33   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
  • Nano -1,23,361 (racing red, ivory white and summer blue)
  • Nano CX- 1,48, 361 (racing red, ivory white and summer blue)
  • Nano CX metallic- 1,51,361 (lunar silver and sunshine gold)
  • Nano LX- 1,72,361 (yellow, lunar silver and sunshine gold)
  • Price, of course
  • Outstanding engineering innovations for the price point
  • Fun to drive with possibility of powersliding
What needs work:
  • More power is needed
  • Small fuel tank restricts range
  • Hatch does not open from outside, restricting to the boot access from inside which itself is miniscule.
  • Difficult to open the engine for service due to its location.

1) If the price of this car is above Rs. 1.5 lakh OTR, it loses value IMHO ( its just what I feel ). Maruti 800 above that will be considered for most of the people. The highest version is too expensive OTR for representing good VFM.

2) What exactly are engineering innovations ? Its smart and cost effective engineering, but what are innovations ? Can you shed some light on new innovations ?

3) Powersliding is something not good in hands of two wheeler riders who dont even know ABC of driving sense.

4) If this car has more power and bigger fuel tank, it will increase the chance of people taking this car for highway driving. This is just about sufficient of what city driving normally requires.

5) This is not good for a car that will be cheaper to run ( and hence will cover more kms ). The access to engine will be restricted. Not a good point.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:36   #10
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Wait, the bonnet has to be opened to fill fuel?

Great, now even more time will be taken at petrol pumps because 60 year old uncles take 2 hours to get out, open bonnet, wait for attendant to fill fuel, get wallet out, count each 0 in each note, then recount, then pay money, then walk to the car, look around, sit down, belt up, pray to God, start car, waste 5 more minutes doing nothing, then finally moving ahead at the speed of 2kph.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:36   #11
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Interior space and comfort:

Front: 8 /10

While the interior lacks any storage space, it more than makes up by the amazing amount of headroom and legroom it offers on its pint sized footprint. Space at front is simply unbelievable and Tata must be complimented for the packaging they have done to liberate good legroom. 6 footers will easily be at home (comfortable)at the front, with the seats providing decent lateral support.
Though the seats are comfy, they do fall short of providing under thigh support and feel flat in design. The contours could be better for the lumbar support which is just about average. A plus point is the see-through integrated front seat head restraints which aid comfort and aid ventilation.

Rear: 8 /10

If you thought the front was spacious, step in the rear and you are in for a surprise. Again, it is easy for one 6 footer to sit behind another without feeling cramped and the legroom on offer belies the carís size. For 4 persons, travelling is a breeze with enough space all round but its best to avoid that occasional 5th passenger since the car is narrow from inside and again, will be a tight fit.

The seats are pretty comfy but again, what to expect from a rock bottom priced car like this, contours could be a bit better, especially the flat bench.

However, when the car is in motion, the placement of the engine under the rear seat means that the passengers sitting tend to get hot due to lack of sound deadening material on that area.
However, the AC worked superbly in hot summer of Delhi and evenly cooled both the front and rear, with a minimal drop in performance.

Boot space: 4 /10


Considering the cost and footprint of the car, the boot is almost nonexistent, but at least it is usable for a medium suitcase or a couple of small bags. However, the fixed hatch means that the boot has to be accessed by folding the rear seats down, often causing inconvenience as the rear passengers have to be moved out in case anything is to be taken out of the boot.

A rear parcel tray is standard on the LX but Tata seriously needs to design an openable hatch to avoid any inconvenience.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:41   #12
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Engine and performance: 6 /10

The Tata Nano is powered by an extremely light and friction free 2 cylinder all aluminium 623 cc SOHC engine with 2 valves per cylinder (1 each of intake and exhaust) rated at 35 ps@5250 rpm with a rated torque of 4.8 kg-m@ 3000-3500 rpm, superb figures for such a tiny engine. In fact the engine is so small and light that it can be carried with 2 hands!

The engine uses worldís first application of a single balancer shaft in a 2 cylinder mill to reduce the NVH levels, a tech that Tata has filed 1 of many 37 patents for.
Start the engine and it idles like a Bajaj RE petrol auto rickshaw, but more silent.

Refinement from this engine is tolerable and even though itís not its strongest point, do no blame Tata for this. Small engines have less volumetric efficiency and Tata does seem to have worked hard to minimize NVH levels, as noticed on the move.

0-60 kmph takes about 9.2 seconds, 0-80 about 17 seconds and the top aped is about 105 kmph (estimate the 0-100 timing of about 32 odd seconds).

The engine has superb bottom performance and gamely keeps up with stop and go traffic in city limits, something for which it is designed for. Small 1st and 2nd gear plays a role and with a flat and consistent torque curve, it makes for a superb pickup in city limits.

Show it an empty highway and the small engine shows its limitations. Clearly, there is no replacement for displacement and the engine wheezes over 60 kmph and labours all its way to its claimed 105 kmph top speed, with fuel cut off and the engine not enthusiastic enough to go any more.
Itís best to keep the engine between 2,000-3,500 rpm, where all of its available torque can be used to extract the maximum out of it.

As far as NVH levels are concerned, you are always aware of slight vibrations at the rear but for the cost limitations, Tata has again done a superb job of using decent sound deadening material to protect passengers from unwanted noise.

Overall, the engine is superb and flexible for city usage, on the highway, it is pain to drive and overtaking maneuvers need to be planned well in advance.

Gearbox shift quality: 7 /10

Finally, a Tata gearbox that is smooth shifting and less notchy.

Using synchronized shift linkages, the box has short throws and feels less clunky than other Tatas, including the vista QJD.

The box is a 4 speed with an overdrive set on the 4th for better mileage. 1st and 2nd gears are sort whereas 3rd and 4th have long ratios in the interest of mid range performance and better mileage.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:44   #13
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Ride quality: 7 /10

The nano rides on all wheel independent suspension unheard of cars in this price tag.

Front is suspended by Independent, Lower Wishbone, McPherson Strut with gas filled dampers which aids superb ride, even while riding on those tiny 12Ē wheels. At front, the car rides superbly and less weight up front means that passengers never suffer, except at huge potholes where the ride tends to get bone jarring, but only just. At least, it rides better than many Marutis. One limiting factor is the skinny 135 size front tyres which affect low speed ride. Though not that bad, it does give some impression of the surface below but as the speeds increase, the ride improves and the car feels secure. Only at huge potholes it crashes and gives you a vulnerable feeling and makes you to drive the car gently so as to avoid damage to the rims.

However, at the rear itís an entirely different story. Despite the wide, low profile tyres and presence of many mechanical bits, the car rides superbly at low and medium speeds and the passengers do not get tossed around like they in a low cost Maruti.

Increase the speed, and the ride gets bad, but only just. Tata has isolated the rear enough so as not to give any passengers any tough time that means though the passengers get tossed around, but the overall effect is not worth worrying about.
Tata could have done better to provide a proper 3 point seat-belt for the rear passenger rather than just providing a lap belt, in the interest of safety.

Handling: 8 /10


This is one aspect where the car truly excels- fun to drive factor. In fact, itís one of the few cars in the world to boast of RE, RWD setup which forms a key to its superb dynamics, aided by an all wheel independent suspension, helping n stability.

Power steering is not available, but you almost never regret not having it. A quicker steering ratio means that the steering is very light and the car is very user friendly, with light controls which all contributing in making it easy to drive, especially for ladies and first time learners.

The steering is superbly weighted and makes parking and U-Turns a breeze, especially considering its tiny dimensions. Itís actually very fun to drive in the city limits and the more you drive it, the more you love its chuckable nature, especially in tight turns where the short turning radius make it easy to maneuver at congested city spaces, just like a reva.

Powersliding and drifting is also very much easy to do but you need mastery in drifting skills to do that, due to engineís low torque. With the handbrake pulled, the car drifts superbly and feels secure, even at tight turns.
At high speeds, though, the stability is suspect due to tall design, narrow front tyres and the carís 650 kg weight and its best to use the nano as a city car rather than venturing out on open national highways.

Braking: 6.5 /10

Equipped with 180 mm drums at front and rear, the nano provides decent
braking distances, it not the best. However, the wheels lock very easily making high speed braking a bit risky.

Pedal feel, however is good and the brake pads showed little signs of fade after a series of repeated hard stops.
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Old 19th August 2009, 23:49   #14
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Fuel efficiency: 9 /10

At an ARAI certified figure of 23.1 kmpl, the Nano is currently the most fuel efficient car in the country. Period.

Expect a city figure of 14-15 kmpl with full load and AC on (in stop-go traffic) and about 18-20 on the highways under the same circumstances.

What Tata could have done is instead of giving a motorcycle sized 15 liter tank, at least 20-25 liters would have made more sense so as to minimize frequent refills between trips.

Buying and owning: 6 /10

At the asking price between 1.25-1.75 lakh, no other car provides a cheaper purchase price than the nano, which makes it easily the best VFM car in the country today.

Yes, you have an Maruti 800, but the basic NON AC version costs even more than the top end nano, which comes with decent bells and whistles and is far better built compared to the 25 year old M800 which feels flimsy and has a questionable safety record, also it falls short of all important head and legroom as compared to the nano.

Since the car is in huge demand, donít expect your new car to get at least before 6 months to 18 months, depending upon the location and the allotment number provided to you, if you have ever booked one.

Once the new plant comes up in Sanand, Gujarat, with a planned annual capacity of 2,50,000 units per annum, the units dispatched per month will be limited to about 5,000 from the capacity installed in pantnagar (about 60,000 per annum). Still, Tata is working hard to meet its targets in advance and hope that the car gets delivered to its potential clients soon.

The car promises to be equally as cheap on maintenance as its on price with the least cost of spares and good warrenty coverage.

Tata has second largest number of TASS in the country after maruti, so network is not a problem.
Only drawback is the pathetic attitude of the dealership personal which may ruin your ownership experience as you have to fight tooth and nail to get the work done to your satisfaction.

As far as residual values are concerned, itís still too early to comment but with such a low purchase cost, it simply does not make sense to think of resale, at least for the first 3 years. Still, it may hold its value well.
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Tata Nano: full test and review-dsc00897.jpg  

Tata Nano: full test and review-dsc00916.jpg  

Tata Nano: full test and review-dsc00915.jpg  

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Old 19th August 2009, 23:50   #15
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Boot space? Wasn't this car designed to move people? That would be expecting too much from such a car which is spacious for people.
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