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Old 20th December 2011, 15:34   #1
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Default Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

The 2012 Tata Nano has been launched in India at a price of 1.40 - 1.96 Lakhs (ex-Delhi).

What you’ll like:

• Uniquely cute & cool styling. A car that will make you smile
• Innovative packaging results in spacious interiors for 4 adults. Generous legroom & headroom
• Peppy performance at speeds <80 kph. Engine offers good urban driveability too
• Small footprint & tiny turning radius make it immensely chuckable within the city
• Powerful air-conditioner will chill you to the bone
• 2012 Nano sees a lot of customer feedback being incorporated
• A proper car starting at a price of 1.40 lakhs only

What you won’t:

• Struggles on steep ghats (inclines) with passengers onboard. Will give up in some stop-go hilly conditions
• Missing essentials (openable rear hatch, front disc brakes etc.). Boot has a limited 80 liter capacity
• Low cost nature & quality are glaringly obvious
• Very heavy steering at parking speeds
• Image of the "cheapest car in India / the world"
• Niggling problems as reported by existing Tata Nano owners
• Tata's sub-par after sales service experience

The Nano AMT (Automatic): Review

Last edited by GTO : 19th May 2015 at 13:07. Reason: Adding link to Nano AMT Review
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Old 20th December 2011, 15:35   #2
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

How do you review an icon?

Admittedly, I was very excited in the days leading up to the Nano drive. Coincidentally, around the same time, there was a trip planned to Pawna (15 kms from Lonavla, a hill station in Maharashtra). The Pawna country roads are suspension murderers and that, combined with the highway + expressway + ghat conditions, seemed to provide the perfect testing ground for the 2012 Nano. Thus, while everyone else chose their SUVs & MUVs for the trip, I picked the Nano. When I arrived at the designated starting point @ 10 p.m. on Friday night, the others looked at me in utter disbelief. People were rather vocal about their doubts on whether the li'l car could manage the nonexistent roads leading to the house. Well, our test Nano left the gang pleasantly surprised.

The weekend rides (there was also a white Tata Safari which is visible in the quarter glass picture below):

The euphoria surrounding the Nano’s launch was so strong that everyone (environmentalists included) expected our streets to be filled with 1 lakh rupee Tatas everywhere. Unfortunately, that’s not how the situation panned out. The market’s response has been lukewarm at best. While the average monthly sales have been 5,756 units of the year thus far, in November 2010, the car had hit an inexplicably low 500 odd shipments. So why did the Nano not rack up 20,000 – 30,000 sales a month as expected? The answer greatly varies depending on who you are listening to, but if you ask me, there are 5 fundamental reasons:

1. Poor targeting: Let's face it, a large number of 2 wheeler owners – out of choice – don’t want to upgrade to a car. Petrol is too expensive (commuter bikes are 5 - 6 times as fuel efficient as a Nano) while a large % of motorcycle owners don’t even know how to drive. That probably explains why a majority of bookings (from the 1st round) were for the top-end LX variant.

2. It’s simply too unconventional: The Indian market, especially first-timer buyers, are a conservative lot. In that, they are extremely risk averse. The Nano is too “different” and “unconventional” for the mass market tastes. Factors like the engine placed at the back, a hatch that doesn’t open, battery under the front seat, 3-bolt wheels, differently sized front & rear tyres, lack of a glovebox et al make the Nano too different a concept for the junta. Many, including some owners, refer to the car as a toy.

3. The image of the “cheapest car” in the world: The media & Tata overplayed the “1 lakh car” bit. Let's reflect on when the Maruti 800 was launched; it was hardly pitched as a cheap car. Instead, Maruti chose to focus on the strengths of the product, which were only amplified by word-of-mouth recommendations based on owner experiences. Car ownership in India is greatly driven by aspirational value, and owning the “cheapest car in India / the world” is not something one aspires to. Simply put, the Nano lacks the all-too-crucial status that first time car owners are looking for.

4. The Nano isn’t really a 1 lakh car: The on-road pricing varies between 1.5 lakhs for the base version, and goes to well over 2 lakhs for the LX variant. Many two-wheeler owners weren't even eligible for car financing in the first place. For those that are, in our EMI-driven times, the 800, Alto & Spark aren't too far away.

5. Poor communications: Tata’s handling of the media around the Nano fire incidents left a lot to be desired. 5 out of 10 people who sat in my test Nano mentioned something or the other about the car catching fire.

The upcoming diesel variant will give the Nano a true shot in the arm. I have a feeling that the diesel Nano will absolutely catapult the li’l car’s sales.

Cheap doesn’t mean ugly and the Nano is ample proof of that. Tata has shown that one can build a great looking car at the lowest price point. The Nano has a cute, proportional design that is one of the best fusions of form & functionality. The styling is a hit with everyone! I particularly like the chic front end, while the mini-Indica rear isn’t too bad either. The Nano stands taller than you originally thought (refer to the comparison with the Yeti below), a factor that greatly increases the feeling of space inside. Not much has changed on the look's front in the 2012 Nano, save for the full size wheel caps & the much-coveted passenger side mirror. The Nano has an attitude that’s super cool; this is not something you can throw marketing money at and buy. You either have spunk, or you don’t; it’s that simple. The company obviously understands this and even has a full range of Nano merchandise available (Link). Tata has rolled out 8 new colours for the Nano (total colour options now stand at 10).

Build & paint quality will meet the expectations of buyers from this segment. Tata’s cars have usually worn decent paint, and the Nano is no different, keeping the price in mind of course. If you look closely though, some rough edges are visible. For instance, notice the stark colour difference between the body panels and the bumpers. Inconsistent / large gaps are fairly obvious at places too. That the Nano is a light 600 kilo car is immediately evident when you lift up the bonnet; the metal feels flimsy enough for you to bend with your hands. Tata has smartly cut the flab in areas which people won't notice on a daily basis; the rest of the car passes muster for an entry-level automobile. And for such a light car, the Nano has surprisingly acceptable road manners. The interiors also feel greatly improved on the 2012 version.

My best friend owns a Nano and I remember the first time we went for a spin in it. The world turned to take a second look. Well, that’s not the case anymore. Today, the Nano is just another car on the road. What I didn’t like is the attitude of fellow motorists toward the Nano. Within the city, no one (not even the bikers) give way. And on the expressway, if I overtake another car that was otherwise lazily cruising at 70 kph, 8 out of 10 times, that car will downshift and overtake me. Sigh, when will our road users become more mature?

Tata has listened to existing customer feedback carefully, and come up with a slew of improvements on the 2012 Nano. So, what's new?

• A little more power (3 BHP), torque (3 Nm) and a slightly higher revv limit
• Overall gearing is taller. As a result, a better ARAI fuel-efficiency rating of 25.4 kpl & lower emissions too
• Beige interiors & silver center console for the LX variant
• Additional bolstering on the seats. Fabric seats, even on the CX variant (previously vinyl). New design for the front seat neck restraints (head rests)
• Beige-black door pads for the LX. Beige trim on the A & B pillars!
• Rear seat backrest height has been raised for better back & shoulder support
• Full wheel covers
• Passenger-side ORVM. Available as an accessory for existing owners
• Single pull strap to flip the rear seat down (instead of two straps of the older car)
• Beefed up NVH insulation
• A suspension that rides a tad softer
• An anti-roll bar at the front end
• Some improvements to the steering response & exhaust note (still sounds like a rickshaw at idle though)
• Booster-assisted braking added to the base variant
• JK Tyres (instead of the ol' noisy MRFs). At least on our test car
• New colour options
• Various li'l enhancements reviewed (and pictured) below

There was a lot of talk of Tata giving the Nano a hatch that you could actually open. Unfortunately, that feature hasn't come through. It would have been an extremely welcome move, and also have made the Nano feel more like a regular car.

Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review-tata-nano-comparison.png

A cute design that will age well. Notice the rear spoiler:

Yellow Nano is from the first batch. Notice the 3-bolt wheels, and full-size wheel caps of the 2012 car:

Tiny 4 meter turning radius means you can take a U-turn anywhere. Even in residential lanes!

Headlamps are surprisingly powerful. Most owners won't feel the need to upgrade to after-market bulbs:

Pop the bonnet open to fill petrol. The Nano is a rare car that's sold without an externally accessible petrol lid:

Fog-lamps have a good lateral spread, and aid visibility when driving through the dimly lit roads of rural India:

Single wiper + lousy blade quality. The wiper on our 500 km example failed to give a clean sweep of the windscreen:

The wash mechanism is integrated onto the wiper arm. It doesn't really spray water onto the windscreen; rather, water is merely dropped off as the wiper moves up & down:

The much coveted passenger-side ORVM finally makes its debut!

Ribbed roof panel is crucial to the Nano's structural strength:

Passenger-side door gets a keyhole only on the LX variant:

Air vent (behind the rear door) keeps the engine cool:

Mini-Indica tail lamps. Honestly, the Christmas tree arrangement has gone out of style a decade ago:

Small, center-mounted exhaust pipe:

Spare tyre is the same size as that of the front wheels (135/70 R12). Our test car was shod with JK tyres. Spare can be fitted at the rear, but you have to drive very cautiously with different sized tyres on either side:

Last edited by GTO : 27th December 2011 at 10:57.
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Old 20th December 2011, 15:35   #3
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

The doors open super-wide to nearly a 90 degree angle (refer to picture below). Thus, ingress & egress are effortless, for the elderly too. Once inside, you’ll notice a simple, minimalistic design. Whatever you need on the functional factor is here, but not much else. The center-mounted speedometer console is one of the only stand-out elements inside the Nano. Fit & finish quality are rudimentary; keep the price in mind and you’ll find them acceptable for the most part. I didn’t have a problem with the plastic quality. However, the rubber bits used on the windows & door beadings are atrocious. The sun-visors are cheap, and the thin door pads don't even cover the entire door.

The LX variant now gets beige interiors that greatly enhance the ambience inside. Indians perceive beige as a premium colour, and I personally much prefer it over the dark tones of the earlier Nano LX. The seat fabric is beige as well, while the door pads get a dual tone black + beige combination. Tata wanted to make the interiors feel better, lighter and airier, and they have succeeded. Then, there's the large greenhouse which allows a lot of light inside the cabin.

Most of us have been in the Nano earlier. However, some members of our weekend group stepped inside the "1 lakh car" for the first time. Simply put, they were awestruck by the space. The li'l Tata is a lesson in interior packaging and beats most other ~5 lakh rupee hatchbacks in terms of cabin room. 4 tall occupants can easily fit inside the Nano, while two 6 footers sitting one behind the other is possible too. I am 5’10” and can easily fit in the driver’s seat, laid back driving position et al...this coming from a guy who can’t even sit in a Scorpio’s driving seat properly!! I think Tata's biggest achievement is in carving this kind of space of a car with such a small footprint. The dashboard is pushed at the farthest limit; the super-thin door pads & seats also liberate crucial centimeters of space. That the Nano is a monobox design is a key contributor to its efficient packaging.

While legroom and head room are generous, the Nano's narrow width makes it a strict 4 seater (it's even rated as a 4 seater only). If the driver or front passenger is well-fed, expect the former to frequently brush his elbow against the latter when shifting gears. The high seating position is practical. On the flip side, the steering is placed too low for comfort. This really is the diametric opposite of the ol' Indica & Indigo with their truck-like steering angle; looks like Tata over-corrected on that! While I personally didn't face any issue as that's how I usually set a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, others didn't prefer this low arrangement at all. The 3-spoke steering wheel is thicker than you'd imagine in a budget car, and rather nice to hold. It is actually clad in a soft touch cover. The center-mounted instrument console means there is nothing in front of the driver, thus allowing a clean view of the road ahead. However, the center console is placed on the higher side and can affect the driver's ten o'clock view. The thick A-Pillars do restrict lateral vision to an extent, but because they are placed so far ahead, things aren't as bad as in the 1st gen Indica. You'll get used to it. I liked the front quarter glasses for the additional visibility that they provide in the city. Due to the high placement of the rear parcel shelf and windscreen sill, you'll need to exercise caution when reversing. Shorter objects aren't visible at all. No such issues with the lateral view because of the large windows and low sills. Because the car is so narrow, you don't need to move your head too much (say, as much as in the Vista) to read the meters. And while on it, I found the speedometer & fuel gauge easy to read, even at expressway speeds. The pedals are placed fairly close to one another, and those with larger shoe sizes might face a problem of their feet brushing against each other while driving. There is no dead pedal, but as the car is not intended toward extended highway use, it won’t be missed much. The power window buttons are placed in an extremely unergonomic manner, you literally have to lunge forward to open either of the front windows.

Seat bolstering has been beefed up in the 2012 Nano. This is one of the things that Uday uncle (existing Nano owner) commented on. While things have improved, the thin seats are still flat & basic. Support will be satisfactory for city drives only. The compound is also on the firmer side. Many Nano owners are known to add seat covers with built-in cushions for extra comfort. The front seats have a long travel range and should easily accommodate the taller amongst us. However, the hefty types won't find the narrow seat providing sufficient support; I just about managed to fit in.

The rear seat is placed higher than the front seats. The thin rear seat offers average support for city usage & shorter commutes. Tata has raised the height of the seatback to improve back & shoulder support. Plus, the seatback angle is just perfect for a city car. The thin front seats liberate that much more room, and you can literally bury your knees into the soft seat-back. Fitting two tall adults in here is a breeze. On the flip side, the non-adjustable neck restraints don't really serve the purpose, except to those with a short frame. The middle area of the rear seat (where the 5th passenger would sit) has a soft, padded hump that runs from top to bottom. There is a lot of light coming into the rear of the car and, believe it or not, you'd rather be sitting here than in the back of a claustrophobic Swift or Beat. The door armrests work well as a spot for you to rest your forearm on. And the material where your hand will brush against the door pad is dark in colour, so it won't get dirty easily. Early Nano’s had a complaint with the rear seat getting warm, thanks to the engine running right behind. Well, that's history now. After an extended run on the expressway, the rear benchers had no such complaints. On the other hand, an area that everyone was sore about is the metal beam that runs between the B-Pillars (see picture below). If you stretch your legs under the front seats, your shin area will hit against this metal beam, creating discomfort, especially on a bumpy road.

Small cars usually have poor air-conditioners. In a nutshell, the Nano blows the 800 & Alto out of the water in this crucial-for-India aspect. This Tata's air-con will chill you to your bones in no time. Blower level "1" itself is fairly strong, and there is definite scope for a lower speed provision. We actually had to turn the temperature higher from time to time.

I don't understand why Tata chose to skimp on the glovebox. I mean, how much does it cost for this useful feature? I actually kept a bunch of keys under the floor mat once, as they wouldn't fit anywhere else. Glove box issue aside, each of the 4 doors gets integrated pockets. These door pockets are slim, yet run sufficiently long & deep. Those will large hands will have a problem picking small items up from their base though. The two front cup-holders (ahead of the gear lever) are extremely useful, and can also accommodate 500 ml bottles. You can dump a lot of stuff into the recess on top of the dashboard. Just don't keep any valuables there as the items will be open to public view. I like the cute, removable pockets on the side of both front seats (pictured below). Rear passengers get door pockets for their knick knacks. There's also a very cheap fabric pocket at the floor level (right above the floor hump) that I don't see too many owners using.

The hatch doesn't open, yet Tata has done what it can to improve ease of access to the boot. Instead of the original Nano's 2-lever method that was best left to an acrobat, now you only have to tug on a single pull strap to fold down the rear seat. The limited capacity of 80 liters can accommodate 2 travel bags, or 4 - 5 shopping bags. The floor area no longer gets hot as Tata has added an additional layer of insulation.

Tata needs to pull up its socks on building niggle free cars. Our 500 km test Nano developed three; from time to time, the front passenger door wouldn't lock under the central locking command (luckily I checked the doors before walking off!!). Second, the engine was making some loud screeching noises at idle, and at low rpms. This behaviour was unpredictable and intermittent. Some rubber fittings & insulation bits also fell off in our car. It's not just the quality of these materials that's bad, but also the way that they've been fitted.

Thick, small steering wheel is great to hold. Horn pad stretches out sufficiently enough:

Center-mounted instrument console. Each of the 4 air vents can be individually shut, if required. The air-conditioner will chill you to the bone...even on blower level 1. See how we've set the thermostat :

No temperature gauge. Instead, you get an overheat warning indicator:

One trip meter and a digital fuel gauge. Both are easy to read:

Cheap & cheesy silver effect of the rubberized gear knob:

Front & rear seat cushioning have been beefed up. Notice the different design of the neck restraints. Doesn't look like a one-piece seat though it is:

While I personally didn't have any problem with the steering's placement, others found it to be too low:

Closely positioned pedals in the narrow footwell. Your shoes will brush against each other. Naked wires are a Tata trademark, it seems:

Battery is placed under the driver seat. It does foul with the rear passenger's feet:

ORVMs are big enough for city use. On the highway however, I found the size to be limited:

Basic door pads now get dual-tone colours. Thin, long & deep door pockets:

No glove box. Hence, you will frequently use the recess on top of the dashboard. Don't place any valuables here; road-side miscreants have a full view of the goodies:

If ever there was an award for the "most unergonomic power window switch placement", the Nano would walk away with it. You have to bend all the way forward to operate the front windows. Cup-holders can hold 500 ml bottles:

Fuse box is placed under the dashboard. Replacing blown fuses is an extremely challenging task:

W-i-d-e opening doors result in effortless ingress / egress:

Outstanding legroom for rear seat occupants. Beats most other ~5 lakh rupee hatchbacks hollow:

Here, the front seats have been set to show the minimum & maximum legroom. Notice the absence of proper 3-point seat belts for rear passengers. You'll have to make do with lap belts:

Rear doors also get integrated pockets. However, powered windows are only available for those at the front:

Highly inconvenient! If you stretch your legs on the back seat, your shin area will hit against the metal rod running between the B-Pillars:

Rear windows roll down completely:

Flipping the rear seat down is now a one hand, one person exercise. Simply tug on this pull-strap and the rear seatback is unlocked from its position. Be sure to pull the strap out before locking the seat back in place. If the pull strap ends up hidden behind the seat, it's quite a chore to retrieve it:

80 liter boot can only hold 2 small travel bags, or a couple of shopping bags:

Keep the rear seat folded down for the airport runs. Space with rear seat folded = 500 liters:

Neat, the Nano's key gets a black plastic cladding. Remember, there are some (more expensive) cars still sold with a full metal key:

Last edited by GTO : 27th December 2011 at 11:03.
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Old 20th December 2011, 15:36   #4
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

"Need better insulation? Sure, we'll just throw in another layer of material" The 2012 Nano gets two insulating sheets. The rear seat doesn't get warm any more, and neither will your luggage. This sheet also helps in reducing in-cabin engine noise:

Remove the 6 wing-nuts (with your hand) to release the metal engine cover. Hopefully, you never have to access the engine bay, as it's quite a task to do so:

Tata engineers have tweaked the Nano's engine & transmission for the 2012 model. The familiar 2 cylinder petrol motor now makes 3 more horsepower & Nm of torque (each). This engine is rated at 37 BHP (@ 5,500 rpm) and 51 Nm of max torque (@ 4,000 rpm). While Tata hasn’t confirmed the same, I am dead sure that the rpm limit has gone up a notch as well. The gearing has been made taller in the interests of fuel efficiency. That probably explains why the ARAI rating has increased to 25.4 kpl (earlier 23.6 kpl).

The Nano feels sprightly enough under city driving conditions, right up to ~80 kph. For a 624 cc engine, the car is pleasantly peppy under initial acceleration. One reason for this performance is the feather-light 600 kilo kerb weight. And Tata has really tuned the petrol engine well. Driveability is good with the engine feeling acceptably responsive in urban conditions. You won’t need to downshift much when commuting around town; the 2nd gear can pull away from every slow driving situation, save for the times you come to an absolute crawl or stop. Those with a heavy right foot will make quick progress in traffic and easily keep up (or be ahead of) the 1 liter hatchbacks. The small footprint, quick steering and short 4 meter turning radius play their role in making the Nano exceptionally chuckable. You can jump in and out of traffic gaps you'd otherwise never think of in larger cars. No one will call the Nano a “slow car” at speeds less than 80 kph. I was also impressed by the fact that the chilly air-conditioning system doesn’t create a heavy load on the engine (we kept it on for 90% of the time on this test).

On the flip side, the non-power assisted steering is a handful between 0 – 10 kph. You can expect some huffing & puffing when parking into a tight spot, or manoeuvring through bumper to bumper traffic. I am surprised that Tata isn't offering a power-assisted steering on the top-end LX variant. They claim that the 2012 Nano’s steering is lighter; well, it still requires sheer muscle at times and the girls from our group hated the effort required. I might add that no one will have complaints once you get moving. As the speeds build up, the steering is easy to use. But it remains a nuisance at crawling and parking speed.

I spent a total of 3 hours on the expressway with the Nano, 90 minutes each way at night. In straight-line expressway cruising, the Nano poses no problems at all. Thanks to the tall gearing, the engine is surprisingly relaxed at a 100 kph. In fact, the very tall 3rd gear itself will take you to top speed. You will frequently & easily hit the speed limiter on the open road. At a little over a 100 kph, the check engine light will warn you that you are nearing the top speed. Then, at about an indicated 110 kph (and actual 105 kph), the fuel cuts off. When this happens, it results in a funny jerk & drag kind of feeling. Tata imposes this speed limit in the interests of safety and restricting wear & tear on the components (especially wheel bearings). Overtaking moves do need to be carefully planned. While a downshift to 3rd will do the trick, progress is slow above 80 kph. Also, the engine rpm limit is restricted to a conservative level. Several times, I was performing an overtaking manouveur in 3rd, and the revv limiter kicked in...even though the engine was still making healthy power. It wasn't running out of breath at all! Just like the speed limiter, the revvs are also limited to control the rate of wear & tear on the engine & drivetrain components.

I wish the Nano had a well spread-out 5 speed gearbox as Tata hasn’t properly chosen the ratios for the current 4-speed transmission. For starters, the gap between 2nd & 3rd is way too much. The 3rd gear is so tall that it can take you to the car’s top speed. Then, the 4th (overdrive) gear has such a high ratio that you will seldom use it within the city. A 5 speed gearbox could have resulted in a more effective spread of gear ratios, especially allowing for a shorter 1st gear and closer 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears. The 1st gear cuts out at a max speed of 40 kph while 2nd goes on to 70 kph. That’s higher than expected for a 624 cc car operating within a conservative rpm limit. Where the Nano completely fails, thanks to the poorly chosen 1st gear ratio, is in climbing steep inclines. Climbing up the Lonavala ghat with 2 adults and holiday luggage, the Nano did not struggle. There were times when I had to work the engine, but that's expected of such a small powerplant. However, and shockingly, on three occasions (twice on a Pawna hill and once on the Bungalow approach road), I had to ask my passengers to get off as the Nano just wouldn’t climb with 4 onboard. The only way to climb these two sections was to build a run-up and then use the resultant momentum to reach the top. If you stop in the middle of a steep incline, the Nano will stubbornly refuse to go further. I even got a little brutal with the clutch, slipping et al, but the Nano wouldn’t budge. The thought of driving a Nano in stop & go traffic on a steep ghat section scares the wits out of me. It is important to note that a 100cc motorcycle and a 796cc Alto had absolutely no trouble in tackling the steep inclines spoken of here. The Nano definitely needs a shorter 1st gear.

Fuel efficiency is respectable, yet not as spectacular as you would expect from a light car + small engine. Most owners from Mumbai & Bangalore report around 13 – 14 kpl (the same as with larger hatchbacks). However, there are a good number of owners who have consistently reported 17 – 18 kpl too. I presume they drive in lighter traffic conditions. For the record, I got an average of 13.76 kpl in a mix of city & highway driving.

I am satisfied with the gearshift quality of the 2012 Nano. The shifts are smooth enough, while the gates are also fairly well-defined. I didn’t mistakenly engage the wrong gear even once in the time spent with the car. In fact, I much prefer the Nano's gearbox to that of the Maruti 800 and Alto.

Despite Tata’s best efforts, the Nano still sounds like a Bajaj autorickshaw at idle. The sound is a real turn off and invited criticism from every single person in our group. There is noticeably shake at idle as well. The doors, for instance, vibrate like that of an old Jeep when open. That said, once you shut the doors and get moving, NVH is at satisfactory levels. The vibrations greatly smoothen out as the engine climbs up the revv range. Door & window insulation are also pretty decent, and few Nano owners will complain of any NVH issues while driving. On the other hand, there is noticeable transmission whine when decelerating in gear. I found wind noise to be fairly well controlled on the highway. Tyre noise, though, remains on the higher side.

The Tata Nano gets gas dampers and an independent suspension at each end of the car. An independent suspension layout was crucial to the space packaging of this car. Additionally, the wheels are literally placed at the four corners, being pushed out as far as they could be. This explains why the Nano has respectable road manners for the price it sells at. Ride quality has marginally improved over the original Nano. Tata has obviously softened the suspension a bit. At city speeds, the Nano is now easier to live with. It's not as stiff as before. Don’t get me wrong though; overall ride comfort is still basic and can get very bumpy over imperfect roads, especially for those on the back seat. The short wheelbase can throw you up and down on highway undulations too. Still, for its intended use as a city car, you will find the ride quality to be at acceptable levels over most road conditions.

The Nano has a rear engine, rear wheel drive layout. Such an arrangement usually results in easy oversteer, a condition that is difficult to handle for the average driver. Thus, Tata has intentionally kept the front tyres (135/70 R12) thinner than the rear tyres (155/65 R12). This ensures that the car is more likely to understeer than oversteer, with the front tyres giving up on grip first. For such a light car, the Nano has fairly decent road manners. As long as you maintain a sedate driving style, the overall behaviour is safe and predictable. It’s a breeze to drive, save for the unusually heavy steering at parking speeds. Below 80 kph, the Nano’s behaviour is as you would expect of a city car. However, at higher speeds, you need to keep a firm hand on the steering wheel. The car is easily affected by cross winds too. Also, if a faster car passes by you, you can feel the Nano losing a bit of its composure. You have to stay super alert at all times on the highway. Drive it with a conservative right foot and you should be alright. The good thing is, if you ever reach the limits, there are no nasty surprises, with the Nano behaving as intended. That is, the front tyres do give up before the ones at the rear do. Tata cars usually handle rough roads without breaking into a sweat, and the Nano is no different. The car cleared the non-existent Pawna roads with no fuss, including some awful stretches where most other hatchbacks & sedans scrape their underbelly. We missed spotting a rough patch at ~40 kph once. The car went up and down, and threw its occupants all over the place, yet the car didn't touch anywhere. The 180 mm of ground clearance & short wheelbase are contributors to this "India-friendly" suspension set up. The steering is very direct and feels great to use on the move. There’s also a decent amount of feedback provided to the driver. Being non-power assisted, the steering never gets too light for comfort.

The brake pedal feels wooden, and you literally have to stand on it to make the car stop from speed. I’m not happy with Tata giving the Nano drum brakes on all 4 tyres. Even the Maruti 800 gets discs at the front! While the brakes can handle everyday usage, they will not be able to cope up with an emergency braking condition. Also, I experienced some amount of brake fade after a 10 kms ghat section.

Last edited by GTO : 27th December 2011 at 11:04.
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

Other Points:

• The improvements to the 2012 car are very welcome. This is what the Tata Nano should have been from day one.

• Tiny fuel tank can hold a mere 15 liters of fuel. The Maruti 800's capacity is nearly double that at 28 liters.

• While accessing the engine bay is a long procedure, regular maintenance should be simpler. The washer & brake fluids are replenished from the (front) bonnet area.

• Tata has come out with a new scheme whereby you can own a Nano for a down payment of a mere 15,000 rupees.

• Don’t think of storing anything in the bonnet, not even a plastic bag. It will either fall out of the exposed side area, or get stuck in the condenser fan. Remember, the air-con condensor & fan are placed at the front.

• You gotta give it to Tata for offering frequent updates to existing owners of their cars. The owner of the yellow Nano (pictured above) has received a letter from Tata Motors offering him free updates. For the second time! You will also remember the free "V2" updates that first-gen Indicas received.

• Standard warranty is for 4 years / 60,000 kms. Service intervals are at 1000 kms, 5000, 10000 and thereafter, at every 10000 kms. The Nano was originally sold with an 18 month warranty; that duration was increased to boost customer confidence.

• There are about 80 exclusive Nano sales outlets in India, and about 700 Tata Motors outlets.

• One problem with Tata’s cars is that they age really fast! I’ve noticed this in my Indigo which at 40,000 kms feels like a 100,000+ kms Japanese.

• Combination switches have been a known weak point. A large % of Nanos have had them replaced under warranty.

• The Nano has 31 design & 37 technology patents under its belt.

• Central locking? Yes. Auto-locking doors? Nope.

• The driver seat rails are placed at an angle. Thus, if a shorter driver moves the seat forward, it also moves up giving the shorter driver a better view of the road ahead. Neat.

• The Nano gets a really meek horn. In the interests of safety, I highly recommend an upgrade.

• A Nano automatic = perfect city tool. Agreed? Now, add a diesel or electric engine to that equation.

• 2-speed wipers only. LX variant gets an additional intermittent wipe function.

• Full rotation is impossible because of the varying front & rear tyre sizes. You'll only be able to swap them from side to side.

• There is no provision made for installing front speakers. I know of several Nano owners who are sore about this.

• The LX variant is well worth the Rs. 25,000 premium over the CX. This money gets you (among other things) body coloured bumpers, front & rear foglamps, the roof spoiler, beige interiors, front power windows, central locking and that cool yellow body shade!

• The 10 colour options are variant specific. Base variant only gets a choice of 3 colours, while the CX & LX get 6 each.

• The stunning Tata Pixel - a mini car based on the Nano - can be seen here.

• The Nano got an unexpectedly low 2.03 lakh bookings at launch. The record holder in India is the Fiat Uno with ~3 lakh bookings.

• Thanks to Rehaan & Jalsa777 for their comments & help with the pictures.

• An unexpected, priceless moment. A dude came & gave us the keys to a friend's speed-boat at the Pawna lake. Guess the sticker his ride was wearing
Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review-sticker.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 27th December 2011 at 11:05.
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Old 20th December 2011, 15:36   #6
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

The Smaller & Significant things:

Cheap cars usually get weak headlamps. The Nano destroys that tradition with its powerful lights:

Even the owner's manual is Nano-sized:

Sole interior light is placed at the front. Would have been more useful in the center of the cabin. Look closely at the interior mirror and you'll see a day / night (anti-glare) switch!

Resting wiper blade will always obstruct the front passenger's view:

Nifty cubby hole below the handbrake:

Both the front seats are identical. Thus, even the passenger's seat back adjustment lever is on the right side:

Cool removable storage spot. Available on both front seats:

Floor hump is about 2" in height. This car is at best a 4 seater, hence we see it as a non-issue:

Get this, the A & B Pillars get beige trim!

Cute floor mats have Nanos all over them:

Thin front seats. Decent support for the urban commutes (not so for long drives):

Front quarter glass is incredibly useful (especially this one on the passenger side):

Wafer-thin sun visor gets a ticket holder:

The parcel shelf gets 4 of these rubber pieces, to stop it from rattling against the rear windscreen:

El-cheapo rear pocket (placed above the floor hump) is made out of cloth! It simply "hangs around" there!!

Remember my comment on the Nano being taller than you expected? Here's a picture to prove it:

Last edited by GTO : 20th December 2011 at 20:12.
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Old 20th December 2011, 15:47   #7
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

The other entry-level hatchbacks

Maruti 800

What you’ll like:
• Cheap to buy and to run
• Extremely fuel efficient
• High level of reliability
• Light & easy to drive
• Splendid Maruti service

What you won’t:
• Crude & basic in nature, inside out. Feels outdated
• Cramped interiors. Rear legroom is pitiful
• Safety concerns
• Horrible brakes
• No longer available in BSIV cities, except with an LPG kit

Maruti Alto

What you’ll like:
• Low price tag and cost of ownership
• Decent build quality
• Competent on-road behavior
• Consistently high fuel efficiency
• Superb after-sales service

What you won’t:
• Basic in nature, inside out. Feels outdated
• Cramped interiors. Pitiful legroom at the back
• Small boot
• Poor engine performance with air-con on

Chevrolet Spark

What you’ll like:
• Funky and youthful styling
• Good build quality
• Fuel-efficient engine
• Balanced ride and handling package
• Fun to drive nature

What you won’t:
• Inflated price tag
• Dull interiors
• Lack of rear bench space
• Inconsistent GM service

Hyundai Santro

What you’ll like:
• An all-round urban hatchback
• Torquey and fuel-efficient engine
• Tall-boy benefits such as easy ingress, extra head-room etc
• High quality interiors
• Excellent Hyundai service

What you won’t:
• Lackluster highway performance
• Bumpy ride quality
• Hard compound seats
• Hyundai service costs are usually higher than that of the competition

Picture source : Various Team-BHP Threads

Last edited by GTO : 27th December 2011 at 11:11.
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Old 20th December 2011, 16:27   #8
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

Great review, Thanks!
I wish the exhaust note was different. It is a big turn off!
It is a great city car, no doubt.

PS - The Palio has a similar rear power window switch placement!
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Old 20th December 2011, 16:29   #9
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

I like the new papaya color Should have posted that .

Big review for a small car!

And is this OE alloys ?
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Old 20th December 2011, 16:32   #10
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

As ever crisp & very detailed GTO Style review .

1. Any noticeable difference in the noise of engine at the back or is it the same as old Nano ?

2. Was there any panel gaps like other TATA products ?

3. Apart from glove box missing any other basic thing that you would have recommended as a must have.

Nano 2012 an "AAM Jantaas Car" Good attempt from TATA for improvising it from earlier version, hope they sort out the niggling issues as their top priority in coming period.

Last edited by driving_smartly : 20th December 2011 at 16:33.
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Old 20th December 2011, 16:34   #11
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

Simply amazing, GTO. A very in-depth and informative review. And I love the pic where the brand name of the ciggy pack is hidden by the handbrake. Intentional?

I work in the bad bad world of advertising. But I believe that they've made a huge mistake by advertising this car.

They shouldn't have at all. The entire world talked/talks about it. It would have helped them to reduce the cost by a good 15-20K per car. Simple posters across all banks would have done the trick. And for the digital folks like us, all we need is videos on youtube and other online info (reviews like this work fine ).

If somehow they can cut down 15-20K on this beauty, it'll sell, a lot.

Last edited by creative420 : 20th December 2011 at 16:37. Reason: correction
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Old 20th December 2011, 16:44   #12
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

Excellent review! The interior space is surprising, I was struggling in and out of an 800 the last weekend, but this doesn't seem to be so problematic.
Till a diesel car comes out, the sales dud nature won't change for the nano. I would think nano would be of interest to taxi fleet owners also once the diesel version is available.

I can vouch for the powerful headlamps! Yesterday I was on the verge of swearing at some really bright headlights on a car inside a residential area at 7PM in the evening (was imagining it would be some SUV because of the height), but was pleasantly surprised that it was a nano. First thought it maybe aftermarket, but your review clarified that doubt.
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Old 20th December 2011, 16:53   #13
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

I wanted to buy this when it came out as a local runabout.
But more and more, this car is more than capable of making sense as the first family car for a lot of people.

An you know what?
i have never met even one person till date who has not smiled when he sees one of these passing, self included.

PS:those headlamps?they work.boy how they work.
I was pottering around, and saw this insane flasher in my rearview, just moved out of the way pronto, expecting a truck or something, and turned out to be david.
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Old 20th December 2011, 16:54   #14
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

Awesome Review, as always!

I own a 2011 Nano, and am in love with the car. its a breeze to drive in the city, the OEM headlights are better than my Vento OEM headlights! Chilly AC, have to keep switching it off during my drive to work, and the icing on the cake is: I am getting a mileage of 19-10 kmpl!!
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Old 20th December 2011, 16:57   #15
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Default Re: Tata Nano : Test Drive & Review

Originally Posted by jkdas View Post
I like the new papaya color Should have posted that .

Big review for a small car!

And is this OE alloys ?
+1 to this. The papaya orange color looks brilliant on the nano. Kudos to tata for this. Overall the 2012 nano is vastly improved over the previous. Thanks GTO and mods for the wonderful review.
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