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Tata Nano AMT – The Automatic choice?

Snapshot: The Nano automatic promises to be the most affordable automatic car in the world. But is that enough for you to consider it as a city car?

The Nano has for long been the poster boy for affordable and inexpensive motoring across the world. However, Tata Motors now also wants to make it the poster boy for hassle-free driving. How are they planning that? By offer an affordable version Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) on the car. It sure sounds like a recipe for success in the completive small car market and one that Tata Motors is hoping will reap it strong dividends.

Exterior
The silhouette of the Nano remains largely unchanged from before but you do get a few changes to make the design fresh and appealing. The Nano now gets a new bumper up front, which gets a smiley plastic grille in it. The bumper also has new circular fog lamps. This along with a black strip on the bonnet gives the car a welcoming smile. The rear also gets new bumpers as well as a plastic grille which looks like a smiley from a distance. The car looks particularly nice in this shade of red we have pictured here. The biggest change on the car now is the openable rear hatch for loading in the luggage. Though its only 110 litres in terms of capacity (and 94 litres on the AMT), it makes the car a lot more practical than before.

Interior
Tata Motors has made it a habit to push up the quality levels of a car with each update and we are happy to inform that the Nano is no different. Plastic and build quality of the cabin is now up there with its peers in the small car category. The new seat fabric looks youthful as well. The beige and black combo of the dashboard remains unchanged from before. A new addition is the arrival of a brand new steering wheel that has been borrowed from the Tata Bolt. It looks good and feels nice to hold as well.

Updates to the Nano include a new and neatly designed on-board trip calculator, which houses useful information like distance to empty and two trip meters. The interiors of the car remain as roomy as ever and there is generous amounts of head-and shoulder room all across the cabin.  The big glass area give it a sense of airiness few other small cars can match.

Engine, performance and gearbox
The Nano retains its 600cc petrol unit which develops around 38bhp of power and 51Nm of torque. Though this engine is the smallest on sale in any car in India, it feels adequate for most city driving purposes. Another plus point of this pint-sized motor is that the Nano is high on efficiency. Tata Motors claims a figure of 21.9kpl under standard test conditions for the auto.

If you are someone who loves brisk acceleration then performance is understandably underwhelming. The gearbox takes its own sweet time to upshift of downshift when in automatic mode. It’s also a jerky gearbox if you push the accelerator all the way to the floor. The best way to drive this car is feather the throttle for smooth upshifts when in automatic mode. You can also choose the manual mode, but even in that the gear shifts take a full second or two to upshift/downshift. There is a ‘S’ mode as well, but unlike the Tata Bolt and Tata Zest, where there is a visible increase in performance, in the Nano its negligible.

The best way to drive this car is simply slot it in auto and gently use the throttle for a hassle free experience. Noise levels from the engine are well under control making the cabin a largely quiet place to be in. It’s only at higher revs that the cabin feels buzzy.

Ride and handling
The ride on the Nano is surprisingly very good, considering its small tyres as well as compact wheelbase. The soft set-up means that most small crevices are taken care of, it’s only the larger potholes that make their impact in the cabin. High speed stability is good too and even at speeds of around 90-100kph the Nano feels well planted. The overtly light steering means that punting the car around city traffic is a breeze.



Equipment
The top-end version comes with air conditioning, a stereo which also gets Bluetooth for your mobile phone along with power steering. The rear hatch though has to be opened with a key from outside only and there is no latch inside the cabin to open it. A gross oversight which Tata should address sooner than later.

Summary
With its new automatic gearbox, the Nano tries hard to woo the city dwellers. Consider one if you are on a tight budget but want something roomy that offers hassle free driving and won’t be a chore to park in tight spaces. 

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