Tata Motors hasn’t given up on the Nano just as yet. In fact far from it. The carmaker wants to move the Nano up a notch by offering useful features like power steering and has also improved the cars interiors to bring it back on the car buyer’s list. The addition of the power steering is also the single biggest upgrade on the car since it was launched way back in 2009. All in all, great news for budget hatchback buyers, then.
Tata hasn’t changed much on the outside of the car. So you get the same compact dimensions with the Nano sitting within 3.1-metres of length and a compact 2.2metre-wheelbase. Original styling elements like the air inlets behind the rear doors and vertical tail lamps remain as before, as does the cute face with those stylish lamps. However, the fog lamp brackets are new and there is now a chrome strip on the bonnet. The rear bumper has been slightly restyled as well and it too gets a chrome strip running through it. Tata has decided to retain the 12-inch wheels though, which really look too small even on a compact car like this. The rear hatch still doesn’t open from the outside and we wish Tata had used this upgrade to finally fix this issue.
You now get new cabin upholstery in beige. Though it looks nice and makes the cabin feel even bigger than it is, it also tends to get dirty quickly. Cabin quality seems to have been improved as well. You get twin gloveboxes, a stereo with Bluetooth and USB connectivity as well and air-con as standard equipment. The instrument gauges are supplemented by a trip computer showing distance-to-empty, actual fuel efficiency and a trip meter now. The speedometer needle stands to a full salute when you switch on the ignition adding to the sense of drama. Tata has also repositioned the power window switches for better ergonomics and has improved on the seat cushioning. The rear seats have good amounts of leg-head-and shoulder room and the flat floor means seating three at the rear isn’t an issue.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
The engine remains largely unchanged but Tata have worked hard to improve on its smoothness as well as the gearbox quality. The 600cc petrol unit now feels more refined at idle than the last version of the car and the gearshifts, though, still not brilliant, feel less cumbersome to operate than before. The long throws can be irritating though. It’s best not to hustle through the gears as the Nano prefers sedate driving. This car was never meant for quick acceleration bursts and the engine does feel strained when you rev hard. It’s best to keep it in the mid-range where there is plenty of punch on offer. The light clutch means that you don’t mind constant gearshifts. In the city you will never really need more power with this car.
Ride and Handling
The big talking point is of course the new power steering. Tata has given the Nano Twist a segment-first ‘active return’ feature. In this feature, the steering wheel returns to the centre after the driver has turned it around. While the steering is light it isn’t overtly so offering you a good sense of communication. The steering feels better connected to the road and offers better feedback from the front tyres compared to the non-assisted Nano. Parking the Nano into that tight parking slot will not be an issue any longer.
The Nano also feels very stable when you are doing speeds in excess of 80kpmh as well. However, the brake quality could have been better. Ride comfort has been improved as well and is very good considering its small footprint, however, it does tend to bounce around a bit on less than smooth surfaces. There is a decent amount of body roll around corners as well.
Summary: The improved cabin, addition of power steering and better refinement make the Nano a more rounded city car and a more convincing buy than ever before. Sure, rivals might offer better interior quality but none can match the Nano’s sheer roominess.
Maruti’s small car comes with a more powerful engine, which means that you can take it out for that occasional highway trip. Maruti’s reliability record and peace of mind service network are added advantages as well. However, it simply can’t match the Nano’s roomy cabin and overall comfort.
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