Even after the launch in 2008, the Nano has been a work in progress for Tata Motors. Where it could have been tagged as a convenient city car, the Nano became rather infamous as the ‘cheapest car’ that few wanted to associate with. Six years and many iterations later, it seems that Tata has finally got the formula right. The Nano GenX with the automatic transmission, on paper, looks like a perfect package offering brilliant driving dynamics, convenience and also a respectable features list.
We drove the new car in and around Pune city to find out if the GenX Nano is all you need as an everyday city commuter.
Exterior & Interior
Generally, only those cars that have significant amount of changes both in terms of looks and mechanicals are considered a ‘generation change’. Now technically that is not the case with the Nano, yet all the small changes do make a significant difference in the overall feel of the car and so this Nano does deserve the GenX tag.
While there are hardly any changes in the overall shape of the car, it now feels more premium than the outgoing model. At the front it gets a new bigger smiling grille, updated headlamps and black design elements on the bonnet. The piano black has been used liberally across the front to create a nice contrast with the body colour and it gives the car premium upmarket feel, especially in this new Sangria Red shade.
The side profile is identical and the changes to the rear are also minimal. The curved mesh grille design is also part of the rear bumper, but here unfortunately its looks cluttered and tacky. The biggest distinction however is that the new Nano is a hatchback in the true sense, it now gets an openable boot. The space here isn’t drastically more than what had to be accessed through the cabin, but it makes the Nano more conventional and the boot space more useable.
The Nano, in terms of design, was always a good looking car, however one could make out that it was made to a strict budget. That is not the case with the GenX, it looks and feels nice and that is not just from the outside but also inside.
The door opens and closes with a resounding thud, it gives sort of an assurance of the built quality. The beige theme makes the interior look big, though the reflection on the dashboard can be a bit annoying in the afternoon. The door trims have soft touch material, which is missing even from few B-segment hatchbacks and are of the same shade as that of the exterior. The features list includes a music system with USB, Aux-in and Bluetooth telephony, and an instrument cluster that provides all sorts of information including DTE, average and instantaneous fuel consumption. The interior of the new Nano is definitely better than the rest of the entry-level hatchbacks in terms of quality, in fact, certain parts like the gear lever have been directly picked from the Zest sedan. However, Tata should provide a couple of bottle holders and cubby holes to keep mobile phones and other knick-knacks.
The GenX Nano gets a five-speed AMT transmission, which Tata likes to call Easy Shift. Like its elder sibling, this one is also sourced from Magneti Marelli and is deemed to be the biggest USP for the hatchback.
Frankly, I never had very high hopes from the AMT Nano – the engine is tiny with just about enough power to keep it viable. The addition of the auto transmission means more transmission losses and more importantly gearshift-lag in an already slow car. But drive it in its natural habitat (city roads) and the GenX impresses with the convenience it offers.
Slot the car in drive mode get off the brake and the ‘creep’ function takes over. Basically the engine gets enough fuel to keep moving at crawling speed; letting you negotiate the bumper-to-bumper traffic effortlessly. This is a standard function in the conventional automatics, but here in an entry-level AMT, it is kind of a big deal. It works well on the flat roads, but not so well on the gradients; there is hardly any torque and the car starts moving backwards without throttle input.
At city speeds drivability is good. Torque delivery is smooth and there are no jerky moments, the gearshifts do take time but not in a way that would be a cause of bother. One can feel the gearshifts though; it is like someone is manually disengaging the clutch and shifting the gear on your behalf. Adding to the comforts of having an automatic are the inherent dynamics of the Nano – it is extremely small, has a tall-boy driving position, gets a super-light power steering and offers turning radius of just four metres. All these together make the Nano the best city car by miles and the short trip around Pune city through few of the most clogged roads turned out to be a breeze.
On the flipside, if you are in a hurry the Nano is not much of a help. Floor the throttle and it takes too much time to select the right gear and then there isn’t much power, so the opportunity of quick overtake is already lost by the time the car starts surging forward. It does have a Sports Mode that makes things marginally better, but planning your every move is critically important. The transmission also offers the opportunity of manually changing the gears, however I would advise not fiddling with the same.
The GenX Nano AMT uses the same 624cc engine to deliver 37bhp and 51Nm of torque. The AMT has five-speed ratios as compared to the four-speed manual, so all the transmission losses are negated by the extra ratio. It has ARAI rated efficiency of 21.9kpl and with the new bigger 24 litre fuel tank, it should have a respectable range of over 350km in real world conditions. Other mechanical changes include moving the engine radiator to the front and a new exhaust system for better thermal management.
Tata seems to have worked on the suspension and the ride quality has improved compared to the previous car. The suspension feels firm and does manage to flatten all the potholes and speed humps, also the lateral movement has reduced and passengers on the rear seats will feel more comfortable. The car rides on the 12-inch JK Tyres, wherein the profile of the front tyres 135/-70 is marginally lesser than the 155/-65 profile at the rear.
I won’t comment much on the handling. The tyres provide sufficient grip though Tata needs to upgrade the brakes. It does require some effort to bring the car to a standstill especially with full load.
From an ultra-low-budget car to a practical everyday city car, the Nano has come a long way in terms of built quality, refinement and features. It is like the graduation day for the Nano project, the GenX is now a complete package addressing every aspect of urban use.
The Nano still lacks basic safety features like ABS (even as option) and that means I am not going to recommend one for any sort of highway use. But if the need if of an everyday urban commuter, the Nano will certainly top my recommendations list.