2015 Tata Nano GenX review

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Cabin comfort The GenX Nano finally gets a boost in the quality of materialsused in the cabin

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The Tata Nano finally gets a hatch door and an automated transmission. Now, it is a true city car, not a compromise



History is replete with people’s cars that have changed the courses of nations with their promise of mass motorisation. Unfortunately, the Tata Nano’s proposition, it seems, was too simplistic and mistimed.

The Nano became a global automotive case study and delivered new insight, due to two fundamental errors in judgement. The first insight was that noble intentions and ultra-low-cost pricing don’t translate into mass adoption by the class of buyers who would otherwise have been reluctant two-wheeler owners. Second, even for this type of buyer, who was assumed to be less demanding, the entry-level car has to present itself to be aspirational, and not a compromise in quality or features.

Despite all the hype surrounding its launch, the Tata Nano’s image suffered because of the company’s obsession with meeting the price target. Somewhere along that process of creating the world’s cheapest car, Tata Motors forgot about the profile of their customer. It is always easier said in hindsight, but two features that buyers even in the ultra-low-cost segment will definitely want are an openable hatch door and interior fit and finish that is a reflection of the car being an upgrade in the quality of their lives. Practicality, quality and safety are at the very top of the list of perceived attributes of a car.

The Nano should have had a conventional tailgate with easy access to the luggage space, and, given the fact that it was targeted at upgraders from a two-wheeler and first-time car buyers, it should have had an automated transmission. In the past, we have been stuck with this assumption that automatics push prices up and make the car an unattractive proposition. But, the AMT (automated manual transmission) has changed that formula.

Next-Gen add-ons

Finally, both these features make it to the Nano and Tata Motors has taken the opportunity to upgrade the cabin and other features of the car. The original, which was built to a price, meant it was quite difficult for the engineers to rework the body to accommodate some of the changes. This explains why it took such a long time for what might otherwise seem like an easy addition in the case of the openable hatch door.

Engineers have had to reinforce the entire body structure with special additions to the C-pillar, which needs to now handle the pivots for the hatch doors. Additional structural changes include improvement to the crumple zone at the front, an anti-roll bar and side intrusion beams for the four doors.

The new Nano, christened the GenX, gets a fresh palette of metallic body colours. The paint job sits well on the model and manages to boost the car’s appeal. The design was always cute and oddly futuristic. But, minor tweaks to the design in the new model include the addition of, what Tata engineers call the Humanity line, the new curved airdam in the front fender and round fog lamps on either side.

Better cabin

The headlamps feel a bit sportier with the smoked finish. There is now a hood garnish and a ‘infinity’ themed grille that hides the radiator, which has been moved to the front. Step back and you can now see a fixed handle slot to lift up the hatch door. You still need to use the key to open the hatch though, and in there you’ll find 94 litres of storage space in the AMT (110 litres in the manual). The AMT’s actuators sit on top of the engine below and that takes up a bit of space. The boot is only big enough to accommodate an in-cabin suitcase and a couple of bags.

The dashboard layout continues to be the same basic structure as before. But the quality of plastics used has improved. The new gen Tata signature and the three-spoke steering wheel with contoured palm hold, which really gives the driver better grip, are new additions. Features such as the dual-tone beige and black theme, fabric door inserts and the ‘infinity’ theme integrated into the seat fabric. The seats also get fatter squabs and the rear bench is shaped for more comfort. Depending on the trim level, you also get a new Amphistream music system with Bluetooth connectivity and four speakers.

Automated performance

The GenX Nano’s second big change is the automated manual transmission. What Tata engineers have done is to add a hydraulic actuator sourced from Magneti Marelli for doing the job of shifting gears. So, it essentially performs the job of an automated tranny very much like the ones already in the market in other cars. Other than this addition, the powertrain remains the same. The 624 cc engine producing about 38PS of peak power and 51Nm of torque has been carried forward. The weight has increased marginally due to the added structural safety features. But the engine performance doesn’t seem to have been affected very much. The AMT’s performance is expectedly low-tech, with the prominent shift shock and lazy shifting speeds typically associated with this type of transmission. Point really is, there is no clutch and Tata engineers have also added a sports mode and a manual up/down shift mode.

Bottomline

The new Nano’s ride quality is fairly sorted for a car in its segment. The seating position is a bit over raised and so the axis of movement is pronounced when driving over bad roads, but the body itself feels stiffer. The airconditioner cools well and the cabin’s material quality boost is also reflected by the new stalks and controls. A new instrument cluster also catches the eye, which accommodates new graphics and info such as gear shift indicator. The throttle is now a drive-by-wire unit and the car now has the whole complement of electronics to aid the AMT. Of course, the electronic power steering from the Nano Twist is there too. There will be at least three variants each for both transmission types, and expect AMT prices to be sub-₹3 lakh.

On the whole, the new Nano is now much more of a city car. A runabout that anyone can buy for its sheer practicality and its even more youthful looks.

Published on April 30, 2015
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