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Seldom do we see cars that rewrite the history books even before they are seen running around on the roads. And hardly ever do we see cars that vow to put the nation on four wheels. The Tata Nano is one such car – a car that has been in the news for quite a few years, for reasons good and evil. Nano is a car which has breathed into life due to one man. Give credit to Mr. Ratan Tata for his determination to build a low cost family car that has come true, finally! Took long it did, but the Nano came in a beautiful form. Touted as world’s cheapest car by a far cry, Nano has been the talk of the town around the globe. Head honchos of big organizations have been pouring in by numbers to have a look at this engineering masterpiece. We bring you some interesting bits.

Numbers first.
Length – 3100mm
Width – 1500mm
Height – 1600mm
Wheelbase – 2230mm.
Ground Clearance – 180mmYou will be wondering why I am talking about the dimensions of the Nano, since all of you know that it is a rather compact and tiny machine. It is because I have good reason to talk about the dimensions. You see, the Nano is going to be faced with Maruti 800 as its main rival. But you could throw in the Alto and Zen Estilo to mark out some design and packaging aspects. Just to get things in perspective, Nano is over 230mm shorter than 800 in overall length but the wheelbase advantage of 155mm over the offering from Maruti makes sure that the Nano is more accommodating than the 800. Tata has managed to squeeze out a 60mm advantage in width and Maruti 800 falls short of about 100mm in height. So in essence, you get more legroom, better shoulder room and room more than enough for a turban, if you wear one! But before you enter inside, you are bound to gape in admiration at the beautifully crafted curves of this micro car. I personally feel that the front has a lot of Zen Estilo written on it, but manages to look really funky and cool.

The mono-volume design establishes a sea of change from the two-box layout of the 800. What it ensures the Nano with is extremely short overhangs and tight packaging. For a car of this size and image, the Nano is an extremely sexy looking car with futuristic design cues. The bonnet line is steep and unites together with the bumper in a seamless way. Though there is no ‘grille’ per se, the front has a smiling look which accentuates the ‘happy’ feeling. The fog lamps are incorporated in the bumper which has a distinct air dam running across in between them. In profile, the Nano resembles Mitsubishi’s latest small car ‘i’. The rear of the Nano is somewhat recognizable. The tail lamps are inspired from elder sister, Indica. So this is a very compact hatchback, yes? No my friend, you are massively wrong. Even I was dumbfounded when I discovered that the Nano cannot be called a hatchback – a word so true to the way the small cars are. The reason for this is because it does not have a hatch! The tail gate cannot be opened owing to it being joined together with the boot sill. This makes accessing the engine a pain in the bottom. But a hatchback it will be called still. The back side of the Nano is made attractive by the mid mounted exhaust pipe which peeps out of the aggressively designed bumper.

As attractive as the Nano is on the outside, the same cannot be said for the interior. The plastics feel cheap and it is here that you begin to feel the concern towards the price that Tata was aiming at. The rudimentary knobs and switches point towards the use of materials which would be better off in tractors twenty years old! Dreary and uninspiring by any measure, that’s what one can say about the interior quality and looks. What impressed me though was the layout. Spacious and functional, the dashboard has a curved look which can prove beneficial when it comes to storing items. The Chevy Spark started it for the small cars and the Nano continues on what seems to be the current trend. The instrument binnacle is mid-mounted and the centre console has a swooping form which houses all the important knobs and air con vents. Speakers for the audio system have been incorporated on the rear bench just under the seat area.

The speedo is calibrated to a top whack of 120kmph though we shall reserve our statements on that till we test the car thoroughly. Cash saving activity has gone a bit too far with the sun visor, there’s only one! Please Tata, please, have mercy on the people who will sit on the passenger seat, only to find no sun visor to protect their skin from sun or no vanity mirror for women (men too, going by the current fashion!) to put the make-up on. The centre console, forming a crest in the middle of the dash, can be worrisome if you happen to be as tall as Rajpal Yadav. The seats have integrated head restraints, like in the hugely popular, Hyundai i10. Yes the Nano will be deprived of a lot of creature comforts but to satisfy your salivating mouth, Tata will offer the top end version with air con, power windows and power steering. This car is destined to be exported too, so provision for ABS and airbags will also be there for sure. The floor mounted four-speed gearbox wasn’t smooth as silk but would give the 800 something to take inspiration from. Roominess is what this compact car from Tata is all about. Four average sized Indians will find themselves enjoying their ride.

Everyone, and it does not discount the motoring journos, expected the ‘One Lakh Car’ to have a plastic body. But boy did Tata play it big there! Contrary to everyone’s belief, the Nano is a metal-bodied car with four full-blown doors to ease the ingress and egress. This is a uni-body construction but makes use of a sub-frame which adds to the strength in addition to providing support for drivetrain and suspension units. The suspension has a story of its own altogether! Well, Tata engineers said that since the rear-biased weight distribution led to some scary moments while testing the car, they had to optimize the suspension setup and add a fair amount of other eccentric but equally helpful technical add-ons like fatter rear tyre while the battery box and fuel tank are placed right underneath the arse of front occupants.
The engine is what has been the buzz word around the car. It is an all-aluminum two cylinder engine displacing 624cc with two valves per cylinder driven by a single overhead camshaft. The bore and stroke are nearly similar giving it a ‘square’ form. Making the Nano move will be the power of 33 horses which will peak out at 5500rpm while 48Nm of turning force will be supplied at a meager 2500rpm which should help the drivability of the car. The Nano will transmit its small amount of power via a 4-speed cable operated gearbox with the fourth being an overdriven ratio. Tata is working on developing an automatic gearbox as well but that will not be available when the car gets launched later this year. In addition to the 624cc petrol engine, the Indian auto giant might also bring out a common-rail diesel engine (700cc) which might be of the same architecture as the one seen on Tata Ace.
As it was famous, Tata’s One Lakh Car will not exactly be that. Not a one lakh rupee car it will be. The base version, when it will come to a parking halt will see you shed close to 1.2lakh while the one which will sit in between with some necessary creature comforts will be priced in the vicinity of 1.5lakh. The top end might retail for close to 2.0lakh, we speculate.

Quick Specs:

Price: 1.2lakh onwards
Engine: 624cc, in-line, twin-cylinder
Power: 34PS@5500rpm
Torque: 48Nm@2500rpm
Gearbox: 4-speed manual; Cable operated
Top Speed: 95-100kmph (Speculated)
Fuel Efficiency: 20kmpl (claimed)
Length: 3100mm
Width: 1500mm
Height: 1600mm
Wheelbase: 2230mm
Ground Clearance: 180mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 15lt.
Kerb Weight: ~ 600kg.

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