Bought the Tata Nano CX in October, 2011 amidst a lot of negative speculations, mostly made by ladies/gentlemen who have never come in sniffing distance of driving the car. Mine is a sky blue Nano CX, a version lower than the topmost LX. It cost me Rs. 2,05,000 on road, South Mumbai. Honestly, it makes more sense to go for the CX because the extra bit that the LX offers is not something out-of-the-world. Front power windows and fog lamps aren’t a strict necessity for the Nano buyer, the air-conditioning is helpful though. The Nano CX comes equipped with factory fitted air-conditioning which is honestly effective to maintain the cabin cool. A brief description of my experience with the car and its features is as below.
Engine and Performance
The Nano is not a scorcher when talking of performance, but the 35 PS of power and 48 Nm of torque from the twin cylinder engine is enough to keep one abreast with the rest of the traffic in the city. I haven’t really felt any dearth of power even on an open road like the Bandra-Worli Sea Link or the Palm Beach Road, the Nano was comfortably cruising at a speedo indicated 90 kmph. This isn’t exactly the car to be used in a traffic light Grand Prix, but the car packs good low end torque for a short dash when the signal turns green.
I have personally reached the company specified top speed of 105 kmph with ease, with decent amount of juice remaining to do another 20 kmph incremental. But Tata Motors have integrated a fuel cut-off at a speedo indicated 110 kmph beyond which, the journey is perceived unsafe by the Company showroom officials. I personally feel the Nano is capable of registering a top whack of approx 130 kmph provided the engine is allowed to rev free in the absence of any limiter/cut-offs. I am definitely happy with the car’s performance but I would love to see Tata offer a little more top end performance on an optional basis for those who don’t mind crossing the line.
The car is equipped with a 4 speed gearbox which is a bit notchy, easier to use over a period of time. The gears can be a bit sticky and hence painful in bumper to bumper traffic conditions. The first gear and the reverse gear have a tendency to NOT engage at times, best to use the half-clutch method during such adversities. The gears have sufficiently long throws with the 3rd gear being the longest and most exciting can propel the car to 90 kmph before the fourth gear is kicked in. I wouldn’t rate the gearbox as slick as that of a Maruti 800 or Alto, but it does its job reasonably well and that’s what a Nano customer would be looking forward to. The 48 Nm torque does a good job here and it’s possible to drive the Nano at anything over 30 kmph on third gear and over 50 kmph in forth gear.
The Nano CX comes with a basic instrument cluster at the centre which houses the analog Speedometer, digital Odometer and fuel guage. There are other tell-tale lights which include warnings for
- Hand Brake
- Engine Oil
- Engine Temperature
- ECU Malfunction
A trip meter is provided in the LX version though I feel Tata could have included the same in the CX too. The car does a self check when the battery is switched on. An important point to mention here is post the self check, there will be a faint “click” sound indicating the self check process is done and the car can now be started. All in all, the instrument cluster is relatively basic and useful even with the absence of a tachometer.
Interiors and Comfort
The Nano CX has strictly okay interiors. The seats are of average quality and the comfort levels are not upto the mark. On long drives, the hard cushioning of the seat is a hindrance. Tata Motors provided me free seat covers but even those are not of good quality. Agreed one cannot expect too much from a new car priced at Rs. 2 lakh but atleast better cushioning on the seats is not too much to ask for. The fit and finish levels of the car’s interiors is good, thumbs up to Tata for the same. Recently, Tata have upgraded the interiors in the Nano 2012 without charging any premium for the same, that’s great news for the potential Nano owners.
Legroom is sufficient for 4 passengers, including the driver. The steering is placed at an apt height from the floor of the car, so it’s honestly not an issue whether the driver is 6 feet tall or 5 feet short. The engine being located at the rear ensures generous amount of leg space. The Nano also has a small boot space behind the rear seat which can house a suitcase/skybag comfortably. The boot space has been designed to carry luggage of 2 adults.
Suspension and Handling
This is the most disappointing bit about the car. The Nano is equipped with McPherson Struts up front and hydraulic shock absorbers at the rear. In my 5000 kms with my Nano CX, I found the suspension to be an absolute disappointment. The front as well as the rear suspension feels rough and ready to bottom out with a thud on most road aberrations. Also with the car loaded with 4 people, the suspension proves mighty useless adding to the discomfort caused by the insufficiently padded seats. Repeated complaints to the service centre has proved futile, finally I have learnt to live with it. While driving in the city, the roughness of the suspension is guaranteed to be felt on every pothole.
The Tata Nano’s handling is very impressive. I might go as far as to say that the Nano handles as good as a motorcycle. The steering feel is heavy when maneuvering the car from standstill but once in motion, it feels a lot lighter and the Nano is ready to be zipped through congested roads with utmost ease. The short wheelbase of the car is also a blessing when parking in tight spots. Cornering ability of the Nano is better than most hatchbacks seen around town. Also it has NEVER been the case that while taking a sharp corner at a decent speed; I have even once felt that the car could topple.
The air-conditioning system of my Nano CX is very effective in keeping the cabin temperature cool during the course of city driving. However, the same cannot be said with regards to long drives on the highway during daytime. The air filter present in the air intake manifold is prone to choking not only on dusty roads, but also on prolonged usage of the AC on highways. I have made 4 visits to the service centre in order to address the same problem after every long drive.
The condenser is located in the front just below the bonnet grille. Adequate care has to be taken of the condenser as it its performance (heat exchange) is easily affected by accumulation of dust on the pipes. Recently I had my condenser cleaned at the Tata Service Centre in Worli, Mumbai. The problem of dust accumulation can be sorted by gently splashing water on the condenser once in a week. This will also facilitate carrying over of the dust particles to the air intake.
Myth V/S Reality
- Myth – Tata Nano can barely touch 80 kmph
Reality - I have heard the above mentioned comment made by a lot of people in a very confident tone. Truth is that I touch 100 kmph everyday and with utmost ease on the Bandra-Worli Sealink. I have also maintained 100 kmph+ without much difficulty on the Mumbai-Pune expressway almost for the entire stretch. The car didn’t display any signs of fatigue or any symptoms of collapse.
- Myth – Ohhh…..I am 6 feet tall, I will never fit in the Nano. It’s only meant for short people.
Reality – I am 6 feet tall myself and find it very comfortable to sit in the Nano. Tata has gifted the Nano with a “tall-boy” design which provides ample headroom for tall drivers and passengers. The engine being located in the rear of the car ensures sufficient legroom for 4 people. However if all 4 passengers are 6 feet tall there will be a bit of space crunch in the rear seats.
- Myth – Tata Nano is a dignified Autorickshaw
Reality – Firstly the word “dignified” has nothing to do with an “autorickshaw”. I personally know corporate dignitaries who choose to travel by train and autorickshaw in crowded cities like Mumbai in a bid to save time. Secondly an autorickshaw (atleast to the best of my knowledge) isn’t as silent as the Nano, nor does it perform like the Nano. The added comfort of air-conditioning on the CX and LX versions of the Nano is a far cry from the dust and smoke one is exposed to while travelling in an autorickshaw.
Tata Service Centre – Personal experience
While we all have been taught “Action speaks louder than Words”, the fraternity at the Tata motors Service Centres believe in just the opposite. I have visited the Tata service centre at Worli in Mumbai on four occasions till date of which, one was for my first service and the other three for breakdown maintenance during the course of which my Starter Motor was also upgraded by Tata Motors. The service centre executive was warm and had a smile on his face at all times (mandatory I guess), he takes every given opportunity to offer tea/coffee and a seat in the waiting area. But what he lacks is fundamental knowledge of the vehicle and obviously its technical aspects. The service centre executive was receptive to me at all times on every visit but he seriously lacks in proper execution of the complaint. For example, my car’s wheel alignment isn’t in great shape and despite repeated requests; the service centre was and is unable to correct the same.
It is to be noted that the above discussion is purely based on my personal experience with the Tata Nano CX. My review isn’t biased at all, nor am I a fan boy of any Indian car manufacturer and that includes Tata Motors.