Monday, August 4, 2008

Tata Nano, the people’s family car

Tata Nano cars, the basic and luxury versions unveiled at the Geneva Motor ShowRatan Tata’s brainchild, the people’s family car, Nano, has captured the imagination of innovators and critics alike, as it is a car with futuristic design cues. The “Rs 1 lakh wonder” from Tata Motors will help the man on the street to move from 2-wheelers to 4-wheelers (Rs 1 lakh = US$ 2360, taking Rs/$ at 42.35, the rate on August 2, 2008.) At Tata Motors’ Singur plant technicians are honing their skills in putting together this “623 cc Rs 1700 crore concept” (Rs 1700 crore = US$ 400 million approximately). On July 29, 2008, the engineers at Singur assembled the first Tata Nano and celebrated in a ceremony, complete with garlands and brass lamps.

“We are happy to present the people’s car to India and we hope it brings the joy, pride and utility of owning a car to families who need personal mobility”, said Ratan Tata on January 10, 2008 while showcasing the Nano. The Tata Nano is one such car that promises to put the entire nation on 4-wheels. With its beautiful looks, the world’s cheapest car, Nano has been the talk of the town around the globe.

As automobiles experts see, the Nano may compete with Maruti 800 as its main rival, and Alto and Zen Estilo may mark out some design and packaging aspects. To compare, Nano is about 230 mm shorter than Maruti 800, the wheelbase has advantage of 155 mm over Maruti Suzuki 800, 60 mm advantage in width and about 100 mm in height over Maruti. So you get more legroom, better shoulder room and more space over your head!

Nano’s mono-volume design is a better change over the two-box layout of the Maruti 800. The bonnet line is steep and joins with the bumper seamlessly. The fog lamps are in the bumper. Profile-wise, the Nano resembles Mitsubishi’s latest small car ‘i’. The tail lamps seem to be a redesign of Tata Indica’s tail lamps. The back side of the Nano looks attractive with the exhaust pipe peeping out of middle of the bumper.

Though the outer look is quite attractive, the interior does not seem so. The plastics look cheap. The knobs and switches have materials of older generation cars! But the layout of the interiors is spacious and functional. The curved dashboard is useful for storage, which seems to be the current trend. The instrument binnacle is in the middle. The centre console houses all the important knobs and air conditioner vents. Speakers for the audio system are on the rear bench just under the seat area.

The speedometer is designed for 120 km/h. There’s only one sun visor. And sadly for women, there is no vanity mirror to plaster on some make-up (for men too if the current men’s fashion is an indicator!). The seats have integrated head restraints, like in the Hyundai i10. Tata Motors will offer the top end version of Nano with air conditioners, power windows and power steering. Nano is to be exported too, and provision for ABS and airbags will also be there for sure. The gearbox is a floor mounted four-speed version. For its size, Nano is quite roomy, enough for four average sized Indians. (Not so spacious for citizens of New Delhi, as more than half the population is obese, the current crop of children/teens even more obese, and those who settled in Delhi and opted for the famous (or infamous) “Delhi belly” after gulping down buckets of the mouthwatering Delhi delicacies).

Nano is a metal-bodied car with four full-blown doors to ease ingress and egress. It has a uni-body construction that makes use of a sub-frame which adds to the strength. About suspension, the Tata engineers had to optimize the suspension setup and add a fair amount of other technical add-ons like fatter rear tyres while the battery box and fuel tank are placed right underneath the seat of front occupants.

The Nano has an all-aluminum two cylinder 623 cc engine with two valves per cylinder driven by a single overhead camshaft. The Nano moves with 33 BHP power, peaking at 5500 rpm with 48 Nm of turning force supplied at a meager 2500 rpm. The Nano has a 4-speed cable operated gearbox, the fourth being in an overdriven ratio. Tata is developing an automatic gearbox for Nano, but that may not be available when the car is launched by the year end. Besides the 623 cc petrol engine, Tata Motors may also bring out a common-rail 700 cc diesel engine of the same architecture as the one seen on Tata Ace.

Though tagged as “Rs 1 lakh car”, when delivered to the customer it may cost about to Rs 1.2 lakh, while the one with more comforts and extra accessories can be priced at Rs 1.5 lakh. The top-end versions might retail for about Rs 2.0 lakh, as speculations go.

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