A layman’s view of the Nano…

Posted: July 27, 2011 in Tata Nano
Tags: , ,

When someone asked me if I wanted to drive the Nano, my first reaction, in typical Eddie Murphy style, was ‘Get The F*** outta here’. Why would anyone want to drive THAT car, was my line of thinking. However, after some thought, I relented. I guess my curiosity got the better if me, because it had been rubbished and complimented in equal measure and I just had to find out for myself. I’m no expert (not yet anyway!) on the subject of cars, but at least I’d know if it was the letdown that people made it out to be.

So there I was next morning, strapped down, and all set to drive the Nano. From the outside, this ‘small wonder’ is among the cutest small cars that has travelled the roads in the country. At 1652 mm it’s taller than a Maruti 800 and my 5’11” frame got in quite comfortably. Neither did I knock my head on the door-frame and nor did my head touch the roof. Though it’s smaller in length than the Alto, there is enough seating space for the two in front, with enough leg room and just about adequate for the ones at the rear. The interiors are bare and the feeling, as a friend put it was one of ‘hollowness’! The glove compartment is absent, and in it’s place is just a cavernous space. The seats are a little hard but not uncomfortable. There wasn’t much storage space up front in place where the engine should have been, just one outer rear view mirror on the right (which spells danger in a city like Pune where everyone from two-wheelers to four-wheelers overtakes from the left), and one wiper, which could create a few problems during a heavy downpour.

The ignition took a little searching, hidden as it was on the right, low, behind the steering wheel. The engine cranked noisily, but since the windows were up and the AC on, one didn’t realise till much later that it made a soft thump-thump sound much like a six-seater auto-rickshaw. It slid away from the parking quite smoothly and the sound of the engine didn’t seem to grate on the nerves. The vehicle had air-conditioning that cooled the interiors pretty quickly. Heck, driving in comfort, even to the shortest point is what matters, and since I don’t like driving without the AC on, I ticked off one more positive for the Nano!

The two-spoke steering wasn’t very hard, so I didn’t feel the absence of power steering. But that could have been because it was a new car. I also noticed that the fuel tank was half empty so somewhere along the highway we would be ‘tanking up’ its 15- litre tank. Isn’t 15 litres too little for a four-wheeler, you might ask. Remember, however, that the Nano is mostly meant for the city and a tank with that capacity can last a while. Also, remember, that a two-cylinder 623 cc car like this one is not really ideal for off-roading or long distance travel – not even a trip down the expressway – even though people have done it. However, Indians, over-enthusiastic as we are, always look to achieve the impossible, so there’s no saying where they’ll take this car! I dread to think what the feeling must be for the occupants inside a Nano, if two Volvo buses doing 120 kmph pass it by simultaneously from either side on the e-way.

As we cleared the city traffic and veered off towards the Mumbai-Bangalore Highway the car was travelling nicely. The stories I had heard about the Nano’s wobble and roll seemed to be an exaggeration. I guess people who drive those big, powerful cars tended to thumb their nose at the Nano. Being the owner of a hatchback myself, I notice the condescending looks of other motorists in bigger cars who sail past me on the highway, and it p—-s me off no end!

Entering the Bangalore Highway, my foot pressed on the accelerator and the speedometer needle went from 60 to 100 quite effortlessly. No (rock ‘n)roll, yet, at least not the kind that one would find disturbing, although some people I know, had spoken about it. In the rear view I noticed a speck in the distance catching up fast. It turned out to be a Honda CBR 250R and as it roared past, the helmeted rider gave me a thumbs down as if to say ‘250 versus 600? Huh!’

As we turned off the Bangalore Highway towards Bhor, the road condition also deteriorated. That’s when the Nano wasn’t a very comfortable ride. The car began to wobble scarily every time we went over a bump and into even the smallest depression on the road. Around even the tiniest bend, I had to slow down to sub-30 kph, because the car started to roll. I guess that’s where a bigger car makes that vital difference in terms of safety, so that won’t get the feeling that it could topple over any minute. And since the engine’s at the back, the lack of protection in front is worrying in the event of a collision. On even a minor gradient I had to change to first gear to climb. Any other car – even the Maruti 800 – would have raced up. Going off the bumpy road onto a muddy path towards a lake, the Nano mapped the rough terrain quite easily, though the suspension began to squeak. I drove the car all the way down to the lake near Bhor, over rocky ground and it went there comfortably. It also took very little space while taking a U-turn on a narrow road.

It hadn’t been a bad drive in a car that has been getting a lot of negative press lately. In a city like Pune, where one had to manoeuvre through the maddening traffic snarls at speeds which rarely exceeded 40 kmph, and travel from point A to point B, the Nano seemed to be the kind of vehicle for someone graduating from a standard two-wheeler. Oh, and it didn’t catch fire and nothing fell off or out.

  1. H V Kumar says:

    The number of Nanos being sold in small-time India is the true testament of its success

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