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The Tata Nano, India's $2,500 Car



  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
    After numerous delays, the Nano will go on sale April 9.

    Since the Nano will initially be sold in India, and is not headed for our shores, it can only be of interest to Americans from a historical perspective, as it has the potential for becoming the Model T and VW Beetle of the developing world. Nevertheless, here's AutoWeek's test of this car for the masses...

    "Nice Tata: Driving the Nano four-seater is OK, but slow"
    By BOB RUPANI (Mr. Rupani is executive editor for Auto India)

    "We're finally getting to drive the Tata Nano, and the first thing that impresses is the space. Four adults can sit comfortably in the simple and spartan interior. The seats are thin and flat but surprisingly comfortable. Plastic and fabric quality is better than expected, though the carpet looks cheap.

    To get to the trunk, the rear seat has to be folded forward. Access to the engine is even more difficult; a panel secured with six wing nuts needs to be removed to access the tiny two-cylinder engine.

    Start up the Nano and you immediately know it's powered by a rear-mounted engine. The all-aluminum twin uses a single balance shaft, yet it is not very smooth or refined and sounds a bit like a lawn mower. The passenger compartment has been well isolated from the sound but not from all of the harshness. Even at idle, you can feel the engine rocking, and under hard acceleration the vibrations become quite evident. Thankfully, the four-speed gearbox is precise, light and pleasing.

    Push the accelerator and the Nano launches with all the grace it can muster, but with redline fuel cutoff coming at a somewhat-low 5,600 rpm, you have to upshift quickly to keep up momentum. Tata says that unlike other cars, the benchmark for the Nano was not the acceleration figure of 0 to 62 mph, but 0 to 38 mph because it will primarily be used as an urban vehicle. In our tests, 38 mph arrived in about 10 seconds, but getting to 62 mph took nearly 33 seconds. Top speed is limited to 65 mph.

    Though not impressive at the test track, in the dense and slow-moving traffic of Pune, India (the city where Tata Motors is based), the Nano acquits itself well, feeling more than adequate and well qualified to play the role of an urban city commuter. The short turning circle makes maneuvering and parking easy. Even without any power assist, the steering is reasonably light because of the limited weight over the front wheels, and playing nip and tuck in city traffic is easy.

    But the tall body and narrow track produces considerable body roll, made even more pronounced by the flat, nonbolstered seats. Throw the Nano through curves and though it leans like the Tower of Pisa, it retains its grip with barely any understeer, and a slight oversteer if you try really hard to induce it.

    Tata engineers have tried to address the car's engine-heavy rearward weight bias by mounting the spare tire and fuel tank up front under the hood, and putting heavy items such as the battery under the driver's seat and the jack under the passenger's seat. The Nano's rear tires are also wider than the front tires.

    The Nano has drum brakes on all four wheels, and these do a fairly good job of arresting momentum. The ride on less-than-perfect Indian roads felt a little firm without being uncomfortable.

    Other impressive features: good air conditioning, which comes on upper-trim models. Power windows and door locks are reserved for the top-of-the-line model.

    Though prices have yet to be announced, the most expensive Nano is expected to retail for $3,500. Of course, the promise of a car for 100,000 rupees ($2,200) has meant that the designers and engineers have had to look for every possible compromise and some innovative solutions. The next-cheapest car in India is more than $2,000 more expensive, and the only vehicle cheaper is a motorcycle.

    For Europe (and potentially for the United States if the car makes it to our shores), the Nano Europa (when it arrives in 2011) will have a bigger, 934-cc, 60-hp three-cylinder engine and have a top speed of 95 mph, a five-speed automatic, a wider track, disc brakes, ABS, stability control, improved driving dynamics and ride, better equipment and a finished interior, along with driver and passenger airbags. It will also be slightly longer and comply with all safety and crash-test standards, while still being the cheapest car in the world at less than $ 5,000. Add an estimated fuel economy of at least 67 mpg, and the Nano Europa may be right for many an economy buyer's shopping list.

    SPECIFICATIONS (Indian market version):

    Engine: RWD, rear engine, inline two cylinder

    Bore: 73.5 mm

    Stroke: 73.5 mm

    Displacement: 624cc

    Camshaft: SOHC

    Valves: two per cylinder

    Max power: 35 hp at 5,250 rpm

    Max torque: 35.4 lb-ft 2,500 to 4,000 rpm

    Top speed: 65 mph

    0 to 37 mph: 10.12 seconds

    0 to 62 mph: 32.6 seconds

    Front suspension: McPherson strut

    Rear suspension: Independent with semi trailing arm

    Brakes: Drums front and rear, 7.2 inches

    Overall length: 124 inches

    Width: 64.8 inches

    Height: 66.1 inches

    Wheelbase: 89.2 inches

    Turning circle diameter: 26.4 feet

    Curb weight: 1,397 pounds

    Fuel tank: 3.9 gallons"
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    (and potentially for the United States if the car makes it to our shores)

    The rumor mill says it's possible that a version of the Nano could very well make it to the US.

    "We have been looking at the U.S.," Ratan Tata said, adding that the company is currently working on a prototype (based on the higher-spec Europa version) that will meet American safety and emissions requirements. He said U.S. sales will have to wait until the car proves itself in India and then Europe. But judging from recent comments, U.S. sales of the Nano are now firmly on the company's radar."

    Tata Launches Nano in India; U.S. Intro May Follow (AutoObserver)

  • dbostondriverdbostondriver Member Posts: 559
    Is there any crash data on the Nano? Does it even have airbags?
    That being said it will probably sell well in India. :shades:
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    The EU requires that stuff, and Tata has indicated that they have their sights on that market. If that comes to pass, it shouldn't be too hard to bring the Euro-spec Nano to the US, assuming they make the platform adaptable up-front and don't have to retool the whole car.
  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    A $5000 runabout that gets 67 MPG is a great idea. I would not take it on the freeway as it is not fast enough to keep up. I can drive all the way to San Diego without hitting a freeway if need be. Though I imagine by the time the EPA gets through it would weigh 4000 lbs and get 20 MPG. Our government does not want US to have cheap efficient vehicles to drive. That should be clear to anyone. It cannot be any less safe than the GEM. I see those more and more breaking the CA law by venturing out on 45 MPH roads around here. I saw one of those little PU trucks that you see at the Zoo driving down my road. I told my Wife we should get one. She rolled her eyes.
  • dbostondriverdbostondriver Member Posts: 559
    Do you think they will change the name? Tata is a little suggestive and Nano stirs up thoughts of iPods.
    I live in the city and have seen a few SmartCars. They look incredibly unsafe, have no back seat, and were pricey when I went on the website.
    They are all over Europe though.
  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    The Smart is incredibly safe. Have you seen the video of one crashing at high speed into a Mercedes S? I would not expect a $2000 Nano to be quite so well designed.

  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
    "Do you think they will change the name?"

    You bet. The one they're exporting to the U.S. will be called the HaHa NoNo.
  • dbostondriverdbostondriver Member Posts: 559
    That didn't look safe to me. What was left of the Smart got catapulted into on coming traffic. Also the smart model second from base goes for around $15,500. You can get a Fit for $500 more.
    I saw them in Europe about five years ago. The best thing about them was being able to park in crowded cities.
  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    The injuries in an accident in the Smart would be slight. I do agree the model we get with gas engine makes little sense. When I was in Victoria they were everywhere only they all have a small diesel engine that gets an easy 70 MPG. The only way I can see them being practical. Like the Nano, I would not take the Smart on a Freeway.
  • dbostondriverdbostondriver Member Posts: 559
    That's cool. Can they go 70mph? I just don't understand paying such a premium for a car with two seats. If you need to be frugal get a Nissan Yaris, if you need to be frugal and want to save gas get an Insight.
    Speaking of, I think the insight is going to be my next car. Looks good, goes far, and has seating for 4.
  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    Looks good, goes far, and has seating for 4.

    None of the cars we have discussed have any attraction for more than a very short trip to town, for me. I think the Yaris is Toyota. I drove one and just doubt I would put up with anything that small for more than 30 miles. A car like the Insight would be good for a commuter. The Nano with a 65 MPH top speed would get run over on our freeways with 70 MPH speed limit. No thanks, I will continue to drive a full size SUV for any trips over 50 miles. Though I am going to have a diesel SUV within a couple years.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    If the Nano comes to the States - and is a success- expect the Japanese to follow with their only slightly more expensive Kei-class cars. They already have airbags and meet Japanese crash standards. They advertise 50 - 60 mpg (25K/Liter).
    These cars constitute about 60 percent of the Japanese car market, so they're pretty sophisticated vehicles.

    Having said that, I don't think that America will be much of a market for the Nano, any more than it's been for the Kei class cars or the Smart. One writer said that most Americans would be better off with a very well used $5K Civic than a new $5K Nano, and I think he's right.

    So, I think the Nano will be a big success in Asia, but won't (other than being a novelty item) sell in the states.
  • dbostondriverdbostondriver Member Posts: 559
    Hey, I prefer a midsize sedan for long trips. That is what is great about all the choices we have.
    Personally I would not feel safe smart on the highway. I would not feel safe on a motorcycle either.
  • baccus49baccus49 Member Posts: 60
    The Nano Europa will likely be based on a larger chassis selling in India as the A-Star.

    Nano goes 0-60 in 23 seconds! that's all win. There's an aftermarket donkey kit that adds 1 horsepower and shaves 2 secs off that time.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
    I think the LX, which features A/C and power front windows, could find a niche market in North America. Of course, it would need to be modified to meet our safety and emissions laws. Since that would increase the weight, it would require a bigger engine (900-1,000 cc, maybe. I think a U.S. version should have enough power to achieve a top speed of ~70-75, similar to the old Beetle. This could be the right car for people who drive mainly locally. Some would argue that a used compact would be even better. Maybe, but then you could also argue that a used intermediate is preferable to a compact, and...

    I don't know how much U.S. specs would affect mileage or cost, but it would probably still be viable.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Member Posts: 7,704
    was initially saying that they won't be exporting the Nano to the U.S., but now they're saying it's a decent possibility. The car will need at least a 1.3L 4-banger, Tato can do this. I think it would sell relatively well to those who want an upper-level golf cart for urban getting around. The price will appeal to many people. Even if the American sales price MSRP is around $5,995.

    2021 Kia Soul LX 6-speed stick

  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    ILuv - I agree with you.

    There might be a niche market for an upscale Nano (upscale for a Nano, that is) with good air conditioning, and the back seat replaced with easily accessible storage space.

    I agree with the idea of a "golf cart substitute" vehicle for the booming retirement communities.... where you don't really need a highway vehicle but do need something in which to drive the grocery store. These folks would almost never carry 4 people... they'd use the Grand Marquis that sits in the garage for that...

    So it would require some redesign, replacing the rear seats with grocery storage space... and maybe a vertical golf bag holder too!
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Member Posts: 7,704
    here in the little Arizona town I live in, an older gentleman drives a golf cart to the nursing home pert-near every day to visit his wife. There are a handful of guys in this town who motivate around in these golf carts. They do get off to the right side of the road so you can pass them. Top speed is limited here anyway-the roads are not in good shape overall.

    But the Tato Nano could be something that would sell with retiring boomers who just need a medicine or grocery getter, yes. I would not expect a higher price than $5,995 from Nano for the refinements forementioned, either, or Tato will price themselves out of business with the Nano in America.

    2021 Kia Soul LX 6-speed stick

  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    My guess is by the time the NHTSA and EPA are finished with the Nano it will weigh in at 4000 lbs and do 0-60 in a week. Alternatives need to be purpose specific. Limited to surface streets with a top speed of 45-50 MPH. That would satisfy 90% of my driving. For travel and longer trips on the freeway I would have a full sized vehicle. Most of the vehicles brought to the USA are neutered by the EPA to about 2/3rds the mileage they get in the rest of the World. Hard for me to believe they are serious about CO2.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Member Posts: 7,704
    as to speed and place they would be legal, indeed. But they still could impose their crashworthiness sanctions on Tato, huh, and the Nano would be hard-pressed to comply. And yes, then the price would go up, speed go down, fun-quotient down, type of roads allowed on, etc. Very annoying but that is how it works.

    I think these old dudes have special City of Willcox/Cochise County passes, though, here, for their golf carts, and they know where they can and can not ride in them. So I think the idea remains an open one for Nano to shoot for, don't you?

    The Nano has an ICE and the golf cars are electric, so classifications are different from the get-go.

    2021 Kia Soul LX 6-speed stick

  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    Golf carts are registered as NEVs. Limited to 25 MPH. In CA they are illegal on any street posted higher than 35 MPH. I do see them occasionally on streets posted 45-50 MPH. I thought about the Xebra PU that will do 40 MPH. I drove it up a small hill not as steep as my driveway and it almost did not make it.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    My guess is by the time the NHTSA and EPA are finished with the Nano it will weigh in at 4000 lbs and do 0-60 in a week.

    ...and cost about $16K!!!
  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    I guess the real question is? Do we want our already crowded highways more crowded with $5k hoopties? It is going to be crowded enough when EVs finally hit our shores. When people find they can go the equivalent of 100 miles for the cost of a $3 gallon of gas, it will be a major zoo.
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 57,122
    Those are the cars of the future - the globalized new world order. It's not whether or not, as if we have some kind of choice.
  • rockymtnhirockymtnhi Member Posts: 19
    If the cars in this country were all that size.I might buy one. Other than that,I don;t want to be flattened bya Mini.
    Who knows as soon as we become a third world country. We might all be driving little bugs. :shades:
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    And we'll have 12 people crammed into one of those Nanos like you see a man, his wife, and kids all crammed on a motor scooter as in one of those Third World countries

  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 57,122
    That's the 2035 Camry, improved by globalization.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    Of course, our globalist elitist masters will be chauffered around in something like this, only heavily armored, and complete with weaponry to repel the angy riff-raff.

  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    you see a man, his wife, and kids all crammed on a motor scooter

    They look happy to me. I don't think being in a Buick will make a person any happier than being in a Nano. I have learned to be content in whatever I drive. I have not found a vehicle sold in the USA that really turns me on. All have glaring faults. A Buick would get lost in many of our pot holes. Nothing less than a full sized SUV is safe on our highways.
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 57,122
    They'll also need a fleet of mercenaries in Nanos to surround the battleship at all times :P

    Bentley is going to need to make cars with 6" armor plating at the current rate of socio-economic devolution.

    I don't know what warms my heart more - seeing the British motor industry taken over by Indians or Germans.
  • gagricegagrice Member Posts: 31,450
    Oh, I say India. Tata has already taken over all of the major steel industry in the UK. That to me is justice when you think of the years that England held India in servitude. With Tata buying Land Rover and Jaguar it is just icing on the cake. Wait till they buy the Royal Palace as a tourist attraction.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
    That family of four on a scooter sure looks happy, but also terribly unsafe. It wouldn't take much of a bump or skid to send the wife and the toddler she holding to the trauma center, or worse.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
  • rockymtnhirockymtnhi Member Posts: 19
    They must have better health coverage than us. :sick:
  • karjunkiekarjunkie Member Posts: 3
    This is a brilliant engineering achievement! Not since the Volkswagen Beetle has a people's car of such broad universal appeal been created. Congratulations to Tata Motors!!!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Sorry I'm late to join in, interesting discussion with a lot of points well made.

    I don't think we'll see a Nano in the US any time soon simply because it would need a break from emissions standards, and there's no way lawmakers are going to give a cheap imported car a huge break like that with the auto industry as bad as it is now.

    I think the Senate would vote 100-0 against a bill like that.

    And I agree that a Nano bumped up to meet all emissions and safety standards for a normal car would end up costing double, weighing double, and sort of miss the entire point of the car in the first place.

    NEVs are different - they run on batteries and don't pollute (locally).

    Having said that, Nano will succeed in places like India and China (if they allow it, if not a clone will). They have more than 2 billion customers, why on earth do they need the USA?
  • bcooglerbcoogler Member Posts: 1
    Actually, given the clever engineering and size of the engine, I think the Nano as a people's car has more in common with the the Citroen 2CV6 than Volkswagen.

    The Citroen 2CV6 had a maximum engine size of 602cc and about 30 horsepower.

    The Volkswagen Beetle, by comparison, had much larger, more powerful engine choices, from 1200cc in Europe, to the 1600cc engine in the later US models (around 1972-1975).
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
    I agree with you on the 2 Chevaux comparison. The Nano also shares similarities with the Fiat Seicento (600) of the '50s, which sold in large numbers.
  • sixthflicksixthflick Member Posts: 47
    NOW is the time to buy stock I tell ya. I'm already in and I think my shares were somewhere around $6.41 per share - that's after they had already jumped by $3 per share. I could see this car company getting much stronger and much broader based in a few years. Land Rover and Jaguar will now also be sold in India which they weren't before.

    Ratan Tata, unfortunately, won't be there much longer though as the Tata Nano was his inspiration. I believe he's been thinking about retirement very shortly. Seeing how it's been in his family line for several generations and how he has no children, I'm wondering who will take control next.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    Tradition is that the CEO of that conglomerate appoints the successor. Someone single and who will remain so - you get married to the company apparently.

    Or so a friend here on a H1B1 visa tells me.

    How do you buy the stock? Symbol? Exchange? Or did you do an ETF?
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    Ratan Tata can appoint me CEO! I intend to stay single as any man who considers marriage with these divorce laws that overwhelmingly favor the woman is a reckless, self-destructive fool!
  • rickdjkjrickdjkj Member Posts: 1
    Beats my motorcycle for rain driving and just as safe in my opinion.I would buy one or to promote,they could give me one to drive and I could brag about it to bring sales up.I know a lot of people who would be envyus.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    Ratan Tata can appoint me CEO! I intend to stay single as any man who considers marriage with these divorce laws that overwhelmingly favor the woman is a reckless, self-destructive fool!

    Uhm, Lemko, buddy..... as much as we like you.... I just can't put the Buick and Nano memes together.... :P

    It's noble of you to volunteer though, and we thank you. :shades:
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I think you made a good purchase.

    Think about it - there are a billion people in India and more than than right next door in China. More than half the world's market.

    They don't need a lot of Buicks. They need cheap wheels, and Nano can meet that need for 10 times as many customers.

    A decade from now you'll be rich and we'll all be saying shoulda woulda coulda.
  • sixthflicksixthflick Member Posts: 47
    TD Ameritrade. Shares are selling for low to high 7s right now. They'll go up I'm betting. Traded on NYSE as TTM.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    Thanks, almost as cheap as Ford stock.

    It may be time to recharge the Are car stocks driving you out of the market? discussion.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I wonder if buying Jaguar was a good move, though. Every former owner has lost money and I don't see how that's gonna change any time soon.
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