Encountering a roadblock in the narrow streets of Indian cities can be troubling. Moving ahead is impossible, reversing is tiresome, and turning the car around can be a pain. Except, if you are in a car which has a turning radius of just 4 metres, and which can turn others on with its new looks. Welcome to the Tata GenX Nano.
Promoted as a value car—many called it a cheap car—it is precisely this thing that worked against the Nano ever since it was launched in 2009. Two-wheeler owners, who aspired to own a car and raised enough money to buy the Nano, usually reconsidered their decision, waited a few more months, raised more money, and bought the Alto instead. However, with the GenX Nano, Tata is aiming to reposition the Nano not as a value car but rather a fashionable and urban mobility solution.
The Nano is a very cute-looking car, the GenX Nano tries to be bold, too. It gets a new infinity design theme—the front and rear bumpers come with an infinity motif grille—which looks upmarket. The smoked headlamps with black bezel and large circular fog lamps on the exterior accentuate its earlier timid road presence. The integrated rear spoiler adds to the little car’s style quotient. So that customers don’t complain about style, Tata has announced that the GenX Nano will come in seven colours—Sangria Red (new), Persian Rose (new), Pearl White, Meteor Silver, Royal Gold, Dazzle Blue and Damson Purple.
There are substantial changes inside the cabin. One, it gets the new Tata signature steering wheel, which you earlier saw in the Zest and the Bolt. However, the positioning of the steering wheel can be a problem for tall drivers, with their knees rubbing it. Two, it gets new interiors with fresh colour themes. Three, the car offers 4% better shoulder room and 6% better legroom than the competition. Four, there is a revised gear-shift console, and the one in the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) variant looks quite cool for its class. Five, it gets a 100-odd litre boot-space that can be accessed through the openable hatch (the previous version had a fixed hatch).
The top-end variants are loaded with connectivity—four speakers with surround sound, Bluetooth, CD, radio, USB and AUX-in. There is a digital information display that shows low-fuel warning, clock, distance-to-empty, fuel consumption and gear-shift indicator. While there aren’t many cubbyholes, especially to store water bottles, you get twin gloveboxes on the dashboard—one is inconveniently placed between the steering wheel and the windshield, but is nevertheless useful. The AC is surprisingly efficient and cools the large cabin very fast.
Under the body of the GenX Nano is the same 624cc, two-cylinder gasoline engine that powered the previous versions of the car. It produces a power of 38PS at 5,500rpm and a torque of 51Nm.
The GenX Nano will get four variants, three with manual transmission (XE, XM, XT) mated to a four-speed gearbox, and the fourth (XTA) with the AMT mated to a five-speed gearbox and branded as ‘Easy Shift’. Because the engine is the same, we drove only the AMT version.
Sourced from Magneti Marelli, the AMT gearbox is similar in operation to conventional automatics—fire the engine, depress the brake pedal, shift to ‘A’ mode, release the brake, and the car will inch ahead. This called the ‘creep’ function, which, as we found out, is ideally suited for bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions. Then there is a Shift Assist mode for the convenience of changing gears manually. Wait, this AMT also has a Sports mode! Press the ‘S’ button on the lever and the car will shift gears at higher engine revolutions, giving it slightly more power in a particular gear. However, does it make a difference to the performance? The answer is, not quite. The reason is, the diminutive 624cc engine runs out of power when you need it the most. The logic is, the Nano is a city car. Driven within city limits, the Nano won’t disappoint you. One, it is frugal—the claimed fuel-efficiency for the manual is 23.6 kmpl and that for the AMT is 21.9 kmpl. Two, parking is a breeze. Three, there is ample space for a small family and a few shopping bags added.
Another major change is that its fuel tank capacity has been increased from 15 litres to 24 litres. Girish Wagh, the key person in the Nano project, said that customer feedback prompted this, as users didn’t appreciate making two trips to petrol pumps every week. The additional capacity extends the driving range from 300 km to 500 km.
The car gets safety features such as crumple zones to cushion frontal impact, reinforced body structure, robust side doors with intrusion beams, anti-roll bar for high speed stability and SUV-like ground clearance of 180 mm to tackle those rough patches on Indian roads. However, it doesn’t get front disc brakes and the rear seats only get a two-point seatbelt, not the ‘safer’ three-point ones.
Since it was launched in 2009, the Nano has been receiving regular updates. The first was when it got better suspension and a more powerful engine. The second was when it got a bigger steering wheel. The third was the Twist. Now the GenX, which is a generation change. The Nano is yet not perfect, but the GenX is the best thing to have happened to it. To be launched this month, we expect the manual variant to start from R2 lakh onwards and the AMT under R3 lakh, making it the most affordable clutch-pedal-less car in the world. The GenX also shows that the potential for Tata to go places with the Nano is huge, only if Tata is able to market it accordingly.