The Tata Nano gets a makeover – yet again. But this time we really are interested.
For several years now, the Tata Nano has been sold with the unofficial tag of the world’s cheapest car. In that time, there have been some significant changes to the car, but most of them have been cosmetic. The driving experience, however, has stayed much the same – despite the many attempts to make this small city car more appealing to the masses. One of the main concerns has been the fact that the Nano is hard to steer. The lack of power steering, especially in city traffic, has been a major grouse with the Nano.
Well, in a fresh attempt to resolve this gripe, Tata Motors has come out with another update to the Nano – and this time it comes not only with added features, but also with a mechanical update. This latest variant is known as the Tata Nano Twist, and the most significant change – as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now – is the addition of Electronic Power Assisted Steering (or EPAS as Tata refer to it). Tata called on global suppliers Bosch and ZF to assist in the development of the system – which is very well executed as we found out. However, the first thing that you notice about the Nano Twist is the new color – and I have to say that I took quite a shine to the new Damson Purple hue.
To mark the occasion, we were invited to Tata’s test track in Pune to see how the Nano Twist drives. If you’ve driven the non-power assisted Nano, you’ll recall how difficult or uncooperative the steering was – especially when parking, or even when driving through congested roads at low speeds for that matter. With power steering, the Tata Nano Twist offers a far easier driving experience – you can now turn the steering wheel with just one finger when the car is stationary. This convenience comes as no surprise considering the involvement of both Bosch and ZF, as these two giants are amongst the best component developers in the world.
When you’re driving the Nano Twist at low speeds, the steering does seem very light – but, at the same time, you get plenty of feedback from the road. The EPAS system uses a brushless motor, and is quite responsive. And when you reach higher speeds, the EPAS adjusts to provide reduced assistance so you get better feedback from the road surface. The whole system works very well, and offers a much more relaxed driving experience. The EPAS is also setup for the steering wheel to return to its central position automatically after you’ve turned it in either direction. Once you let go of the steering wheel after a turn, it will reset itself to bring the car back into a straight line. Tata calls this feature ‘active return,’ and it is evidently the first in this segment.
There are some additional features that have been added into the Nano Twist apart from the power steering. The cabin gets a nice change in the form of a new instrument cluster, which now looks far better than the previous one – and it comes with a digital trip computer and Driver Information System. Other features that warrant mention are the remote keyless entry, twin glove boxes, and the AmphiStream music system with Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity. There’s also a new gear shift console, and better upholstery on the seats and doors – all of which are available only on the Tata Nano Twist XT, which will replace the previous top-of-the-line LX version of the Nano range.
So, whether the updated version offers the panacea to the Nano’s sales ills is something that we’ll just have to wait and see. What we do know is that, in this guise, the Nano is an improved product that offers a far better package to the consumer. It addresses some fundamental shortfalls in the original Nano. It’s also indicative of just how demanding the Indian customer has become – as these features are now virtually considered a prerequisite in any new car. Perhaps this spec is where the Nano ought to have started out with from the very outset. Well, live and learn I suppose!
- TATA Nano
Engine: 624cc / 2-cylinder
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Price: 2.38 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)