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Tata Nano Standard, in "Dazzling Red"

Tata Nano Luxury, in "Lime Yellow"

A minimalist interior is the order of the day for the Nano, as this dash shot and cutaway shows.
The "People's Car" gets 54mpg, seats five.

While there is no shortage of news from the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, the Auto Expo in New Delhi, India featured a unique new vehicle that might interest North American buyers wary of high gas prices -- and high vehicle prices as well. Tata Motors unveiled its interpretation of the "People's Car" -- a phrase that until now was the exclusive domain of German automobiles -- the $2,500 Nano.

With a length of just over ten feet, the Nano makes current "sub-compact" cars like the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris look like a 1980s-era Cadillac from the outside -- but nearly all of the interior space is devoted to the passenger compartment. Tata claims that the vehicle can seat five passengers, but the rear seat would undoubtedly become cramped, as the Nano is only a hair less than five feet wide. A highway trip would be a painful exercise, but Tata is targeting the car as an all-weather replacement for the motorbikes commonly used for family transit, so shorter trips with more passengers might be tolerable.

Power from the Nano comes from a rear-mounted 624cc two-cylinder SOHC engine, which produces approximately 33hp at 5500rpm, and 35lb-ft of torque at 2500rpm. Mated to a four-speed manual transmission and driving the rear wheels only, the Nano is in no rush to reach high speeds -- in fact, the more common 0-60 time was replaced by a "0-43" time of 14 seconds. The time to reach the stated maximum speed of 68mph was not given. This slow acceleration does let the Nano achieve excellent mileage -- estimates are 50mpg city and 60mpg highway. While other cars have exceeded these numbers, they don't share the Nano's low cost of entry.

The Nano will be available in two trim levels, "Standard" and "Luxury." The "Standard" is truly spartan, with vinyl seats, a single-color interior, black plastic bumpers and not much else. The "Luxury" lives up to its name by comparison, offering a list of features such as:

  • Body-colored bumpers
  • Fog lamps
  • Power door locks
  • Power mirrors
  • Air conditioning and heater
  • Dual-color interior
  • Fabric seats   

The sticker price for the Luxury model has not yet been announced. In addition to the two model choices, the Tata Nano microsite offers a range of accessories that can be viewed from the car builder, including pin striping decals, a choice of air scoop for the rear-mounted engine, and alloy wheels.

Despite the Nano's diminutive size, Tata is confident that it will be a safe vehicle, stating that it passes all current safety standards. With over 22,000 employees, a target production run of 250,000 units per year, and recent talks of purchasing Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford, Tata Motors could very well make this pocket-sized commuter car a reality in North America.

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Top speed
By Some1ne on 1/10/2008 3:40:01 PM , Rating: 1
The time to reach the stated maximum speed of 68mph was not given.

I regularly drive closer to 80mph on the highway, and expect my car to at least be able to attain 100mph or more. Their car will never succeed in the U.S. as a "people's car" until they fix this problem. It will be more like a "toy car for people who can afford to have a second car in addition to their real car", as nobody in their right mind would rely on such an underpowered vehicle as their sole/primary mode of transportation...not if they ever plan on doing any highway driving whatsoever, at any rate.

RE: Top speed
By Oroka on 1/10/2008 4:15:05 PM , Rating: 1
I wouldnt use your 100mph car in a race either. The Nano is not ment for N American freeways, just as your car is not ment for Nascar. The Nano would be a good teen car, city car. It will not haul a trailer home from park to park.

The only thing that will keep Nano's out of mainstream America is American's need for huge, overpowered, gas guzzeling boats. Alot of people would rather pay it out the butt for gas than park thier H2 or F250 thier wife drivers to the grocerie store.

RE: Top speed
By Some1ne on 1/10/2008 5:13:39 PM , Rating: 1
I wouldnt use your 100mph car in a race either. The Nano is not ment for N American freeways

Then they shouldn't be marketing it as "the people's car", at least not within North America. The vast majority of people take their cars out onto the freeways at least occasionally, and a car that isn't designed to handle that reasonably just isn't going to be able to gain the favor of very many people.

There's no reason to expect that my 100 mph be able to compete in a race, because nobody tries to market or position it as a racing car. However, when a company dubs their product "the people's car", they imply that it can do everything that people generally expect their car to do. Thus, it's completely reasonable to expect their "people's car" to be able to handle highway driving, and it's completely reasonable to be disappointed about the fact that it cannot.

RE: Top speed
By InTheNameOfMyself on 1/14/2008 12:15:33 AM , Rating: 2
Well it's the people's car for India !

Who said it was made for the US?

Are you OK??

RE: Top speed
By Zoomer on 1/10/2008 8:48:46 PM , Rating: 2
The New York Times reported that to save a few cents, they used cheaper bolts for the tires. These will wear very quickly above 40 mph.

You couldn't pay me to drive one of these cars.

RE: Top speed
By djc208 on 1/10/2008 9:09:42 PM , Rating: 2
I think you're missing the point this car, or one like it, would play if it were available in America. This would be a good commuter car for people who live closer to work, or in big cities, or very small towns. You may need that SUV or pickup truck you drive for family trips or running errands, but it's overkill for going to work every day.

With a small cheap car like this you can have a second car for the commute to work. It gives better mileage, is easier to park and cheap enough you don't have to worry about it getting damaged.

People who don't have any vehicle and need a car cheap (in the US) would be better off with a small used regular car since this isn't well suited for high speeds, long trips, or larger loads.

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