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:
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
quote: Of course it costs a ton more, but that's not the point.