Z-06

Testing the Most Significant Automobile of 21st Century

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2010 TATA NANO

THE SMALL BIG IDEA

0903_01_z%202010_tata_nano%20front_three

Specs

[/size]Engine: 623-cc in-line 2

Power: 33 hp @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 35 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm

Transmission: Four-speed manual

Drive: rear-wheel

0-60 mph: 17 sec (est.)

Top speed: 65 mph

Fuel mileage: 60 mpg (est.)

Weight: 1322 lb

L x W x H: 122.0 x 59.1 x 63.0 in

So a low price alone won't be enough; the Nano will have to perform at least a little bit like a "proper" car. And it does. You open one of four very light, flimsy-feeling doors and enter a remarkably airy cabin. The whole car is only 122 inches long (sixteen inches longer than a Smart ForTwo), but with the engine under the rear seats and virtually no nose, almost all of that is usable cabin space, with one six-footer able to sit comfortably behind another. The seats are firm, the cloth in which they're trimmed feels of decent quality (base models get vinyl upholstery), and the big one-piece dash molding with its central speedometer is made of a surprisingly good-looking plastic. A Tata engineer takes the wheel and starts the 623-cc, 33-hp SOHC two-cylinder engine. The engine note sounds worryingly similar to the putt-putt of the two-stroke scooters Nano buyers will be trading up from, and when two more Tata engineers jump in the back for the ride, I start to worry about the engine's ability to cope. An unladen 1322 pounds is an impressive curb weight for a four-seat car, but 33 hp sounds less impressive when confronted with nearly a ton of car and passengers. But the smiling, confident guys in the back seat plainly know something I don't, and the Nano moves off with, if not vigor, then certainly a surprising lack of sloth. Don't be fooled by the estimated 17-second 0-to-60-mph time; the Nano will get to 60 mph but is almost out of puff, so adding those final few miles per hour takes a disproportionately long amount of time. To 30 or 40 mph, the Nano easily feels quick enough to keep pace with other traffic, and even when worked hard, the tiny engine doesn't get too shouty or coarse.

Pushed hard around bends, the Nano rolls hilariously, but its tiny twelve-inch front tires cling gamely to the pavement. You're unlikely ever to drive a Nano this way, particularly in the traffic stasis that afflicts most Indian cities. The ride and refinement are more relevant, and the Nano lopes along quite nicely on those little wheels, never transmitting too much harshness to the cabin, even over poor surfaces.

So if they haven't made it a punishment to drive, how have they made it so inexpensive? First, Indian labor is cheap. Second, there's no safety equipment; no air bags, antilock brakes, or stability control. But in comparison with a scooter, doors and seatbelts count as safety features. And third, there's a lot of clever thinking that went into this car. There's no trunk or fuel-filler hatch; too many stamped panels, springs, and latches. So instead, all the fluids are refilled under the tiny hood, and you get at the small trunk by flipping the rear seats forward. There's only one wiper and just three bolts per wheel. And it's designed to be cheap to manufacture; the entire rear mechanical package - engine,transmission, suspension, the works - attaches with just four bolts. The only factory options are air-conditioning and electric windows; everything else, including the radio and the optional aluminum wheels, will be fitted by your dealer, who will also be able to add A/C later if you can't afford it at first.

This is how they've done it: identify the bare minimum standard of accommodation, appearance, and performance, take out everything that is unnecessary, and rethink everything that has to stay. The Nano won't compete with "normal" cars on dynamics or quality or anything other than smarts, because it doesn't have to. But it will do 80 percent of what an $8000 Korean city car will do at about 30 percent of the price. All of that assumes, of course, that Tata can hit its price target. It won't commit publicly, and after taxes and the dealer's margin, an Indian buyer is likely to pay closer to $2600. But it's still pretty hard to argue with the equation. And if you need any more convincing, this car imparts that peculiar sense of self-satisfaction you get from experiencing something willfully different and clever, such as an original Mini or a Citron 2CV, both of which were paradigm-shifting cars. With the Nano, you get that same feeling.

What makes it cheap?

NO HATCH To minimize panel stampings, the rear hatch doesn't flip open. The tiny cargo area is accessed by folding the rear seats forward.

THREE LUGNUTS The twelve-inch wheels use only three lugnuts, rather than the typical four or five.

SIDEVIEW MIRROR Only the driving position gets a side mirror. A passenger-side mirror is a dealer-installed option.

TINY HOOD All fluids are refilled under the small hood, including the gasoline. Note the absence of an exterior fuel-filler door.

ONE WINDSHIELD WIPER By using only one wiper to clean the front glass, both material cost and assembly time are lowered.

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0903_07_z%202010_tata_nano%20front_view.

0903_05_z%202010_tata_nano%20rear_view.j

[source: Automobile Magazine]

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Or...I could buy a well taken care of used car for $2,600.

Still, the "back to basics" approach is a fresh and interesting take on a machine that has become so complex in this day and age.

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Or...I could buy a well taken care of used car for $2,600.

Still, the "back to basics" approach is a fresh and interesting take on a machine that has become so complex in this day and age.

It is a RWD rear engine car. The only thing it does have is a B-pillar. But it will be more easy to remove than let say a Camaro. Even bare hands can possibly remove it.

:D

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It is a RWD rear engine car. The only thing it does have is a B-pillar. But it will be more easy to remove than let say a Camaro. Even bare hands can possibly remove it.

:D

LOL and look at the short overhangs!

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I can get a group of guys together and carry this thing 0-60 in 17 seconds. :lol:

This car may be "back-to-basics," DF, but it's regulated out of being sold here. Wouldn't survive urban US highways anyway.

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I can get a group of guys together and carry this thing 0-60 in 17 seconds. :lol:

This car may be "back-to-basics," DF, but it's regulated out of being sold here. Wouldn't survive urban US highways anyway.

:D

It will as a golf cart.

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I can get a group of guys together and carry this thing 0-60 in 17 seconds. :lol:

This car may be "back-to-basics," DF, but it's regulated out of being sold here. Wouldn't survive urban US highways anyway.

Well yeah. obviously it's too basic, but the concept behind the car is what makes it so interesting.

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It might be funny to us, but for a lot of people in developing economies, this is like a gift from Ganesh!

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If THAT is the most significant vehicle of the21st century I might

as well get busy saving up for a whole fleet of GM classics I'm

going to convert to electric/bio-fuel/hydrogen.

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Well yeah. obviously it's too basic, but the concept behind the car is what makes it so interesting.

Honestly I look at it as an engineering marvel, not in the sense of its complexity but in sense of actually solving some hard problems yet keeping it simple and cheap. In some ways this car puts engineers not lawyers in charge of designing the car. Over designing is not always a clear cut solution, and this car proves that.

I have read a biography of Ratan Tata, and that man deserves a lot of respect, and should be looked upon as one of the few top notch executives in today's world.

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It might be funny to us, but for a lot of people in developing economies, this is like a gift from Ganesh!

True That. It is not the idea, but its specs.

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i can only imagine the calamity a deer strike would cause that. look like a spam can smashed with a bat.

you know i think this will be great when top gear tests one. they will put it against the g-wizz hehe

Edited by cletus8269
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Well yeah. obviously it's too basic, but the concept behind the car is what makes it so interesting.

No, I hear you. But for some reason, it seems like it's been done before.

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>>"Honestly I look at it as an engineering marvel, not in the sense of its complexity but in sense of actually solving some hard problems yet keeping it simple and cheap."<<

I think you are taking this out of the context of history. This car, spec-wise, is not anything new, but a return to minimalist transportation, a concept executed countless times thruout automotive history but numerous marques.

IMO, tho, it's highly overdue here in the U.S., but government regulation will no longer allow anything remotely close to this.

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I can't get past the disgusting exterior design, which looks like a Prius that got in a bad wreck. No way will this be the most significant anything, save for a parking lot patrol vehicle. But for that I'm sure there are better vehicles.

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It might be funny to us, but for a lot of people in developing economies, this is like a gift from Ganesh!

Ganesh would not be able to fit in that, he is an elephant after all ...

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The Nano's significance will NOT be its simplistic model, but how it will quickly shift the rest of the world off oil.

Once everyone in India and China are able to afford a car and replace their moped or bicycle, the demand for oil will out-strip production, forcing the rest of the world to quickly find alternatives.

The Nano is significant... It makes me long for the glory days, hopeful for the future, but completely F'd for us that are stuck in these middle years of finding what the future will hold.

Plays RUSH's "Red Barchetta" knowing that that future is not too far away... for better or for worse

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It's the Model T of this century, for mobilising India. If they could federalise it with airbags, etc this could be an entry level $5k car in the US. Could sell it here at Wal-Mart, as the Wal-Mart Sam's Choice or at Costco as the Costco Kirkland Generica.

Edited by moltar
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The Nano's significance will NOT be its simplistic model, but how it will quickly shift the rest of the world off oil.

How exactly does it shift the rest of the world off oil? It's a new level of inexpensive car, which means cars will be "within reach" to more people. It may be very efficient as cars go, but if it's biggest effect is to allow more people to own cars, that increases oil usage, not decreases.

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How exactly does it shift the rest of the world off oil? It's a new level of inexpensive car, which means cars will be "within reach" to more people. It may be very efficient as cars go, but if it's biggest effect is to allow more people to own cars, that increases oil usage, not decreases.

Therein lies the problem...if the Nano is a hit in India, the demand for oil will go up...

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Therein lies the problem...if the Nano is a hit in India, the demand for oil will go up...

While developed countries find ways to reduce oil consumption, India and China increase theirs.

Hmm... time will tell how well these two facts balance each other out.

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The Nano's significance will NOT be its simplistic model, but how it will quickly shift the rest of the world off oil.

Once everyone in India and China are able to afford a car and replace their moped or bicycle, the demand for oil will out-strip production, forcing the rest of the world to quickly find alternatives.

The Nano is significant... It makes me long for the glory days, hopeful for the future, but completely F'd for us that are stuck in these middle years of finding what the future will hold.

Plays RUSH's "Red Barchetta" knowing that that future is not too far away... for better or for worse

You don't come around much anymore Walt, but when you do, you certainly make the most of it. :thumbsup:

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While developed countries find ways to reduce oil consumption, India and China increase theirs.

Hmm... time will tell how well these two facts balance each other out.

And then you have the OPEC countries right in the middle..

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