Tuesday, May 05, 2015

GenX Tata Nano Easy Shift AMT features and review

Tata Nano is one car brand I am following very closely and had the privilege of being part of at various stages. After experiencing first gen Tata Nano in 2010 June, during Nano Superdrive as official blogger, an year ago I had the chance of spending a day with Tata Nano Twist, which presented several improvements over previous generation Nano. [Read: Evolution of Nano then and now]. Now Tata Motors has readied an even more improved version of Tata Nano, earlier believed to be named Tata Nano Active (as shown in Auto Expo 2014), but is named GenX Nano.
I had the unique opportunity to drive this new yet to be launched GenX Tata Nano, thanks to an event held by Tata Motors in association with Indiblogger. Went to Pune last weekend to drive these Nanos. I've planned two posts- this one focusing purely on the Genx Tata Nano AMT and one more about the Indiblogger #FollowtheGenX meet and drive.

The latest Nano is also the safest and feature rich Nano till date. Tata Motors has revamped their way of working under the banner, Horizonext- which comprises of Designext, Drivenext and Connectnext- these themes enable Tata Engineers and architects to take a comprehensively new approach towards designing cars, focusing extensively on its design, driveability and smartness. These principles are already employed for Zest and Bolt and now coming to life in GenX Nano.

Compared to Tata Nano Twist launched last year, below are the major improvements:

Design Improvements (DesigNext)
1. Refined front facia with infiniti motif grille that looks like a smiling face. Smoked headlamps with Nano engraved on the side, bright round fog lamps. What you see in these pictures is a new colour on offer- Sangria Red. Persian Rose is the other new colour. Clear lens indicator with orange bulb gels well with rest of the theme.
Previous Nano for comparison

2. Enhanced interiors: Nano embroidered brown infinium seats with orange lining, ebony and luxurious latte combination interiors with satin cappuccino finish on centre console- this full and proper technical name sounds very complex, but simply put, Nano's interiors in top spec variant will now feel a lot more upmarket and stylish than the competition. Instrument cluster has dual trip meter, distance to empty, instantaneous mileage and other regular feature. Cluster remains to be at the centre (unlike in Vista D90 & bolt where they moved it from centre to right after customer feedback)

Note the honesty in limiting speedo to 120 kmph. Hyundai Eon shows some 180, even though car can't reach two third of that speed.
Steering wheel now looks and feels similar to other Tata Cars and is not a tiny one as earlier. May be in next facelift we will get audio control on the steering wheel (space provision is already there)
Below: Current Nano interior for comparison
DriveNext - Driveability improvements

3. AMT option (branded Easy Shift): A 5 speed automated manual transmission set up on top of existing 4 speed manual. Convenient for city usage, for those who prefer automatic. For the driving enthusiast, manual would still be better, as automatics are little slower to respond than corresponding manual transmission in all cars, on an already small engine (We hardly reached fifth gear during the drive and we couldn't reach designated top speed as we drove in a convoy). But Nano's target customers are city users, including women, who need an easy to operate car, reasonably priced and not necessarily the most sportive, powerful option in town, So with that perspective, Automatic Nano is bang on.

Creep Function: Nano's Creep function helps in easy driving during bumper to bumper traffic. Just taking leg off break peddle moves car forward a bit. Creep function is by default. No button need to be pressed- whenever car is in drive mode, this works. It is recommended that drivers spend enough time familiarizing themselves with the behavior of the car before hitting congested roads.

Sports Mode: Engaged it a few times for a more sporty drive, but the delta is little hard to feel. (Nano's competition- Alto and Celerio AMTs do not have a sports mode, so this will work as a great marketing trick). Also Nano's AMT is easier to operate- only front and back movement, unlike competition which needs some left-right movement.

Manual mode: Works to satisfaction, useful during uphill drive, when you want more pulling power and not speed.

There is no P mode. Handbrake should be engaged for safety.
4.  Better range with 24 litre fuel tank. Earlier Nanos had 15 litre tank which gave a range of 250-300kms, not so good for a long drive. 2015 Genx nano gets 24 litre tank, which can provide 500km range before fuel stops. Still no fuel caps- one should get out of the car and open the front lid to put fuel- that is probably an improvement for next year.

5. ePAS (Electrically Power Assisted Steering)
Hydraulic power steerings in regular cars draw their power from engines. Nano uses an electric one, powered by a separate motor. Largely same one as in Twist, steering firms up as speed increases, has active return function - returns to straight position after a sharp turn (won't work in first few mins) and together gives a 4 meter turning radius. Because Nano's wheels are at extreme corners, it adds to convenience while turning in space constrained positions. You can rotate the steering wheel with your finger tip.

6. Open-able boot: Provides 110 litre space in manual versions and 94 litres in AMT variant. This space is on top of the engine compartment, so avoid placing very heavy baggage and makes Nano a bit more practical.
6. Added Safety features.
Earlier Nano had one single shell with 4 doors. Now with fifth door (rear boot lid), more structural support is added to ensure safety. Impact cushioning crumple zone, reinforced body panels with intrusion beams on the doors and anti roll-bar make Nano meet all Indian safety norms. No Airbags yet. 180mm ground clearance is best in class. Because Nano is tall, it has move volume of space inside than its rivals, despite having smaller length and width.
We drove the AMT variant. Genx Nano will also be available in a top spec manual mode and a stripped down manual mode. We'll know the details of the variants and their features and pricing in about 2 weeks time.
Enough theory. Now the drive- we had a short trial run to familiarize ourselves with the car. Creep function works very well for stop and move situation. But people should be careful about the feature that releasing brake makes the car go forward.

Then we were flagged off and we went for a short drive in the outskirts of Pune city- a bit of city and highway drive combined. My fellow rider and blogger Neha Sharma drove for half the distance while I drove for the other half. Automatics are not as responsive as manuals, hence those who've driven the manual will feel the timelag in automatics to change the gears. But this lag is not noticeable for normal drivers, who won't turn impatient if car takes a few seconds more. Because AMTs add lots of convenience of not having to use an arm and a leg, any little disadvantages they may have gets fairly compensated. I think we drove for about 60-70 kms last Sunday during the drive. As we drove in convoy we couldn't reach its top speed (which is said to be 105kmph, manual reaches 110+ if pushed hard). I tried sports mode for a bit, but the delta was hard to feel. May be should try it on a highway and drive faster to get proper feel. I tried in manual mode, it was little more fun.

End of the drive we drove the Nano in a small test track that involved sharp turns. Nano was very smooth in handling these. I went for a second round after others were done.
Nano AMT's pricing is not known yet. We will know it by May 19th mostly. Existing Nano Twist XT touches 3 lakh rupees on road, so my guess is AMT will  cost between 3.5 to 3.7 lakhs on road in Chennai. Genx Nano AMT's closest rival is Alto AMT, which is about 4.9 lakhs on road in Chennai. I went to Maruti showroom yesterday to check the Alto and Celerio AMTs, so that I can give a fair comparison between the two. I will compare these two in a separate post.

While rivals have slightly more power, more boot space and wider/longer body, Nano will save you a lakh or more, gives you a more premium interior, better vertical space, ground clearance and AC. It looks very cute, grabs eye balls and with Tata's recent positioning as smart city car, new Nano is feature rich and more inspiring than ever.

If you've been a Nano fan and excited about the AMT option, go book. If you're looking for the most affordable automatic in country, then here it is. Bookings already open at Tata showrooms. But just be cautious to keep your expectations right. It is an affordable and smart city car and not a powerful, sporty highway car. The ever continuing evolution of Nano proves Tata's commitment to this brand and with their strong dealer network and revamped dealership experience, after sales service is going to be much better than earlier. Overall, Tatas have a tempting package in the new Nano Twist XTA (that is what the rear badge of Genx Nano Easy Shift says).

Standby for the videos, a post on the Indiblogger event and one more comparing Nano with Alto AMT


Anonymous said...

"There is no P mode. Handbrake should be engaged for safety."
I believe you can park in D or R. When the engine is not running, the transmission behaves like a manual and the drivetrain is physically locked, so it won't move off (unless it's a steep incline). That said, one should always engage the hand brake when parking regardless of the car being an auto/manual. (Stop & hold brake, shift to N, switch engine off, apply handbrake, release brake, shift to gear/P)

"5. ePAS (Electrically Power Assisted Steering)
Largely same one as in Twist, steering firms up as speed increases, has active return function - returns to straight position after a sharp turn (won't work in first few mins)..."
I'm afraid I don't understand this feature-even cars without power steering straighten themselves out after completing a turn. Care to explain?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

The expensive automatics do come with a dedicated P mode into which car defaults in most of the scenarios, as a safety feature. That is why I called it out.

ePAS- original nano was fully manual steering. In Twist the steering got some electric assistance, auto recover etc. Of course all other cars have it.

Arun Prasadh said...

Hope they have reduced the noise from engine.

Anonymous said...

Nano Genx has surely come of ages . From a terrible marketing misfire of car for 1 lac its nowing starting to compete with its peers and no more cheap .

The problem still persists

Battery under driver's seat- A big no no .Bad design

Wires exposed under the dashboard .

Not even one air bag ,even at the driver's side .

Does the rear seat fold completely .

Noisy engine .

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Arun, yes there is some reduction.

@Anon: Thanks for your comments

Suchendu said...

Will all 4 wheels be of same size? A bit of a problem if a real wheel widet flat tyre had to be stored inside front bonnet where small size front wheel is kept as a stepin.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

All four wheels are of same size..

why do you think they are of different size?

Neha Sharma said...

Srinidhi this post is very well written.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Neha