Tata Reboots Nano, World’s Cheapest Car, As Coolest Small Car

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2012 Tata Nano

2012 Tata Nano

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When Indian automaker Tata launched the world’s cheapest small car, it gave thousands of people across India the chance to own a car of their own for the first time.

While the cheaply-built Tata Nano might combine utilitarian construction, simple engineering and frugal motoring, Tata has come to realize that even those spending less than $2,800 on a car want something a little more...luxurious. 

At last week’s Geneva Motor Show, Tata Group head Ratan Tata said the humble Nano was about to get a major upgrade, from its peoples’ car roots to must-have fashion item. 

Almost a given will be an engine upgrade, up from the current. 0.6-liter 2-cylinder unit to something a little more powerful. 

Given the engine resides under the Nano’s rear load-bay floor, don’t expect the engine upgrade to be huge. At best, we’d guess it might reach a heady 1.0-liter 3-cylinder -- but that is purely speculation.

2012 Tata Nano

2012 Tata Nano

Enlarge Photo

What we have seen on some concepts however, is the addition of stop-start technology, a must to improve air quality and gas mileage in heavily congested Indian cities. 

Alternative fuels play a part too, with Tata committing to a CNG variant of the Nano that can run on either gasoline or Compressed Natural Gas. 

A larger engine normally means better acceleration and higher top speed, so it’s no surprise that a recent Tata Nano concept displayed in  India featured disc brakes for the first time -- replacing the nano’s old-fashioned but durable drum brakes. 

There’s more. In addition to upholstery upgrades to make the Nano a more pleasant car for everyone, the Tata Nano redesign is expected to include a new dash, more air vents and leather seats. 

Why cover a car that we’ll never see in the U.S? A car that frankly, very few people would want to drive? 

It’s simple. The Tata Nano is a modern-day equivalent of so many small European cars that grew beyond their frugal, functional base to become behemoths of the automotive world. 

Austin Mini

Austin Mini

The Morris Mini Minor -- later known simply as the Mini -- was conceived as a basic, utilitarian car for four people and their luggage. 

Over its 41-year production life, the original Mini became so much more, becoming an iconic vehicle that embodied style, fun, and fuel economy. 

Today, that name lives on in BMW’s larger, more modern Mini, but the Mini’s roots have not been forgotten. 

Could the same happen to the Tata Nano? Could this be the next small to throw off its dowdy beginnings and become a globally-recognized icon? 

We think it could. 


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Comments (4)
  1. Why wouldn't we be able to buy the Tata Nano Europa version? I would love one. I would also like a CNG version when CNG becomes available in my area, or home compressor prices come down.

  2. I'd say BMW pretty much killed the Mini. Their modern take on the car is so expensive and gets such poor gas mileage that it's a mockery to call it a Mini at all.

  3. I think the problems with the MINI are partly geographical - in Europe, there are much cheaper versions available than the Cooper, and versions with better gas mileage too (and that's before you get to the diesel versions). Although they're not a classic Mini in size, they're much closer to the ethos of the original car. I expect that the powers that be have deemed that anything less powerful than the regular Cooper wouldn't sell in the U.S.

  4. Antony how can the modern Mini follow the ethos of the original? The mini was all about packaging and cheapness not power,quality and being a wana-be BMW.It wasn't until celebrities embraced them and the cooper was born that it evolved into the legend some only know about today.The original was a humble little thing that carried many ordinary famlies around which is much the same with the Tata. The Tata is closer to the ethos of the original Mini than the BMW version.

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