We may have unfairly called the Indian-built Tata Nano “unusually combustible” last week, but there’s no denying that the world’s cheapest car is responsible for helping tens of thousands of Indians get behind the wheel of their first car. 

Now the diminutive Tata Nano has just undergone its first major revision since its release in 2008, offering an increase of power, more standard features, and a headline-grabbing fuel economy of 59.7 miles per gallon. 

More power, higher gas mileage

Just like its predecessor, the upgraded Tata Nano features a simple 0.6 liter rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive transmission. But Tata’s engineers have managed to squeeze extra power from the small unit, harnessing 50 horsepower from an engine which previously only produced 46 horsepower. 

Torque is up too, increasing from 35.4 ft-pounds to 37 ft-pounds, while the engine’s economy has been improved from 55.51 mpg to an astonishing 59.74 mpg. 

Tata Nano Europa at Geneva Auto Show

Tata Nano Europa at Geneva Auto Show

Admittedly, the tiny Tata Nano weighs 1,322 pounds, but for a car that can carry four adults and costs less than a set of custom wheels for a 2012 Toyota Prius, we have to be impressed. 

Simple upgrades

But the upgrades aren’t the kind of things you’d expect in a high-mileage car in the U.S. Instead, simple but practical upgrades -- like the switch from vinyl seats to fabric ones -- are touted as giving customers added luxury from this no-frills car. 

For more wealthy customers, the $3,752 Tata Nano LX comes with air conditioning, cup holder, central locking, front power windows, mirrors on both sides of the car, and door handles. 

Yes, we did just say door handles. 

But why the interest? 

2009 tata nano minicar 005

2009 tata nano minicar 005

The Tata Nano isn’t a car we’re likely to see being sold in the U.S. For a start, we think it’d struggle to get past the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s tough crash tests. And if Tata managed to reengineer it for the North American market, you can bet both its low, low price and frugal fuel performance would be affected as a consequence of substantial upgrades. 

Nevertheless, the Tata nano is an important car. As the largest automaker in India, Tata is a force to be reckoned with. And as owners of the Jaguar Land-Rover group, Tata is already heavily involved with the automotive world outside of India. 

If Tata engineers can work their magic on a small, 0.6 litre engine to make it one of the most efficient cars on the market anywhere in the world, it’s only a matter of time before those improvements are used on Tata’s other cars. 

Eventually, we can imagine the lessons learnt on the Tata Nano and it’s tiny engine to filter through the whole of the Tata group.  

While we think the concept of a 0.6 liter Jaguar or Land-Rover is about as likely as snow in Hawaii, we think it is only a matter of time before Tata Nano-inspired fuel saving makes it into the larger, more prestigious Tata group cars. 


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