Test driving the new GenX Nano AMT

Jul 12, 2015, 08:20 IST | Amit Chhangani

The new GenX Nano AMT makes a compelling case as an affordable, efficient and convenient city runabout

The journey of the Nano has been an uphill climb so far. Even with its intelligent, trendy design and clever packaging, the car couldn’t quite sell in good volumes. Its compelling price, which was supposed to be its USP, somehow became its undoing.

Tata Motors, to its credit, has valiantly faced the challenge, and has been working on the product. The latest GenX Nano is a result of the company’s boffins going back to the drawing board, armed with customer feedback, to add more polish and appeal to the car. In its newest avatar, the Nano gets the GenX monicker, an updated interior, more features, and most importantly, an automated manual transmission or AMT. Has it worked this time?

GenX Nano AMT
Price: Rs 2.0 – 2.9 lakh  (ex-showroom)

Design and style
Tata Motors has changed quite a few things on the GenX Nano’s exterior, terming them collectively as the ‘Infinity design theme’. The Nano in its latest iteration gets new bumpers, a restyled rear hatch which can now be opened, an updated rear spoiler and revised interiors. Up front, the bumper has been rehashed for GenX, and now features a large smiley grille in black plastic with fog lamps at its ends. The grille, termed the ‘Infinity Grille’ by Tata Motors is a functional unit, feeding air to the radiator unit, which has now been moved to the front. The bonnet lip features a piano black insert with the Tata logo in
the middle.

The bonnet lip gets a piano black appliqué with the Tata emblem at the centre
The bonnet lip gets a piano black appliqué with the Tata emblem at the centre

The headlamps have been restyled too and now get a smoked effect, thanks to darker bezels. The rear bumper and the boot-lid have been duly restyled, and mimic the front bumper and bonnet in treatment.The manual transmission version continues to get its exhaust in the centre while the AMT variant sees it shifted to the left. There are seven colours to choose from — Sangria Red, Persian Rose, Pearl White, Meteor Silver, Royal Gold, Dazzle Blue and Damson Purple.

The dashboard gets a Latte trim in top variants, along with a premium-looking steering wheel from the Zest / Bolt sans the controls
The dashboard gets a Latte trim in top variants, along with a premium-looking steering wheel from the Zest / Bolt sans the controls

Interior and features
The interior of the new Nano witnesses a slew of changes and the addition of new features. To start with, the dashboard gets a latte finish and two additional glove boxes in the top-end XT variants. The steering wheel is shared with the Bolt and the Zest, though there are no integrated controls. The centrally mounted instrument console has been updated too, with a newly designed speedometer unit flanked by fuel and temperature gauges. A great new feature is the Digital Information Display delivering useful information such as low fuel warning, distance to dry, gear shift indicator, average fuel consumption etc. The GenX Nano also gets an updated audio system with four speakers compatible with Bluetooth, CD, Radio, USB and AUX-in options.

The instrument cluster has been thoroughly revamped and now displays important data, including distance to dry and  average consumption
The instrument cluster has been thoroughly revamped and now displays important data, including distance to dry and
average consumption

The fabric upholstered seats get Infinity symbol motifs along with Nano branding. The door pad trim has been altered slightly, too, and now features Infinity branding, like on the seats. Top-end variants get front power windows, which are operated via the centrally positioned buttons.

The Nano in its newest avatar replaces the fixed rear hatch with a hinged, hydraulic unit that reveals up to 110 litres of boot space for the manual variants and 94 litres for the AMT version. That may not be a lot of space, but is handy enough to keep those shopping bags when there are four passengers aboard. With the rear seats folded, however, storage capacity increases to 500 litres. The GenX Nano also gets a parcel tray with Nano branding and integrated speakers.

Legroom and headroom is commendable for a car this size, both at the front and rear seats. Even six footers can sit in the backseat without rubbing their knees against the front seat’s backrest. Quality of materials and overall levels of fit & finish have improved, though there’s still much to be desired.

The Nano has always been a cute little runabout and the changes made to the GenX version decidedly add to the trendy appeal.

Engine, gearbox and performance
It is powered by a 624cc, multi-point fuel injected, water cooled, naturally aspirated, 2-cylinder gasoline engine with 2 valves per cylinder. The rear mounted engine delivers 38PS power@5500RPM and 51Nm torque. Performance figures remain the same as the previous Nano. Engine cooling has been enhanced with the radiator having been moved to the front. Other changes made to the engine include a tweaked ECU, better mapping for the drive-by-wire throttle and better fuel efficiency which now stands at 23.6kmpl for the manual variant and at 21.9km/l for the AMT.

The engine doesn’t feel very strong and suffers a bit more as you turn the A/C on, though the drive at the wheels is adequate for the Nano to handle city traffic effortlessly. Taking to the highways, and munching miles in a relaxed manner isn’t the Nano’s forte, though. Talking of the highway, the fuel tank capacity has been raised from the earlier 16 litres to 24 litres for a longer range and lesser trips to the fuel station.

The XE, XM and XT variants continue with the 4-speed manual transmission, while the top-of-the-line XTA version gets a five-speed AMT. The new AMT, developed from a Magnetti Marelli sourced actuator unit, has five speeds and boasts Creep function and Sports mode.

Now, an AMT is the quickest and most economical way for a manufacturer to offer a car with a transmission which works like an automatic. Everything’s mechanically similar to a manual shift, except that here, you have hydraulic actuators controlled by a computer chip that act like your hands and brain on a manual setup. The functional keywords here are convenience and economy, not performance.

There is a bit of delay to be experienced during downshifts and the transmission isn’t comparable to a full blown automatic or CVT transmission. All of that said, however, the AMT makes tremendous sense in city traffic and spells great convenience, especially with the Nano’s diminutive size and easy manoeuvrability.

The Creep function on the AMT allows the GenX Nano to inch forwards or backwards by just taking the foot off the brake. It’s a great feature for stop-go traffic, relieving the driver of physical and mental strain. The car will attain a speed of up to 7km/h using the Creep function, post which you’ll have to use the accelerator to gain further momentum. The Sports mode allows the car to hold on to revs for longer, and helps while trying to overtake or accelerate quickly.

Tata Motors has also taken steps to reduce the NVH levels, and the difference is quite perceptible, though it’s still on the higher side as compared with other mainstream cars. Even with all the measures taken, the sound from the rear-mounted engine manages to filter in, and isn’t pleasing to the ears.

Handling and dynamics
The removal of the fixed rear hatch could have reduced the Nano’s structural rigidity, so Tata has worked on the car’s body at other places to reinforce the structure. The C-pillar and front sections have been reinforced; while intrusion beams for side crash protection have been added on all four doors for enhanced structural strength.

These structural changes, apart from enhancing safety, have also resulted in improving the dynamic ability of the car at higher speeds and around corners. Independent suspension all around with anti-roll bars also does its bit to help the car maintain poise. The new Nano rides on tubeless 135/70R12-F tyres up front, and slightly wider 155/65 R12-R tyres at the rear. Grip cannot be termed generous, but there’s nothing to complain about while in the city.

Pushing the car hard around bends is a strict no-no, though. The brakes too, featuring a drum set-up all round aren’t the most powerful, though they possess adequate anchor dropping capability for sensible city use.

The GenX Nano comes equipped with an electric steering and active return feature, making it an amazingly easy car to manoeuvre in the city. A turning radius of 4 metres further enables it to handle crowded environs with utter ease.

The Nano in its newest avatar, especially with the AMT option, makes sense for those who want a compact, economical and convenient city car. It also lends itself as a handy option for women owing to it its cutesy appeal, AMT option and manoeuvrability.

Having said this, don’t expect too much from that cost-effective AMT tech, as it’s built to a cost and doesn’t match up with the conventional, full-blown automatics. The overall refinement of the package could have been better too. However, for a car that saves you more than Rs 1 lakh over its nearest competitor in such a low-cost, low-margin segment, doesn’t leave room for complaint. If you’re fishing for an automatic’s convenience on a budget, you really can’t miss test driving this one.

Technical specs

Engine: 624cc 2 cylinder, petrol
max Power: 38.19 PS @ 5500 RPM
max TORQUE: 51 Nm @ 4000 RPM
Transmission: 4 speed manual / 5-speed AMT
Fuel efficiency (ARAI) : 23.6 kmpl / 21.9 kmpl


Maruti Alto K10 AMT

Maruti Alto K10 AMT
Facelifted exhaustively from the inside and out, the new Alto K10 is the closest rival to the Nano AMT. Powered by the 1.0-litre three pot K10B petrol engine with 67bhp of power and 90Nm of torque, the Alto has a significant advantage in terms of overall performance. A boot space of 177 litres may not be too large by itself, but is significantly larger than the Nano. A five speed manual transmission is also on offer along with the five-speed AMT that also serves the Celerio hatchback.
Price: Rs 3.1 – 3.95  lakh (ex-showroom)

Maruti Suzuki Celerio AMT

Maruti Suzuki Celerio AMT
The Celerio was the first car to start the trend of outfitting small cars with an AMT. Reasonably spacious on the inside, and featuring a fresh new design, the Celerio has done well. It is powered by the same 1.0 litre petrol engine as the one in the Alto with 67bhp of power and 90Nm torque. The car also shares its manual and AMT transmission with its smaller sibling. A 793cc, 2-cylinder turbo diesel engine with 46bhp of power and 125Nm of torque is also on offer, though without the AMT option.
Price: Rs 3.9 – 5.7  lakh (ex-showroom)

Tata Zest F-Tronic AMT

Tata Zest F-Tronic AMT
The Zest represents the first of Tata Motors’ next generation products. Featuring a well appointed interior along with a segment leading Harman-sourced infotainment system, the Zest set the benchmark for its rivals in many departments. The car is the first across all segments to offer the convenience of an AMT transmission along with the frugality of a diesel engine. The diesel variant can also be had with a 5-speed manual transmission.
A 1.2 litre turbo petrol with a 5-speed manual transmission is also available. No AMT on offer with the petrol version, though
Price: Rs 4.8 – 8.1 lakh (ex-showroom)

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