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Car review: Tata Nano Twist XT

Thursday, 13 February 2014 - 8:27pm IST | Agency: Zeegnition
  • Kunal Khadse

The Nano has always been an effective city car and with the new Twist XT variant, it now eliminates all the chinks in its armour as well. We find out how much of a difference the extras in this new top variant really make.

The formula for the perfect city car is constantly evolving as roads get cluttered with more and more traffic, parking spaces get congested and the number of cars in general go up. But there are still certain parameters which, if met, make for great city runabouts – compact exterior dimensions with expansive interiors and tight manoeuvrability into small spaces. When Tata Motors unveiled the ground-breaking Nano to a global audience that was watching with bated breath, the Indian manufacturer seemed to have cracked that very formula and even managed to do it at what seemed like an unbeatable price. The Nano may not have quite stuck to the Rs 1 lakh magic price that the car has fortunately or unfortunately been associated with ever since it was conceived, but it is still a marvel in automotive packaging. The car has enough space to seat five in relative comfort and has a zippy engine that actually makes it quite a bit of fun to drive in the city.

The biggest achievement of the Nano though is in the ease of usability – highlighted mainly by the extremely short overhangs. With the four wheels in pretty much the four extreme corners of this monospace design, the cute little Nano also has insane turning angles on the front wheels, which means it can turn in one of the tightest circles possible for its dimensions. While this theoretically made the Nano the easiest car to fit in tiny spaces, in the real world it took a bit if getting used to and ended up being a bit of a workout for the forearms. Why? Because, the Tata Nano did not have power steering.

This could have easily been the most obvious and immediate issue to be addressed by Tata Motors but for some reason it has taken almost three years of its existence on Indian roads for the Pune-based manufacturer to facilitate assisted steering in the Nano. The good news is that this has finally been done though and this very neatly slots in a new top-end variant for the car – the Tata Nano Twist XT. At first it may seem that the brushless electric power assisted steering is the only thing that makes the Twist different, but it isn’t so – along with that extra motor comes an array of subtle, but very important changes as well.

Visually, the Nano Twist hasn’t been tampered with much on the outside except for a very chunky badge on the back and chrome strips both fore and aft. There is also an extra mesh grille in the rear bumper for better air flow to and from the rear-mounted engine. Then there’s also the availability of new colours with the Nano Twist XT – apart from the regular orange, white and silver paints, the Twist is also available in Damson Purple, Royal Gold and Dazzle Blue. The new colours instantly make the funky little Nano even more youthful in its appearance which should end up wooing the ladies at first glance.

The big difference is on the inside – with better fabrics now lining the Nano all round. The Dazzle Blue Nano Twist will also get a sporty black fabric upholstery as well as black door trim and dashboard. The dashboard itself now houses an elaborate trip computer that also shows the distance to empty for the fuel gauge. There are two glove boxes, one on either side of the central instrument console and also two speakers on the extreme ends. An additional two speakers get integrated with the rear parcel shelf as well. And then there’s a very funky audio system that now integrates Bluetooth capability into the Nano apart from housing USB and Aux In ports. The clutch ergonomics have been tweaked as well, based on customer feedback which has also led to a repositioning of the power window switches to behind the gear shifter. And of course, the Nano Twist also comes with remote keyless entry!

All of that is great and definitely adds a whole lot of value to the Nano Twist but this variant’s raison d’etre is that Electric Power Assisted Steering that finally makes its way to this cute little city car. Even before we got behind the wheel of the Nano Twist we knew that this was to be a perfect match to the car’s on-paper abilities thanks to its compact dimensions and tight turning circle. Quite frankly, the power steering in the Nano is probably such a no-brainer that we ended up asking why this update wasn’t brought in earlier! Sourced from ZF Lenksysteme, the power steering system on the Nano Twist employs brushless motors and a built-in active return system that centres the steering wheel no matter how far into the turn you are – quite a convenient feature when negotiating heavy traffic.

The steering wheel, which has also been given a larger diameter can easily be turned lock-to-lock with a single finger and after a whole day of negotiating cramped U-turns, slalom manoeuvres and a tricky and narrow cone-lined course, we got back with a big smile on our faces. You see, the Nano Twist isn’t just about that extra bit of mechanical componentry on the steering column, but combined with the entertainment system’s versatility, this could just be one of the best city cars in the market.

That said, the Nano still has its flaws – the biggest one probably being with the size of the steering wheel. This does come out to be a very ‘catch-22’ situation with the electric power steering dictating the increased size of the steering wheel, but the non-adjustability of the column means that it could end up fouling with your thighs while driving – especially if you’re tall.

So in the end, the Nano is still pretty much that cute car that everyone thought would never see the light of day but has been busting myths all around. With the Twist XT being added on top of the three existing variants, it takes the Nano’s reach even further up the automotive chain – even at its ex-showroom price of Rs 2.36 lakh it still is good value for money. But the question to be asked is, what next for the Nano? The current model now seems complete with the additions on the Twist XT and this could just be the precursor for a completely new Nano soon!

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