After its internationally lauded launch in 2009, the Tata Nano has seen its hype fall flat on the face. Ever since, Tata Motors has been desperately trying to evolve the world's cheapest car into a city vehicle that lives down the image of a "Rs 1 lakh car". The original price tag was conceived to be its USP, but gave the Nano the crippling attribute of a substandard machine. Spontaneous combustion and other problems did not help its cause either. Tata Motors went back to the planning room, and the news that emanates from the factories is the Twist, a new Nano avatar that looks fresh. But do the changes justify a new price tag of over Rs 2 lakh?
Credit should be given where it is due, and Tata Motors has succeeded in tweaking the car, getting rid of the niggling problems, and simultaneously improving the quality of the interiors. The standout addition to the Nano Twist is power steering. But it's time Tata Motors made it standard in all variants. As earlier, the lower variants of the Twist lack this feature, and being city cars, they always turn parking or driving in heavy traffic into a veritable arm wrestling match.
All my assumptions based on my past experience with driving the Nano were shattered because the Twist is zippy and effortless to drive. What makes it even more of a delight is the fact that now you can use the 4-metre turning radius without thinking twice about a reluctant steering wheel. The days of a three-point turn is now gone as you can drive straight into a tight space and park the Twist with ease. Tata Motors has, however, ensured that the steering wheel does not feel paper light, and the power assistance reduces with increase in speed, giving you a decent feel of the car.
Apart from some chrome garnishing, the Twist badge at the rear and the introduction of new colours like Damson Purple and Dazzle Blue, there aren't any significant change in the exteriors. The 2012 interior upgrades have all been carried on to the Twist. The all-beige cabin even manages to camouflage the average build quality. As for additional features, the Twist comes with a music system with Bluetooth connectivity and, more importantly, two glove boxes. Tata Motors has done some work on the clutch, and it now complements the power steering to make for a comfortable drive. The centrally located instrument cluster has been changed to interface with the electronics that give you a distance-to-empty readout, mileage and the fuel level. For an ultra compact vehicle, the Nano's offering has always been its spacious cabin with fairly comfortable seats. Unlike many other hatchbacks, there is plenty of shoulder room. With the summer hear beating down on our necks, the Twist's air conditioner provides quick relief as it efficiently brings down the temperature in the cabin. And the good news is that the air conditioner doesn't sap the engine's power.
As the Twist is a city dweller's vehicle, it behaves fine on tarmac. But once it hits rough patches, it tends to crash into potholes. Tata Motors has definitely improved on the noise-vibration-harshness levels of the older version, and the loud annoying noise of the engine is not as audible as earlier.
The engine remains the same trusty 624cc petrol unit, but it has enough punch to take care of your daily driving duties. Yet, the engine is not as responsive as the 2009 model because in the previous upgrade of the Nano, the gear ratios were made taller to improve the fuel efficiency.
Sure, the Nano is one of the most affordable cars in the market, but now Tata Motors, with the Twist, has given it a more respectable image. So, buying this car does not automatically mean the word "compromise" is tattooed on your forehead. The Nano Twist looks and feels matured, the paint quality has improved, but the best thing about the Twist is that it drives effortlessly and comes across as city car with substance rather than with serious compromises. It is respectable to look at. However, has it transcended altogether its cheap image? We leave that to you to ponder over.
NANO TWIST XT
Power: 38PS @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 51Nm @ 4000 rpm
Top speed: 105 kmph
Mileage (ARAI): 25 kmpl
Fuel tank: 15 litres
Price: Rs 2.31 lakh
(Ex showroom, Delhi)