Tata Nano in India and used Maruti 800 – a showdown


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This is one inevitable comparison, seeing that the Tata Nano in India is newly launched whereas the Maruti 800 is an icon of yesteryears. The latter actually carried the mantle of been the lowest priced car in India and now it’s position has been dethroned. This is because of former which claims to be the lowest priced car not just in India but across the world. Launched in 2009, the Tata Nano has ended the streak of India’s cheapest and best selling car. So much so that, Maruti Suzuki had to stop production of this car. However that doesn’t take away the virtues of this car. Here I have given you a rundown as to why one can opt for a used Maruti 800 or go for a new Tata Nano.

Looks

Tata Nano: Since this is the newer car of both, I would concentrate on it first. The Tata Nano looks like an egg shell. Now I know that I have already mentioned this in the Tata Nano review however I would still like to call it the same. It is more of utilitarian design but nowhere does it look offensive. It has a missing radiator grille at the front and tear shaped fog lamps{the latter is available only on the top variant and there is no space for them on the lower ones.}. The made for Europe Tata Nanos have alloy wheels however the Tata Nano in India make do with steel wheels of size 135/70 R12 for the front tyres and 155/65 R12 for the rear ones. The rear also shows a curved form and reveals the radiator grille. It has a single tail pipe which resembles the one from an humble rickshaw{which by the way costs more than the top variant of the Tata Nano}.

Used Maruti 800: Now, the Maruti 800 has spawned almost 3 decades. Its basic shape has remained very much the same. It was inspired from the 80s and nowhere does it look as modern as Tata Nano in India. Earlier Maruti 800s had that oblong noise with little to comment upon. Actually the cars from that era all looked the same. This car also featured 12 inch wheels with no alloy wheel option. The rear end also underwent many changes during the course of its evolution. The post 2004 models got clear lens blinkers.

The Tata Nano in India wins this round based on its newer design.

Interiors

Tata Nano: Sufficiently roomy is what we would call this cabin. It has better space utilization than the Maruti 800. You would rather prefer to climb into a cabin rather than crouch into it. The seats are comfortable with integrated head rests. The dash board is also very well built with no uneven panel gaps. It is also very smooth. There is a single glove box however don’t expect too much from it other than carrying a few papers. There are also two cup holders. The steering wheel is also finished nicely. The rear seats are also good with enough thigh support and the high roof line. There is ample space for 4. The boot space is barely adequate at 125 liters. The Maruti 800 was the benchmark while making the Tata Nano and this has ensured approximately 22% more space.

Used Maruti 800: Now, anyone who has been staying in India since the past 10 years would definitely vouch that they have seen a Maruti 800 crammed with people. So much so that a 5 seater passenger car has about 7 people into it and the car happily jogging along. It however doesn’t ensure that the used Maruti 800 would have the same space. The dashboard design was pretty much ugly. There would be loose wires hanging from everywhere. The AC controls are also huge and ungainly. The seating is also very low and this means that you would have to crouch to get into the cabin. Moreover once you have plonked yourself into the cabin, you would have to wrestle with the non power steering{most of the cars sold were without this basic necessity, not that the car needed it anyways}. I personally, been a 6 footer didn’t find the seating position comfortable. Even in the rear seats{more comfortable than the front ones, chauffer driven anyone?}. I have this personal opinion that older Maruti 800s carried far more space than the newer versions. What this car does offer is more width and thus seating three wouldn’t be a problem. The low flooring also means that there isn’t enough of thigh support.  The interior quality is way below that of even the Tata Nano in India. The boot space is also bigger than the Tata Nano at 170 liters. However the time many of the used Maruti 800s would have spent on the road is testimony to their build quality.

Somehow it doesn’t feel right but the used Maruti 800 takes this one away primarily been a 5 seater.

Handling and ride quality

Tata Nano: On the ride, this mini Tata has got a highly advanced suspension. This one is composed of independent front suspension. This along with the 180 mm ground clearance means that this car should clear the rough with a smile on its face. The ride is good at low speeds however at high speeds{which rarely anyone with a Tata Nano would attempt} it is affected by the crosswinds. However small bumps at higher speed also affect this dimunitive performer. The handling is also good with the non power steering doing your bidding. It however is a bit heavy than what I expected atleast in this company.

Used Maruti 800: The used Maruti 800 has a trailing type suspension which means that it is pretty much noisy over the rough roads. If anything, Maruti had provided for hard shock absorbers at the rear which lead to a good handling package but would take a toll on one’s back if you are going to sit there for long. The handling is more surefooted than the Tata Nano in this case and since the car sits low, it is less buffeted by the cross winds. The suspension has been revised over the years however the net result always ends up the same. Post 2005 used Maruti cars would have a soft suspension set up.

This is won by the Tata Nano, no questions asked.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

Tata Nano: The Tata Nano in India features one of the smallest engine for a 4 wheeler. It has a 624cc, Rear Mounted, MPFi engine which puts out 34.55 Bhp @ 5250 rpm and 48 Nm of torque @ 3000 rpm. Coupled with a 4 speed gear box and a kerb weight of just 600 kilos, this car shoots from 0-100 kmph in 22 seconds. The top speed limited for it is also 105 kmph. Not serious kick in the gut figures but consider the factor that this car would be used mostly in the cities and not for highway jaunts. For the city use, this car is quite apt. Its gear box is also a smooth shifting unit. The brakes are also front disc and drums at the rear. Safety equipment doesn’t amount to much for this car as it is a built to price car. It has a collapsible steering column with side intrusion beams and a rear mounted engine. Fuel efficiency is very good with the Tata Nano returning an overall figure of 21 kmpl in combined city and highway conditions.

Used Maruti 800: Now you may find used Maruti 800s with different engine configuration and states of tune. This is because over its life cycle the car has seen a 1000 cc engine and also an 800 cc one. It also has got 4 speed and also 5 speed transmission. I would prefer the 4 speed one. Since the 1000 cc engine was a limited edition, I would concentrate more on the 800 cc one. It produced 37 Bhp and 51 Nm of torque. This combined with weight of 680 kgs made this car a good performer as it could do speeds in excess of 130 kph. The gear box was a bit vague though. The brakes were front discs and rear drums. Safety was unheard of in a Maruti 800 and hence I would rather omit this topic. It was always Bhagwan Bharose in a Maruti 800. Fuel efficiency was the talking point in a Maruti 800 until the Tata Nano stepped in. Fuel efficiency would hover around the overall mark of 18 kmpl.

The Tata Nano wins this round as well.

Verdict

Now, this shouldn’t be a tough one considering the factors taken above however looking at the overall reliability and the way that it has served the Indian car buying public, I would happily recommend a used Maruti 800 than a Tata Nano in India. This is because of the Maruti reliability factor plus a used Maruti 800 wouldn’t go up in flames unless you did something stupid in it. For the price of a new Tata Nano standard, you would easily get a 2004 used Maruti 800.