If the world's most inexpensive vehicle is big on global ambition, it certainly doesn't sound like it.
A Toro mower sounds like a Ferrari sitting next to the world-famous, rear-engine, four-passenger Tata Nano.
From the turn of the key on the right-hand-drive beige Nano CX, our test car for a Continental supplier program in Regensburg, Germany, the word “basic” feels like a stretch.
Rudimentary. Simplistic. Primitive (shockingly so). Also, in summation, not entirely all that bad to drive.
After a few “hot” laps around a one-mile track in southeastern Bavaria, a few things are clear about the little car slated to solve the world's mobility problems.
First, it's all about getting people moving in India. In that way, it works perfectly. Remember, most Indians travel in packs of five … to a motorcycle. With the Nano, they can travel together in a comfortable (yes, comfortable) car. The rear bench seat is spacious (think 6-footers), and three could easily slide in for the ride.Second, the car doesn't try to overdeliver. For $2,500, you get air conditioning and an aftermarket radio. That's about it.
The windows aren't automatic. Neither are the locks. It's about the length and width of a Smart ForTwo, and there are four doors, but there's no access to the trunk from outside the car. That's where the lawnmower of an engine sits, a 623cc, 35-hp engine that gets up to 60 mph with a really, really long runway in front of you.
Up front, the dashboard has lots of plastic and a center console that would make a BMW 7 series look like the cockpit of the Airbus A380. We're talking two round air vents below a speedometer (no tachometer), a fan and temperature control and that radio. That's it.
Beyond that, it's just you and Nano, puttering along when the motor fires up, then getting really loud when you edge out of first gear onto the track.
Realistically, a 1970s Beetle feels more comfortable. And, one thought: Apparently, 40 years of innovation haven't enabled a company to build a better 1970s Beetle for less than $3,000.
But, basics aside, it's kinda cool in a rudimentary way.
It will get people moving in India and around the world. Tata has even talked about bringing a larger version of the vehicle to North America.
We'll see how the world responds.
So, fire up the lawnmower, roll down the windows with your hand, pack five people into the car and make like it's the turn of the century. Because it is.
A whole new century and a whole new approach to mobility.
Putt putt putt putt putt ...