Drive - Pune to Shirdi in a Tata Nano

It has been more than 6 months since I have moved to Pune and I haven’t had a single chance to go around exploring Maharashtra for its iconic holy places, scenic mountains and some quiet beaches due to a hectic work schedule and lack of company. Then a chance to go on a road trip materialized spontaneously and all three of my roommates were in to visit a holy place - Shirdi. Only the means to visit the place was left. That too was arranged at the last moment. Our ride was the tiny Tata Nano – courtesy of my friend who had borrowed the car from his friend. And so began the one day trip to Shirdi and back. The world famous Shirdi Sai Baba temple is located just 180 Kms from Pune. Iconic holy place, check.

Early morning photoshoot!

NH 60, en route to Sangamner

Our car was the 2012 model special edition Nano LX, with red graphics on the sides and a special edition sticker at the back, distinguishing it from the regular versions. Enter into the car and it’s like a toned down 1BHK apartment. Space is one thing that is big for a car this small. The rear legroom can put many big hatches to shame. The Nano was equipped with two gloveboxes for storage in front on both sides of the dash. Keeping us entertained throughout the drive was the 2 speaker Blaukpunkt audio system, with aux input and USB port. Funny thing, only my mobile seemed to be compatible with the  aux cable (drive with only my playlist, check..!). Power windows are offered in front only. The beige dashboard is a welcome change along with the passenger side rear view mirror which proved to be useful in the highways. We started before dawn from my place at chinchwad, where we passed through Chikali, Dehu Alandi road, joining at NH 60. Once we hit the NH 60, it was all the way straight route taking us through Chakan – Peth – Narayangaon -  Alephata -  Gunjalwadi  -  Sangamner for 144 kms.

The narrow village road to shirdi

Simple layout with storage space on both sides, beige dashboard a welcome change

The Tata nano is equipped with a 2 cylinder 624 cc petrol engine churning out max power of 38 bhp at 5500 rpm, peak torque 51 Nm at 4000 rpm. The car has a 15 litre capacity petrol tank and spare tyre under the hood. The car is rear engine rear wheel drive,  with a 4 speed manual gearbox. The clutch felt heavy and the brakes felt a little slow in response. Both the clutch and brake pedals have this long travel for proper response - a dead pedal near the clutch would have been nice. Braking is taken care of 180 mm drum brakes in all four wheels.

Petrol tank and spare tyre under the hood

Spacious interiors with generous headroom and legroom

Small outside, big inside!

 We stopped once for a tea just outside Peth, on the highway after two hrs of driving. The Nano evoked mixed feelings throughout the day. The area where you underestimate it, it shined. Looking at the dials with its speed limited to only 120 kmph, one would expect it to max out at 100 or 110 kmph. I was pleasantly surprised when the speedo was showing excess of 110 kmph on a straight section of the dual carriageway. The Nano can comfortably cruise all day at 80 – 90 kmph. However overtaking needs effort as the tall fourth gear makes it sluggish. You have to be focused when driving the Nano at speeds above 80 kmph, as it becomes a little uneasy even for small undulations on road. The anti - roll bars up front do reduce the instability during highway speeds and in cornering, but only to an extent.

Tea - charge at highway

It was a traffic free day for most of the drive
 Due to its tall stance (1652 mm height) it offers a commanding view of the road ahead but also makes it unstable due to crosswinds on the highway, and there is a fair amount of body roll if cornered at speeds of 50 – 60 kmph. Dual airbags should have been at least optional. The skinny tyres too take the fun away as you can’t be speeding around corners. The thick A - pillar causes a blind side when navigating in city and can become quite a hindrance. The compact dimensions (3099 mm wheel base) however prove to be a boon as the Nano can squeeze into a small space without a fuss. Turning radius is a very small 4 m.

The nano is the champ of parking wars

This route offers a mix of straight roads and ghat sections
There are three ghat sections in this route and the views were pretty awesome outside since it rained and there was greenery all around. Once at Sangamner, you have to take a detour that is a 34 km drive on village roads to Shirdi. The Nano absorbed most of the bumps  but the road conditions were too harsh for the little car. The poorly maintained roads had giant potholes that slowed us down during the last few kms. The destination being a 4 hr drive, we reached exactly at 8 am. As always it was a crowded day for Dharshan but not as much compared to the afternoon crowd – the queue started at the roads. We completed the Dharshan by 11 am sharp, walked half a km for the prasadalaya, and by 1:30 pm we were on our way back. It was a hot day in Shirdi, and there we were jogging barefoot on the asphalt from the prasadalyaya to the car parked half a km away. And the AC of the car wasn’t working. Once we hit the road things became better, the weather too became gradually cool from the hot weather back there.

Pomegranate fields along the village road that lead to shirdi

The place seems to be famous for pomegranates, as there were fields of pomegranates along the road to Shirdi and a kg of the fruit was available for Rs 25! So don’t forget to pack an extra bag for the fruits when visiting. After a quick tea in near Sangamner, the smooth roads of NH60 welcomed us back and we made it back to Pune at 6 pm. We tanked up 18 liters of petrol, drove 356 kms in a day, with an economy of 19.77 kmpl. Considering the harsh terrain encountered, the Nano surprised us with its ability to handle potholes that even it can fit into and the 180 mm ground clearance ensured no harm to the underbody. The Nano offered decent levels of comfort such that there was no fatigue at the end of the day after driving more than 350 odd kms. This was one trip that went exactly as per schedule, without any planning as things were easier in Shirdi to get the dharshan which helped us save time and enjoy the drive, which was the idea - go on a great road trip in a fun car.