Like the idea of a brand new car for £1300? That’s what Indian drivers will be able to buy now that Tata has launched its so-called ‘Lakh car’, the freshly unveiled Nano.
Not sure what Apple will think about that name. Tata is also calling it the People’s Car, and it bears some resemblance to the original people’s car, the Volkswagen Beetle. It’s rear-engined, for instance, built for tough conditions, provides room for four and above all, is likely to be responsible for the motorisation of a sizeable chunk of the indigenous population. And in another throwback to the past, the press release talks of tubeless tyres. In case you’re wondering, it means that the tyre has no inner tube, in contrast to a bicycle tyre, and to the tyres of British cars, err, 50 years ago.
The Nano is much smaller than the Beetle (right) though, and smaller too than India’s popular Suzuki-based Maruti Zen, although it provides more room inside. Indeed, like plenty of other people’s cars from the past - the Fiat 500, the Austin Mini - it packs a big interior within a small space, though it’s closer in concept and silhouette to Mitsubishi’s i. It’s propelled by a 33bhp 623cc twin cylinder petrol engine, complete with balancer shaft, and is claimed to be cleaner than the millions of two-wheelers that much of India uses to get about on. And it’ll be hugely safer, too.
It stands every chance of getting Indians off their motorbikes and into their first car, just as the Fiat 500, Citroen 2CV and Mini did 50 years ago, and will undoubtedly be the first of several ultra-cheap cars from around the world. Whether any of them make it over here seems doubtful for now - though the Nano has safety features such as crumple zones, side intrusion beams and reinforced seats, it is airbag-free (unsurprisingly at the price) and unlikely to fare brilliantly in a euro-NCAP test.