The world's least expensive new car, India's Tata Nano, is now selling across that country, with plans afoot to offer an upgraded version in Europe this year or in 2012.

Meanwhile, carmaker Tata (which owns Jaguar Land Rover) is hardly standing still. At this week's 2011 Geneva Motor Show, Tata rolled out the Pixel Concept, its idea of an ultra-efficient urban car.

The Pixel is aimed mostly at European and Asian markets, where fuel is far pricier than in the U.S. And many of its features are meant to make it stand out in crowded, space-constrained urban streets.

Tata says the Pixel, which is almost exactly 10 feet long, "comfortably accommodates four adults," unlike minicars like the Smart ForTwo and the 2012 Scion iQ.

Its scissor doors open up, rather than out, meaning they stay within the Pixel's footprint without impinging on traffic, cyclists, or pedestrians passing just inches away.

Even more ingenious, its Zero Turn toroidal traction-drive Infinitely Variable Transmission (IVT) can rotate one rear wheel forward and the other backward, which combines with acute angles on the front wheels to give a turning circle of just 8.5 feet.

The engine is a turbocharged 1.2-liter three-cylinder diesel, well suited to Europe's preference for small passenger diesels. As in the four-seat, four-door Tata Nano, it is positioned under the rear seat to drive the rear wheels in a "rear-mid engine" layout.

Tata designed the Pixel for low aerodynamic drag--a challenge in such a short car--and included engine start-stop, low rolling-resistance tires, and other fuel efficiency technologies.

The result is estimated fuel economy on the European combined cycle of 69 miles per gallon.

The Pixel's styling reminds us of nothing so much as the Kia Pop concept, also an urban car--although electrically powered--shown at last fall's Paris Motor Show.

The driver can control certain key functions using a smart phone running "My Tata Connect," neatly shifting the cost of some expensive electronics onto the driver.

Though we're not sure how you would get the car home if your smart phone were stolen ....

[Tata Motors via Indian Autos Blog]


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