Bajaj RE60 minicar

Bajaj RE60 minicar

Living in a country where safe, comfortable and fast cars are often easy to come by, you can forget that some countries aren't quite the same.

Take India, for instance. While the $2,400 or so charged for a Tata Nano might raise eyebrows in the U.S, the tiny, narrow body, basic interior and unfashionable details wouldn't exactly start a queue of eager buyers.

On the Indian market, it's one of the most important cars ever. Now, Indian maker Bajaj has unveiled its rival to the Nano, called the RE60. Bajaj is most well-known for its auto-rickshaws, the three-wheel "tuk tuk" vehicles making up huge numbers in Indian traffic.

Indian Autos Blog expects the price to start at around 1.5 lakh rupees, or about $2,800. So what will Indian customers get for such a low price, albeit slightly more than that of a Nano?

Certainly not styling. We'd hesitate to call the Nano an attractive car, but at least there's a degree of styling flair about it - the RE60 is pure utility. It's also little bigger than a Smart ForTwo, but weighs only 880 pounds - about half as much. Technically, the RE60 isn't even a car - it's a quadricycle.

Bajaj RE60 minicar

Bajaj RE60 minicar

With a 15-20 horsepower, 200cc gasoline (or natural gas) engine, it needs all the help it can get, but economy will be the car's main selling point. Bajaj is claiming 40km per liter, which translates to 94 miles per gallon. Emissions are low too - important when Bajaj claims that vehicles account for 70 percent of the pollution in Indian cities.

While it looks unsafe to Western eyes, the four-wheeled, fully-enclosed RE60 should also be far less dangerous than the unstable auto-rickshaws currently being used, potentially cutting the number of fatalities from accidents, which currently stands at well over 100,000 each year.

Cars like the Tata Nano and Bajaj RE60 perfectly illustrate the motoring culture divide between Westernized nations and developing countries.

You probably wouldn't want to drive them yourself, but for the average, low-income Indian buyer, they're as significant as the Model T Ford was in America.


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