The £1300 car

Published: 09 January 2008

One of the most intriguing cars of the year will be unveiled later this week: the Tata one-lakh car that could redefine budget transport for the masses. The £1300 bargain will be launched at the New Delhi Auto Show amid an anticipated media storm.

Tata hopes to mobilise India with the one-lakh car, named after the Indian shorthand for 100,000 rupees, the equivalent £1300. Vehicle sales are booming in India, up 8 percent year-on-year in December 2007 – and Tata plans to accelerate that even further by offering four-wheeled transport to those who previously relied on scooters and rickshaws. With a population of 1.1 billion and growing rapidly, it’s clearly a market worth tapping into.

Genesis of a budget car

We won’t understand the full technical details of how Tata has managed to build the so-called People’s Car so cheaply until 10 January when Ratan Tata slides the covers off the one-lakh car. However, our sources in India have provided enough details to whet our appetite: it is understood to have a metal chassis wrapped in plastic body panels, and powered by a 33bhp 660cc engine built by Bosch.

Like VW’s Up concept car, the Tata is rear-engined and rear-drive, sending its drive through a CVT transmission. The car has been engineered from the ground up to be as cheap as possible – and this has involved an engineering rethink; for instance, the engineers have looked to the world of motorbikes to see how fuel systems can be produced simply and cheaply.

Tata won’t have the bargain-car market to itself; rival Indian car maker Bajaj is rumoured to be readying a budget model to undermine Tata’s launch this week.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet