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A Global Battle for the Cheapest Car

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author photo by Autotrader May 2010

The cheapest new car in the world right now costs about 140,000 rupees. Yes, it's the Tata Nano, an Indian four-seater mini-car. That works out to around $2,500. But the Nano looks like it's going to get some tough competition.

Another Indian company, Bajaj, will enter the fray with a $2,500 offering and the company is claiming 70 mpg (the Nano hits 47 mpg). The interesting thing is that Bajaj is part of the Nissan/Renault alliance (incidentally, the base Nissan Versa is one of the cheapest new cars on sale in the U.S.), so there's some global potential there.

The real threat, though, comes from China. With a plan to undercut the competition by at least $250 and go on sale in Europe and North America, Chinese automaker Geely has big hopes for its diminutive IG.

So far, we've only seen the IG in concept form with rather cool gull-wing doors (don't be surprised if the production version doesn't have those) and seating for three: one front and center, the other two just flanking behind. It certainly has the edge over the Nano in the styling stakes. By the way, nano means small in the Gujarati language of the Indian sub-continent.

Whereas the tiny Tata putters around with a 600cc, 33-horsepower, two-cylinder engine, the IG is said to have a 1.0-liter engine making 70 hp and 69 pound-feet of torque. And Geely declares that the IG's build quality will be superior to its Indian rival.

A spokesperson for Geely has said: "The concept has had a very positive reaction. And with the car not launching until 2012, there is time for us to expand our network." Which is exactly what the company has done. It bought Volvo from Ford in the spring of this year for $1.8 billion.

Soon after the 2012 debut of the Chinese gasoline-powered IG, we should see an all-electric version with even more power: 80 hp and 113 lb-ft. A full charge of its lithium-ion battery pack should supply a range of 93 miles, augmented with solar panels on its hood, roof and dash. We will have to see if small really is beautiful.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
A Global Battle for the Cheapest Car - Autotrader