The $2,000 car has arrived, and it's not too bad

Jason Cochran

The world's cheapest car, the Tata Nano, goes on sale in India in the next few days. The price tag beats the price of even many scooters: just $2,000.

Beside the fact the car looks like an enclosed golf cart, the features of the standard are plain as paper: four-speed rear wheel transmission, no airbag, no air conditioning, hand-crank windows, a four-gallon tank, and a top speed of 75 mph. The crash rating isn't much higher up the scale than paper, either, and savings were achieved by simplifying everything, including by reducing the number of wheel nuts from four to three. On the upside, there's room for five people (maybe not five American people), and you get between 43 and 47-miles per gallon. And, of course, there's that stellar price tag. A BBC reviewer said it "feels significantly more expensive than it is."

In New York City, a similar-looking vehicle, the Smart car (price for a new one: $17,000), has been appearing in greater numbers. They've been a big hit, creating more space for parking, and a smidgen more comfort and security than a Vespa (price: from $3,100). Tata has noticed the surge, because it plans to start offering an American version of the Nano within three years. Expect ours to be more expensive, though, if it's going to meet safety requirements to make them roadworthy here. It will also probably have a new name, since Apple is using "Nano."