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by Tim Beissmann

It may have four wheels but the Bajaj RE60 isn’t a car, according to its Indian manufacturer.

At its unveiling at the 2012 New Delhi Auto Expo, Bajaj Auto Ltd managing director Rajiv Bajaj said the boxy RE60 would create a new market in the subcontinent when it goes on sale around the middle of the year.

“This is not a car but a four-wheeler vehicle, which is a new segment in its own right,” Bajaj told The Times of India. “We have put in a lot of technology and features which are not in three-wheelers or even cars.”

The RE60 is expected to undercut the price of the Tata Nano – currently the cheapest car in the world, starting at approximately $2700 in India – although Bajaj denies the cut-price hatchback (estimated to cost around $2200-$3500) has been designed to take on the Nano.

“We are looking at the customers who currently operate three-wheelers to shift to this four-wheeler low-emission segment.”

The Indian manufacturer – which until now has only produced two- and three-wheeled vehicles – started work on the small-car project four years ago in partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Measuring just 2752mm long, 1312mm wide and 1650mm tall, the Bajaj RE60 will become one of the smallest four-seaters in the world. It also promises to be one of the most efficient. Powered by a 15kW rear-mounted 200cc engine (capable of running on petrol, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas), the RE60 will use around 2.8 litres of petrol per 100km and emit 60g/km CO2. The 400kg hatch has a top speed of 70km/h.

Bajaj’s marketing of the RE60 could be the key to its success in India and in other developing markets. The Nano has struggled to take hold in India, partly because Tata has trumpeted that it is ‘the world’s cheapest car’ – a trait that domestic customers have found a less than desirable.

Bajaj – currently the biggest seller of three-wheeled passenger vehicles in India – is hopeful the four-wheeled RE60 will gradually overtake this market.