Bajaj unveils RE60, a low-cost four-wheeler

In what could be termed as the perfect precedent to the forthcoming Indian Auto Expo, Bajaj Auto unveiled the RE60, it's low cost 4-wheeler in New Delhi yesterday. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Rajiv Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto made it amply clear that this vehicle is intended to be an evolution of their three-wheeler and, as such, it is a big step-up in the right direction. Unlike many other stories doing rounds in the media, we do not want to fool you by saying that this vehicle is a Tata Nano competitor. Well, to be frank, this is not even a car.

True to its tradition of creating brands out of individual models, Bajaj has not used its logo or name anywhere in the vehicle. Since this is being pitched in as a replacement to the three-wheeled auto-rickshaw which is a commercial vehicle, Bajaj has branded this vehicle as RE. The last two digits in RE60 denotes its 60 g/km of CO2 emissions, which is just half of what an average small car emit. The RE60 will be powered by a 200cc, water-cooled, 4-valve petrol engine with twin spark technology (DTS-i) and closed loop fuel injection system.

Look at it as a car and it looks truly horrible. But, as Bajaj rightly pointed out, look at it as a potential replacement to the auto rickshaw and it suddenly looks better. The RE60 is narrow, tall and made of a monocoque metal polymer hybrid body structure that results in a very less kerb weight of just around 400 kg. There were two variants showcased - a commercial and a deluxe. The Kia Soul-inspired headlamps and wheels of the deluxe version, that also has body colored bumpers and mirrors are the only true highlights of the design.

The RE60 is bare-bone minimal when it comes to features but, then again, compare it to an auto-rickshaw and it brings in never-heard-before features for the segment such as doors, hard-top roof, seat belts and, above all, the safety and stability of four wheels. With the engine producing around 20 bhp of power, the RE60 will have a limited top speed of around 70 km/hr which is enough for its target application of intra-city passenger transport. The RE60 is claimed to have a real world fuel-efficiency of 35 km/l and will come with LPG and CNG fuel options too.

We all know that Bajaj entered into an ultimately-failed alliance with Renault-Nissan to develop a low cost car to compete with the Tata Nano. A prototype was even displayed at the 2008 Auto Expo which looked and felt like a car. Over the course of time, it seems that development has changed track and what we have now is this, a basic four-wheeler that does not fit into the passenger car segment. But, Bajaj says that Renault-Nissan has still not seen the vehicle and are free to decide whether to sell this under their brand names or not.

To sum it up, the RE60 is a thumbs-up evolution of the auto rickshaw and we really wouldn't mind this replacing those notorious three-wheelers from our cities. While Bajaj has not announced the pricing of the RE60 yet, reports indicate that it is expected to be priced around 1.5 Lakh Rupees when it goes on sale later this year. With the Tata Nano not really setting the sales charts on fire in India owing to its cheap image and fire-related incidents, whether the market will welcome the Bajaj RE60 with open arms is anybody's guess.

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