India’s Tata Group today announced the world’s cheapest car – the Nano. The compact car is expected to hit the market at a price of just 100,000 Indian rupees (US$2500) plus taxes and is expected to revolutionise car ownership in the 1.1 billion strong market.

The five-seater car has a tiny 33bhp 624cc engine in the rear and is targeted at Indians hoping to trade up to four wheels from a motorcycle. Top speed is around 60mph, however this is plenty for the relatively slow moving Indian traffic.

As you’d expect in a car priced like this, there is little in the way of additional frills. The base model, for example, has no air conditioning, no electric windows or even power steering. Some of these features are available in a deluxe version, however. Safety is another area where costs were cut and the car has no airbags (though to be fair very few cars on the Indian market are equipped with airbags).

With a length of about 10 feet, a width of nearly five feet and a height just over five feet, the Nano lives up to its name by being 20% smaller than the cheapest car on Indian roads, the Maruti Suzuki 800.

Contrary to expectations, the Nano is made using standard sheet metal, not plastic as many analysts had predicted. Also surprising is the news that the car is more efficient per passenger than a motorbike and is expected to use less than 5L/100km. In addition, it meets Euro 4 emissions standards, and a diesel version is planned for the future.

Tata plans to sell around 200,000 units per year beginning from late this year in India only. The company doesn’t plan to export until at least 2011.