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First Look: Tata Pixel Urban Concept Car

This car really does rotate on a dime.

by on Mar.03, 2011

Based on the Nano, the Tata Pixel measures just 10 feet in length and can turn on its own axis thanks to a unique rear wheel design.

Things don’t always go the way they’re planned during auto show previews, as Indian mega-industrialist Ratan Tata discovered during the news conference held by his eponymous Tata Motors at the Geneva Motor Show.

Tata came to the event to watch the debut of his company’s Pixel show car, which it bills as a “concept for a European city car.”  Things went perfectly well until it was time to open the electrically-operated scissor doors.  Suddenly things shorted out in the electronic control panel hidden under the rear hatch, sending nervous technicians scurrying to do a quick re-wiring.

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The brief setback didn’t chase the crowds away, however.  If anything, Tata has gotten plenty of attention since launching the world’s cheapest – and one of the smallest – automobiles, a few years back.  And while the Nano is very much “a car for India,” the Pixel “is a car for the world,” asserted Carl-Peter Forster, the former Opel chief who now runs Tata Motors.

As is immediately obvious, the Nano serves as the starting point for the new Tata Pixel, though it has clearly been refined to meet Western sensibilities.  But size still matters.

Even with the front seats in a normal position, the Tata Pixel offers surprising interior space.

Though only 10 feet, nose-to-tail, the Pixel fits four adults in reasonable comfort thanks to a flexible interior design and a tall roof that allows for upright seating.

Even more intriguing than the swing-up doors, the little coupe uses a system in which the rear wheels rotate in opposite directions, allowing the Pixel to turn on its own axis when parking.

Assisting is something the Indian maker describes as a Zero Turn turoidal traction-drive Infinitely Variable Transmission.

A technician struggles to fix the controls for the Pixel's malfunctioning scissor doors.

The Tata Pixel’s 1.2-liter 3-cylinder turbodiesel gets a stop/start system to eliminate wasteful idling.  That helps it achieve an estimated 60 mpg, according to the maker.

While the stop/start technology is the most likely system to actually make the jump from the concept stage, Forster told that a production version of the Nano-based Pixel “is do-able.”

How long?  It would likely take two to three years, the German executive said as he watched with relief when the electric doors finally began to swing open.