OTTAWA (AP) — It may not be available in Canada for years, if ever, but Canadians have already fallen in love with the idea of the Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car.
With a top speed of 105 kilometres an hour, a 33-horsepower engine and the looks of a snub-nosed beagle, the Tata Nano from India is hardly a vehicle that could be described as a ''babe magnet.''
But the expected $2,500 price tag is drawing plenty of attention — including from young women — a poll of Canadians suggests. By comparison, inexpensive sub-compacts in Canada can cost upwards of $12,000.
The Canadian Press Harris/Decima survey of 1,004 adults conducted in late January suggests the Nano would be a hit in Canada if Tata Motors, which expects to start production this fall, decides to export the car.
Tata has said the Nano would be manufactured strictly for the India market for the next two years.
More than one in three respondents (36 per cent) said that someone in their household was either certain or likely to buy one if they could, although 41 per cent said that was unlikely.
As well, 21 per cent said they believe the five-seater will be a big winner around the world over the next 10 years, and 54 per cent said they believed it would be at least a moderate success. The poll has a 95 per cent accuracy probability within a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
''I think this tells us that as much as we're seeing growth in the luxury car segment, there's still burgeoning demand in the lower end segment, particularly among younger Canadians and those who are not as well off,'' said Bob Murphy, senior vice-president with the polling firm.
The most likely to say they were open to purchasing the Nano were young Canadians in the 18-34 age group who reported household incomes under $60,000 a year.
There was almost no difference in appeal between men and women, but politically, supporters of the Green party (51 per cent) were far more favorably disposed to the car than Conservative supporters, at 33 per cent.
That may have to do with the fact that the car, which gets more than 20 kilometres per litre of gas and is regarded as less polluting than other automobiles, is viewed as relatively environmentally friendly, as opposed to other automobiles.
The irony is that the Nano has also been called an environmental disaster because it is expected to cause an explosion in car use in India, and after it is available for export, other poor, developing countries.
Chief United Nations climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri, who shared last year's Nobel Peace Prize, said last month that ''I am having nightmares'' thinking about the Nano.
But the idea of the Nano is a sweet dream for many in the developed world, leading at least one other manufacturer to say it, too, plans to jump into the micro-cost car market.
French automaker Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan have announced plans to produce a compact that would sell for less than $3,000 US.