If, inexplicably, you're hell-bent on an Indian-built city car, the Tato Nano is not your only option. The Suzuki Alto is designed and built in Delhi by Maruti - and sold on the subcontinent as the A-Star - and lines up against the Holden Spark, as well as the Nissan Micra and soon-to-arrive Hyundai i10 in an increasingly crowded budget market. Unfortunately, to succumb to the inevitable Slumdog metaphor, the Alto is less millionaire and more like the contestant that take the five grand and does a bunk: worthy, sensible, but forgettable.
The Alto's power comes courtesy of a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine, which puts out 50kW and 90Nm of torque. It's an entertaining little engine, if not the most refined: there's a two-stroke-like clatter on start-up and plenty of buzz at high revs. It spins freely and is far less binary in response than most three-pots, dealing well with motorway speeds and feeling slightly quicker than the 14-second 0-100km/h time suggests, at least until you load it up with passengers. The ride - tuned for European roads, says Suzuki - is composed.
Surprisingly, given the Alto's cutesy, bug-eyed face, the interior is as welcoming as the Goulburn Supermax. Even on top-spec models, the cabin is a swathe of grey drabness that, despite managing six airbags, aircon and electric front windows, forgoes such niceties as a glovebox (there's a shoddy angled shelf instead), wind-down rear windows or electric mirrors. It's solid and functional, but it's a fine line between budget and stingy, and Suzuki has fallen the wrong side of it.
It isn't even as if style has been sacrificed for practicality. At 129 litres, the boot is small and awkward to access, while the rear seats are the preserve of those with comically short legs. Or children. Your choice.
The Alto isn't a bad car. It's cheap and economical but as it is, there are other cars that do the budget city-car thing better. More straight-to-DVD than an Oscar-winning hit, then...