The Tata Nano is an object lesson in basic transport.

It may not be available in South Africa (yet!) but today's release in India of the 2012-spec Tata Nano gives us a lot more insight into what is actually important in terms of third-world mobility, and just what you get for 140 000 rupees (R22 700).

Yes, despite his best intentions Ratan Tata was unable to hold his target price of 100 000 rupees (R16 200).

The Nano's 624cc twin-cylinder engine has been uprated from 26 to 28kW, torque is up from 48 to 51Nm and claimed fuel consumption down from 4.2 to 3.9 litres per 100km.

Tata quotes a top speed of 105km/h but, at a kerb weight of only 600kg, we're not sure we'd want to drive one that fast, even though the suspension has been revised with the addition of a front anti-roll bar and booster-assisted brakes (previously only available on higher-spec models) are now standard across the range.

The entry-level Nano Standard still has only one side mirror, but it is now a 'tip-tap', or folding mirror (Indian city streets are so crowded that folding mirrors are more a survival tool than a luxury), while the Nano CX and LX now have tip-tap mirrors on both sides.

At 140 000 rupees (R22 700), the Nano Standard comes in red, white or blue, with two-tone grey vinyl trim, tubeless tyres and fold-down rear seat.

The CX costs 170 000 rupees (R27 500), for which you get a choice of red, gold, dayglo green, silver, orange or white paint, black fabric upholstery, ebony trim, a parcel shelf, a fold-down rear seat with nap rest (use your imagination, Cyril!) half wheel covers and (optional) air-conditioning.

The range-topping LX offers pearl white, orange, dark green, yellow, silver or gold paint, full wheel covers, beige fabric upholstery, central locking, front power windows, a cup holder in the front console, provision for a 12V socket, body colour bumpers, front foglights and an electronic trip meter - an impressive list for 196 000 rupees (R31 700).

All Nanos come with a four-year or 60 000km warranty, but perhaps the most telling point is that Tata's 676 Nano dealers across the sub-continent are offering in-house finance over 60 months, with a deposit of just 15 000 rupees (R2400).

Suddenly, Ratan Tata's 'scooter replacement' isn't such a joke any more.