"Is this the new Indica?” Not my words. This was written all over the faces of curious onlookers when we were driving the soon-to-be-launched Tata Bolt in Udaipur. “This is not the new Indica, this is the new Tata” was my response, when a couple of them inquired.
Why new Tata? Because with the Bolt, and with the Zest launched earlier, Tata Motors hopes to bring about a difference in the way the company is perceived in the Indian market. The Zest, no doubt, was a good product; is the Bolt as good? More importantly, is the Bolt ready to take on the Swift and the Grand i10? Let’s find out.
The Bolt resembles the Zest from the front—the elongated headlamps and honeycomb grille give it a stylish appearance. But move to the sides and you will realise it looks a lot like the Indica Vista. A focused look, however, reveals it is not. First, there are two prominent creases that run the length of the car. Then the blackened section around the rear windshield gives the roof a “floating” feel. The small tail-lamps look different and the number plate is placed on the tailgate. While the Bolt is a handsome evolution of the Vista design, we believe the job could have been done better; for example, the blackened section is not an integral panel like the one you find in the Elite i20, but appears to have been done using vinyl.
Tata cars are known for interior space and the Bolt is no exception. The car can easily accommodate five large-sized adults. While the boot space is decent, rear suspension towers intrude the luggage area. But the Bolt is not just about space, it is about quality. The cabin is nothing like you have seen in a Tata car before (of course, if you have not experienced the Zest). The knobs, the buttons, in fact most controls are precisely placed. Mention must be made of the new steering wheel, which is nice to hold. The cabin is in the league of both the Swift and the Brio, but falls short of the quality levels found in the Grand i10. An area where the Bolt stands out is its Harman-sourced infotainment system. The system, while playing good music, doesn’t have inbuilt navigation, but you can connect it to your smartphone and the maps get displayed on the screen. But then the screen is not as sharp as we would have liked.
On the centre console there are two buttons—one marked “Eco” and the other “Sport”. These are different driving modes of the engine—while in the “Eco” mode the car uses less fuel, and thus has lower acceleration, in the “Sport” mode more fuel is pumped into the engine, resulting in quicker acceleration. When neither of the modes are activated, it runs in the “City” mode—a balance of both.
Ride & handling
Today, 60% of Zest sales are composed of petrol variants; no wonder Tata only gave us only the Bolt petrol to drive—the diesel, anyway, is the tried-and-tested Fiat-sourced engine. The 1.2-litre Revotron turbo-petrol motor is refined. It is quiet, at least at slow speeds, and the way it pulls the car is commendable. Being an Indian car manufacturer, Tata knows the kind of roads the Bolt will be driven on, and has accordingly worked on the suspension. The result: satisfactory ride quality. We drove the Bolt on some rough patches in Udaipur and the car remained composed most times. When we took the car on the highway to Mount Abu, we found its straight-line stability to be good, too. However, cornering at high speeds makes the car go jittery, so it needs to be sweetly wheeled into the corners. The brakes are impressive and the top-of-the-line variant comes with ABS and EBD. While Tata didn’t reveal the top speed the Revotron engine is capable of, we found it easily crosses 140 kmph (in the Sport mode). However, the motor turns noisy at high speeds; add to that the wind noise that seeps into the cabin. It, clearly, is a city hatch. The Bolt, to begin with, won’t be offered with the AMT that we saw in the Zest. Tata hasn’t revealed its fuel-efficiency figure either.
While the Bolt feels robustly put together, its cabin quality is among the best in class and the Revotron motor is refined, for it to successfully challenge the Swift and the Grand i10, Tata has to play the price card well. We believe a starting price of a little over R4 lakh is good value for money for the car. Although changing brand perception will take time—Tata is anyway working towards that by providing customers a better shopping experience and dedicated service—the Bolt announces the arrival of a new Tata. In fact, the Bolt, as we got to know from Tata officials we met during the drive, is just a precursor of things to come from the company.