Tata Bolt - Introduction
After the success Tata Motors has enjoyed with the recently-launched Zest compact sedan, the company is now following through with the Bolt hatchback. The hatchback segment is far more crowded and competitive, and so the Bolt will surely face tougher going compared to the Zest, but we’re here to check out whether this Tata hatchling can ruffle the feathers of the establishment.
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Tata Bolt - Design & Engineering
Falcon: bird of prey. The name conjures up images of an athletic, dynamic and predatory animal. The fact that Tata Motors chose to codename the Bolt project ‘Falcon 5’ gives you some indication of just how hungry the company is for success. (The Zest 4-metre sedan was codenamed Falcon 4).
While the two cars are obviously related, Tata Motors design and product teams have worked hard to ensure that the two cars offer a completely different package. Visually, the bolt gets a piano-black front grille, smoked headlamps, and a chrome strip below the fog lamps. (The Zest has LED daytime running lights, or DRLs). While subtle, the difference is striking, and indeed the Bolt comes off looking the sportier of the two cars.
At the rear, Tata designers have styled the tail lights to look like a flame. Picture a lit candle, and the shape of the Bolt’s lenses begins to make sense. Although it was bright and sunny in Rajasthan when we drove this car, at night the visual effect should be striking and distinctive. The other obvious concession to style is the blacked-out C-pillar. This is again something of a new trend with car-makers, but unlike the Hyundai i20, which uses a matte plastic insert, in the new Bolt this effect is achieved with the help of a mottled sticker. It’s obviously an afterthought, but does enhance the Bolt’s looks.
The Bolt rides on the same mechanical platform as the Zest, but it is slightly lighter, and the torsion beam rear suspension has been tuned slightly differently. The Bolt’s tyres are also slightly narrower, measuring 175/65 R15 compared to the Zest, which runs on 185/65 R15 tyres.
On the new Tata Bolt test drive route we were only provided with petrol examples of this new hatchback, but a diesel variant will be offered too when the car is launched. The petrol Zest is powered by the same 1.2-litre Revotron petrol engine mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. The diesel Bolt will use the familiar Quadrajet diesel motor, but the F-Tronic AMT will not be offered on this car from launch.
Tata Bolt - Interiors & Comfort
Step inside and you’re greeted by the same dashboard that we’re now familiar with in the Zest, which is a good thing, given that it is very logically laid out, visually appealing and ergonomically sound as well. The difference between the Bolt and the Zest is that the new Bolt receives an all-black treatment on the dashboard, unlike the black-and-beige that the Zest offers. All black interiors are construed to be sportier which is what the intent seems to be.
Interior room borders on commodious, and in my opinion there are few, if any hatchbacks on sale in the country which offer such spacious interiors. The seats are supremely comfortable too, and so full marks to Tata Motors in this department.
Tata has also carried over the high-end Harman infotainment system from the Zest, but in the new Bolt, it goes one step further by offering in-car navigation as well. Map My India has provided the navigation software to Tata Motors, which is downloaded to the customer’s smartphone when s/he buys a new Tata Bolt. The maps are then ‘mirrored’ on the large colour touchscreen on the dashboard through the USB cable. Thus, the customer has the utility and flexibility of using the navigation function even when in another vehicle. Which is all very well, but what happens if your phone is lost or stolen? Tata Motors say that in such an eventuality, the customer will be entitled to a free re-download of the mapping software. Another point to note is that the maps can be loaded even without any data connection, which is makes it more useful by virtue of not being hamstrung unlike Google maps on Android, and it is thus cheaper and less battery intensive as well.
The Harman infotainment system comes with an SD card reader as well, and I think there might be merit in customers having the option of downloading the map software to the SD card instead. But Tata Motors is not offering this solution for now.
Inside the cabin, there appears to be a little more road noise than what I experienced with the Zest sedan. This could be because of less sound deadening material applied to the firewall and floor of the Bolt, but Tata’s engineers could neither confirm nor deny my suspicions.
Tata Bolt - Performance & Handling
Turbocharged engine and 140 Nm of torque make the Tata Bolt something of a shooting star!
When it comes to performance and handling, the Tata Bolt feels very different to drive, when compared to its larger sibling. This is for a number of reasons, including obviously the less weight, differently sized tyres and the re-tuned suspension. Also, I felt that the multi-mode option on the petrol Bolt makes more of a difference in this car than it did when I last drove the Zest. When you switch from ‘City’ mode to ‘Sport’ mode for example, the difference in power delivery and acceleration felt considerably more pronounced than it did in the Zest.
Another aspect of the car’s character which came into focus was the gearing. Tata Motors has geared the Bolt short, with closely-packed ratios in the first three gears. This of course ensures very sprightly and tractable performance in city conditions. The gap between third and fourth gear however, is a yawning 1,500 rpm. As a result, when out on the highway or on any open stretch of road for that matter, when you shift from third to fourth, you find a sudden deficit of power. This feeling is exaggerated because of the short first three ratios. Also, when you are on a slight gradient, with four passengers on board and the AC running, you often find that fourth gear is too tall, while third is too short, spinning the engine at an unnecessarily high rpm.
The difference in engine speed between fourth and fifth gear is just 5000 rpm, which makes very little difference to drivability or cruising performance. The easy solution would be to make fourth gear a little shorter, so that the gap from third to fourth wouldn’t feel as pronounced, and fourth to fifth shouldn’t feel pointless either. A quick peek at the spec sheet confirms our suspicion, with fourth gear being an overdriven gear too, and considerably so.
Handling-wise, the new Bolt does feel a little more pointy, with sharper steering feel, but this could also be down to the narrower tyres. We experienced some body roll when cornering hard, but the Bolt was a secure and predictable handler for the most part. It does not quite have the verve of the Maruti Swift or Ford Figo, but it does feel like a safe car to drive at speed.
Braking feel is compromised slightly by the ABS system, which insulates the pedal feel from what appears to be happening on the road. Keen drivers will not appreciate this, but the brakes are otherwise strong and the ABS quite effective.
Tata Bolt - Fuel Efficiency
Mileage kya hai? Kitna deti hai? The answers to these questions will have to wait till we can do a detailed fuel efficiency test, but we expect the figures to be comparable to the class average. So expect a realistic figure of between 12-14 km/l for the petrol Bolt in city traffic.
Tata Bolt - Safety
The Bolt is a heavy car, no doubt, tipping the scales at 1.1 tonnes. Tata Motors has always paid particular emphasis to safety, and equipped with ABS and airbags, the Bolt feels like a very secure car indeed. The ABS system comes with cornering brake control as well, to increase cornering stability in case you enter too fast and need brake mid-corner. The inherently solid feel that the car has also accentuates the secure feeling inside the cabin.
Tata Bolt - Verdict
When evaluated across all the various parameters, the new Tata Bolt comes across as an accomplished and competent product. Tata Motors deserves full marks for having improved its products to the extent that we’ve experienced. The Bolt is nice to look at, spacious on the inside, and comes with a top-notch infotainment system. In fact, for audiophiles, the stereo inside the Tata Bolt is easily best in the segment. The Revotron petrol engine with its multiple driving modes adds both novelty and real-world utility too.
We don’t know the pricing yet, but Tata has hinted at pricing it to compete with the Maruti Swift and the Hyundai Grand i10. With that clue in mind, expect prices for the new Bolt to start at Rs 4.2 lakh, for the Revotron petrol version.
So, let’s put things into perspective now. For that kind of money, Tata Motors is offering a car which competes with the likes of the Grand i10 and Swift, but in terms of size and features, it competes with cars from a class above, such as the VW Polo and the Hyundai i20.
Remember the original Tata Indica advertisement – “More Car Per Car”? Life appears to have come full circle for Tata Motors.
There are some niggles which remain, no doubt, and Tata has to ensure that quality control is of the highest order for it to win back customers. The after-sales and service experience will be critical to the Bolt’s success as well.
But all factors considered, the new Tata Bolt still presents a very compelling choice in this crowded and cut-throat segment. If you’re in the market for a new hatchback, I would whole-heartedly recommend this car.
Tata Bolt - Competition Check
Maruti Swift, Hyundai Grand i10, Hyundai Elite i20, VW Polo
|Length x Width x Height (mm)||3825x1695x1562|
|Ground clearance (mm)||165|
|Turning circle dia (m)||5.1|
|Kerb weight (kg)||(1095-1125) Petrol, (1132-1160) Diesel|
|Fuel tank capacity (lt)||44|
|Boot space (lt)||210|
|Engine & Transmission|
|No of cylinder & configuration||4|
|Capacity (cc)||1193 (petrol), 1248 (diesel)|
|Power (PS @ rpm)||90@5000 (petrol), 75@4000 (diesel)|
|Torque (Nm @ rpm)||140@1500-4000 (petrol), 190@1750-3000 (diesel)|
|Suspension & Brakes|
|Front suspension||independent: lower wishbone, McPherson with anti-roll bar and coil spring|
|Rear suspension||semi-independent, twist beam with coil spring and shock absorber|
|Wheels & Tyres|
|Tyre size and type||175/65 R15 + tubeless|
|Wheel size and type||alloy|
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