Tata Bolt – A Mighty Contender

Way back in the year 1998, when TATA’s first passenger car Indica was launched, its tagline read ‘More Car Per Car’ and this is the philosophy TATA follows to date by offering cars that are spacious and comfortable at affordable prices. Back then, the Indica was a good looking car and today the Bolt manages to take the legacy forward. The Bolt is a part of TATA’s Horizonext strategy which is a four-pronged program of intense product focus, world-class manufacturing practices, enriched customer purchase experience and consistent quality of service.

 EXTERIOR

View it from any angle and the Bolt appears as a very neat and pleasing car. Clever use of chrome in the right places gives it a premium look. The signature grille with its humanity line and smoked projector headlamps exude a eurocentric appeal. The rear looks smart with the neatly designed flame shaped tail lamps and integrated rear spoiler with LED stop lights. The rear number plate is illuminated with LED lights while the wing mirrors too get integrated LED turn indicators. Paint quality is top-class and the top-spec Venetian red car that we were offered for the review looked stunning in day light. Open and shut the doors or the hood and you will instantly realise that this is not a delicate Japanese hatch. The body shell feels solid and reassuring like most other TATA products. The alloy wheels look good too but rivals like Hyundai are now coming up with snazzy designs to enhance the appearance of the car. Overall the car looks fresh, upmarket and modern, though it bears a fair similitude to the older Vista, especially when viewed in profile.

 INTERIOR

The Bolt’s cabin is a surprise package for all. Step inside and you will be impressed with its superior quality and feel. The cabin has been given the java black theme to lend it a sporty touch. The dashboard design is very smart and the quality of materials used feel premium. The perforated steering wheel with silver accents and integrated telephone and music system controls looks neat and feels nice to grip. The car gets fine touches of chrome on the air vents, gear knob, infotainment unit and door levers. Another interesting feature is the foldable key with approach-light switch and an illuminated key ring to assist the driver to locate the ignition slot in the dark.

Seating comfort has always been TATA’s forte and the Bolt is no exception. The fabric seats feel supremely comfortable and offer good back and thigh support. The rear bench seat is wide enough to accommodate 3 passengers in comfort. Considering that this is a large sized premium hatch, TATA should have provided centre arm-rests for the front and rear occupants. However, the fabric wrapped arm rests on the door panels do their job well.

Headroom and legroom in both rows is more than adequate but six-footers may find the headroom tight in the rear due to the curved roof. The nearly flat floor is a blessing if you have three passengers in the rear. The foot-wells in the front are deep but not wide enough. So, while the front passenger can stretch his legs comfortably, the driver does not enjoy this privilege as there is no place to rest the left foot on long journeys.

Many auto-experts have already pointed out that in spite of being a large hatch with a roomy cabin, the Bolts lags behind when it comes to boot space and storage spaces. However, on the positive side, the Bolt offers a large glove box along with an under seat storage tray. The glove box gets a pen holder with separate slots to store the owner’s manual/registration papers, visiting cards and a mini first-aid kit. The boot volume of 210 litres is sufficient to carry luggage on weekend trips and the tough parcel shelf can hold a lot of stuff too, it will obstruct the driver’s rear view. All doors get pockets for storage which can hold 500ml water bottles. There is a single cup holder in front of the gear lever and a small storage slot below the handbrake which comes in handy to place mobile phones. The cabin gets a single roof lamp which does not provide adequate illumination, especially at the rear. TATA designers could have taken cues from the segment leaders and provided better designed door pockets, multiple bottle/cup holders, magazine pockets behind the front seats, sunglass holder, reading lights for rear passengers and an illuminated & cooled glove box.

The car gets a feature packed touch-screen infotainment system designed in collaboration with Harman. It offers a long list of features like smart-phone enabled navigation, video playback, advanced voice command recognition to make telephone calls, change music tracks & control AC, SMS read outs, SD Card reader, AM/FM, USB, AUX IN, iPOD connectivity etc. The stereo system offers a total of 8 speakers – 4 speakers & 4 tweeters, thereby ensuring decent audio output and clarity.

The instrument panel offers in-depth information like door open display, digital fuel & temperature gauge, digital clock, in-gear and shift up/down recommendation, trip meter A&B, instantaneous and average fuel economy, distance to empty, ambient temperature indication, etc.

Other features include driver seat height adjustment, central locking with remote, 7 speed wiper, rear seat with 60:40 fold, anti-glare IRVM, motorised ORVM adjustment, power socket for front occupants, roof assist handles, speed sensing auto door lock, rear defogger with wiper & wash, etc.

DRIVE & PERFORMANCE

We were offered the top spec diesel variant which had already clocked about 10,500 kms of usage by other auto analysts. And surprisingly there were no rattles and no squeaks; the car drove like new. We drove the car extensively within city limits; mainly on Mumbai’s congested roads and on the city highway. However, we could not do a full blown highway run due to time limitations.

The Bolt is a tall and wide car so ingress is a breeze and finding a comfortable driving position is not difficult either, thanks to the driver seat height adjustment and steering tilt adjustment. The moment the diesel engine fires up, you begin to appreciate the excellent NVH containment levels. Manoeuvring this large sized diesel hatch in crowded cities is a very easy task, thanks to the light clutch, smooth gear shift and light steering wheel.

The air-conditioning may not be the best but does its job efficiently though the blower getss noisy when set to maximum speed and there is a mild jerk of the compressor activating & deactivating when the car is at idle.

Bolt uses the Fiat sourced 1.3 MultiJet diesel engine, rechristened as Quadrajet by TATA. And while this 74 BHP motor may not be outright sporty, it is very refined and TATA has tuned it to strike a fine balance between performance and fuel efficiency. The fuel economy meter displayed figures of 17 to 19.1 kmpl in city driving conditions which we feel is creditable.

The Bolt is not unduly quick but it isn’t slow either. It steadily reaches the 100 kmph mark without any strain even with 5 adults on board. The car feels stable and relaxed while cruising at three digit speeds. Driven sedately the car delivers excellent fuel economy and rewards its occupants with a plush and silent ride. The Bolt arguably offers the best ride in the segment by maintaining its poise on rough surfaces and hardly feels unsettled while traversing potholes and bad patches even on high speeds. Straight line stability is admirable and so is its cornering ability though you may notice body roll in tight corners as this is a tall and heavy car.

Braking too is confident and vibration free, thanks to the 9th generation ABS by Bosch with EBD and CSC which is rated among the best in business at that price point.

The Electric Power Assisted Steering (ePas) feels feather light at slow speeds which is boon while parking in tight slots or maneuvering the car in traffic but it weighs up firmly as the car gains speed to aid handling.

The Bolt’s dual-tone horn is loud and during night drives, the halogen bulbs along with the projector headlamps provide good illumination.

SAFETY FEATURES

The XT variant we reviewed gets Driver and Passenger Airbags along with 9th generation ABS by BOSCH with EBD and CSC.

FUEL TANK CAPACITY

Fuel tank capacity for Diesel and Petrol variants is 44 litres. From the fuel economy that we got in city driving conditions, we can safely assume that on a full tank, the Diesel Bolt can cover up to 800 kms on the highway.

COLOUR OPTIONS

There are 5 colours to choose from – Venetian Red, Pristine White, Platinum Silver, Dune Beige & Sky Grey. The paint quality as we said earlier is top notch.

SERVICE INTERVALS

Recommended service interval is every 15,000 kms or every 12 months whichever is earlier. For customer convenience, TATA has now introduced Online Service Booking, Speed-O-Service, Door-step Service and Quick Repair schemes.

WARRANTY

Bolt gets a standard warranty of 36 months or 1,00,000 kms whichever is earlier. TATA also provides additional 2 years Extended Warranty up to 150,000 kms and other interesting packages like Value Care AMC and 24×7 Road side Assistance.

ON-ROAD PRICE IN MUMBAI

As on 10th March 2016, the on-road prices of the Diesel variants of TATA Bolt in Mumbai were as follows

Bolt XE: Rs.712,213  //  Bolt XM: Rs.786,639  //  Bolt XMS: Rs.813,433  //  Bolt XT: Rs.895,766

(The prices mentioned above are for comparison purpose only. For accurate/current prices and deals please contact TATA motors)

VERDICT

For anyone who has driven a TATA car before the advent of the Bolt and Zest will surely appreciate TATA’s remarkable advancement in terms of refinement, build quality and overall fit-n-finish.

In isolation, the Bolt is a gem of a car. It looks modern, has a comfortable and roomy cabin with a feature rich infotainment unit, the engine is refined, it has good driving dynamics and an excellent ride quality. Now what more could you ask for? Exactly, but when the Swift and Grand i10 step in with lower price tags, you realise that TATA could have added some additional features like Reverse assist camera, Electrically retractable wing mirrors, Keyless Start/Stop, Rear AC vents, etc to sweeten the deal.

Point is, when you compare the cars on the pricing front, Bolt is most expensive with the XT variant costing approximately 8.95 lac INR (on-road*) while the segment leader Maruti’s Swift ZDi is priced at 8.92 lac INR (on-road*)  and Hyundai’s top-spec Asta variant is available at approximately 8.50 lac INR (on-road without ABS & Airbags*) (* All prices on-road in Mumbai on 10-03-2016)

And as we all know, India is a very price sensitive market and many buyers don’t overlook marginal price differences while making a purchase decision. In such a scenario, the deal will probably tilt in favour of ‘Brand Maruti’ which along with a lower price tag also boasts of having the biggest sales and service network in India. Plus, there are a few others for whom safety takes a back seat. Such buyers may drift to the top spec Grand i10 (without Airbags & ABS) which retails at approximately 40,000 INR lower than the other two.

But all this doesn’t mean that segment leaders can trounce the Bolt so easily. TATA already has a blueprint in place to tackle the competition. Its Horizonext stratagem will surely yield positive results in the days to come. The Bolt is a mighty contender and can sell in respectable numbers if TATA upgrades its post-sales service standards and long-term ownership experience which is a major concern for all car buyers.

Tata Motors Bolt image gallery

About Jeevan 170 Articles
Jeevan is based in Navi-Mumbai and is a regular contributor to our webmag. He can be reached at jeevcb@yahoo.com