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Test drive: The Tata Bolt

The Zest sedan loses its boot to create the Bolt — the feature-packed, promising new hatchback from Tata

The Tata Zest surprised everyone with its feature laden cabin and unprecedented finish for a Tata car. The sub-4 metre sedan has been received rather well by the market, and is selling in healthy numbers. Tata Motors, in the meantime, much in the Swift-Dzire/Amaze-Brio fashion have introduced the Bolt, a hatchback version of the sub-4 metre Zest. Like its bigger sibling, the Bolt comes packed with features, and has a few exclusive tricks up its sleeve too. Should the likes of the Swift and Elite i20 be worried? We found out on a pleasantly wintry day in Udaipur.

Tata Bolt
Price to be announced

Design and styling
The Bolt shares its platform with the Zest, so the basic design, right up to the C-pillar remains mostly unaltered. Small details, however, have been added to lend the Bolt some differentiating elements. To start with, the lower strip of the radiator grille lining has been finished in a piano black material, as opposed to the chrome finish seen on the Zest. The Bolt also features visually more striking, ‘smoked’ black headlamps. The daytime running lamps which made an appearance on the Zest have been given a miss, though. 

The dashboard is identical to the Zest sedan, except for the black-only trim.
The dashboard is identical to the Zest sedan, except for the black-only trim. Pics/Amit Chhangani

The sides of the car get new 8-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels for the top variant, different from the one on the production Zest in design. The C-Pillar has been finished in black for a ‘floating roof’ effect, though we aren’t very fond of the faded white vertical stripes on the black stickers. A plain black treatment would have looked a bit better.

The fabulous Harman-Kardon infotainment system features the new app-driven satellite navigation and video playback via SD card
The fabulous Harman-Kardon infotainment system features the new app-driven satellite navigation and video playback via SD card

The maximum stylistic changes over the Zest, thanks to the vanished boot can be witnessed at the rear. The ‘flame effect’ combination tail-lamps feature  LED mimicking illumination, though the light sources are conventional bulbs. Below the windscreen, the Tata emblem occupies the surface above the registration plate, and is flanked by ‘Bolt’ and variant badging.

The Bolt isn’t really a standout car in terms of looks. It is, however, a smartlystyled and well-finished car which holds its own in the company of other hatchbacks sold in its price bracket.

The instrument console now gets CITY, ECO and SPORT mode indicators in blue, green and amber lights respectively
The instrument console now gets CITY, ECO and SPORT mode indicators in blue, green and amber lights respectively

Engine and performance
The Bolt will be available with two engine options, a 1.2 Revotron petrol and a 1.3 litre diesel — both engines are the same as the ones on the Zest. We drove the petrol powered Bolt for the pre-launch media drive. The 1,193cc turbo petrol engine is good for 90 PS of peak power at 5,000 RPM, with peak torque rated at 140 Nm between 1,500-4,000 RPM.

The legroom and support at the backseat is commendable. The headroom for taller passengers isn’t generous, though
The legroom and support at the backseat is commendable. The headroom for taller passengers isn’t generous, though

On the move, the city-friendly character of the Revotron unit comes to the fore instantly. The first three of the five gears are relatively short, and make for the car’s exceptional driveability. The fourth gear, however, is spaced wide, probably for better efficiency on the highway. So while the Bolt will accelerate with reassurance in the first three gears, on single carriage ways, you’ll likely have to shift down a cog if you’re looking for a quick overtake in the fourth gear.

As seen earlier on the Zest, there are three drive modes to choose from. Default mode is City, offering a balance between fuel efficiency, good driveability and power. Sport mode focuses solely on going faster, while the Eco mode witnesses a drop in performance and improvement in fuel efficiency.

The Bolt Revotron, like the Zest revels in slow to medium city speeds. It loves pottering around in higher gears without a sign of splutter. It’s uncannily smooth and should lead the fuel efficiency ratings in the real world thanks to its forced induction and incredible tractability.

Cabin and features
The Bolt shares its interior with the bigger Zest, albeit with a few positive changes. To start with, the Bolt does away with the beige colour option for the dashboard. The interior is available only with an all-black trim. The rest of the cabin, in terms of materials, layout, features, ergonomics and comfort is pretty much same as the Zest. And that’s a great thing, for the Zest offers an interior which is clearly more upmarket than most of its competitors, which of late are skimping heavily on materials, quality and equipment to match a price.

Some changes have been made to the features, though. All of which are a step up over the Zest. To start with, the fabulous Harman sourced central touch screen infotainment system is now equipped with a navigation feature powered via a MapMyIndia smartphone app.

Talking of the Harman system, the eight-speaker touch screen unit is without doubt the best sounding in the segment. The Bolt also offers video playback on the touch-screen via an SD card, another feature which is exclusive to the hatchback as of now. Other interesting features include an SMS read-out function and HVAC controls  using the touch-screen.

The ECO, SPORT and CITY modes are now represented on the instrument cluster with green, blue and amber colours respectively. An audio chime works as an indicator every time you switch modes.

The Bolt is one of the most spacious and comfortable cars in the segment. Lack of small storage spaces, including bottle holders is a problem, though. The wind noise at higher speeds could also have been filtered out better. The boot space, at 210 litre is also surpassed by many competitors.

Ride and handling
The Bolt, being about 20-30 kg lighter than the Zest depending on the variant, along with Tata’s intent to make it a bit more dynamic in character than the family-oriented Zest, sits on a slightly tweaked rear suspension. The Bolt feels a tad bit stiffer than the Zest, though it’s not stiff in isolation. The straight line stability even at high speeds is impressive, with the steering feeling medially weighted.

Dynamically, the Bolt isn’t a point-andshoot device. At more than usual speeds,taking tough corners requires constant corrections mid-way, with a fair bit of roll thrown in. The Bolt, however, is a comfortable, spacious car offering a fantastic ride quality which is as good as, if not better than the best in the segment. This Tata hatchback isn’t a driver’s dream, but a family guy looking for comfort and practicality will appreciate it.

Summing it up
The prices for the Bolt have not been announced yet, and that would be the sin gle most important aspect defining the VFM proposition of this car. However, a quick post-drive survey conducted by Tata about the pricing suggests that the Indian carmaker not only wants to place the big, well-equipped Bolt slam bang in the big volumes Swift / Grand i10 category, it wants to undercut them by a fair margin. If that happens, the Bolt would make an extremely compelling case for itself. If a Rs 4.5 – 6 lakh (petrol and diesel variants included) hatchback is what you’re looking for, the Bolt is an option that you cannot skip before making the final call.

Technical specs
Tata Bolt
Engine: 1.2 litre, 4 cylinder, turbo petrol
Power: 90PS @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 140Nm @ 1,500-4,000 rpm

Bolt's rivals

Hyundai Elite i20

Hyundai Elite i20
Solid as ever in every department, the Elite i20 has been awarded the Indian Car of the Year 2015. Powered by Hyundai’s Fluidic
Sculpture design philosophy’s latest version, the Elite i20 looks fascinating and has the right mix of engines, price and functionality to appeal to the Indian audience. The interior is more Euro-centric than ever and has more features, including a rear A/C vent. Some minor omissions apart (a distance to dry display on MID for instance), this is one of the strongest contenders in the segment.
Price: Rs 5–7.7 lakh

Maruti Suzuki Swift

Maruti Suzuki Swift
The evergreen hatchback is still one of the best-rounded products in its class. Reasonably spacious, well finished inside
out, powered by a frugal and reasonably potent engine, and backed by the largest service network in the country — the Swift
really doesn’t have anything going against it. The Swift may have lost some of its sheen with the advent of some internationally
renowned nameplates, but as a well-rounded product, it still rules the the roost.
Price: Rs 4.5–6.7 lakh

Etios Liva

Etios Liva
The relatively less popular Liva is quite a well-rounded product for its segment. The space inside is commendable and offers as
many as three engines to choose from. The 1.5 litre petrol version is an exciting drive, while the diesel is the most tractable.
Introduced with a new grille and improved interior for the latest version, the Etios Liva deserves a test drive, especially keeping in mind Toyota’s unrelenting focus on durability and service, wherever available. Downsides include a relatively unexciting dashboard and styling which is not to everyone’s taste.
Price: Rs 4.8–7 lakh

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