Car Tested: Mahindra Bolero Power+
Engine: 1.5-litre diesel | 71PS/195Nm | ARAI Mileage: 16.5kmpl
Small adjustments make a big difference - it's a philosophy that we Indians have long abided by. A small bargain at the vegetable vendor gives us a big smile. A small drop in fuel prices equals big relief for the wallet. And a small adjustment in a car's length gets you a lot of generosity from the government.
That last bit is what has driven everyone from Tata and Maruti to Ford and Volkswagen to develop sub-4 metre offerings. However, with SUVs becoming the demand of the day, Mahindra was first to introduce a compact offering in the body style, by giving the Xylo a little adjustment to create the Quanto. M&M followed it up with the TUV300, NuvoSport, and now, it's put the Bolero under the knife as well.
Mahindra’s beloved cash-cow now gets a version which loses a few cms in length, a few cc’s in displacement and healthy few Rupees in price too. So is this downsize a compromise?
We spent more than a day with the Bolero Power+ and still find it hard to believe that this is a sub-4 metre SUV. Inch for inch, the design is the exact same as the standard Bolero, but the length has dropped by a full 112mm, thanks to a little nip and tuck of the bumpers. Mahindra is quite the master of adaptation and the end result is a compact SUV that looks perfectly proportioned, but is actually a little shorter in length than the Ford EcoSport!
Baby-SUVs usually look like overgrown hatchbacks, but the Power+ is still the butch, no nonsense brute India has had a love affair with for the past decade. The boxy aesthetics remain untouched and it growls disapprovingly if you try to throw in anything curvy apart from the 15-inch wheels wrapped around in 215/75 section tyres.
There’s nothing premium about the build and you can probably keep a hyperactive child entertained by making him count the number of panel gaps and rough edges. However, everything feels like it’s ready to take a thrashing and if something were to get damaged, you wouldn’t need high-end auto-garage gizmos to fix it. Evidently, it’s a part of the Bolero’s charm.
(note the slimmer bumper on the Power+)
Step, or rather, climb into the cabin and it’s a familiar affair. The cabin is roomy thanks to the large glass area, oodles of headroom and light dual-tone seat upholstery. The dashboard has a simple, but slightly quirky layout and the trim quality is just acceptable.
There are, however, some ergonomic oddities. The digital instrument cluster doesn’t fall directly into the driver’s line of sight, while the power window switch console sits awkwardly behind the handbrake lever. The storage area in the centre console could have been placed higher for easier access too. What you do get though, is a lot of leg space for a sub-4 metre SUV. The 1,745mm width frees up more shoulder room too, so 5 passengers can sit in relative comfort in the first two seat rows. The jump seats at the back though, are best suited to kids or petite adults over short journeys. The front seats and bench in the middle can accommodate larger frames, but need more under-thigh and lumbar support.
For entertainment, Mahindra offers a Kenwood aftermarket head-unit with AUX/USB/Bluetooth connectivity. The system is outdated and the sound quality is sub-par too, but it is adequate for your basic in-car entertainment needs. While we’d like a better entertainment setup, what the Bolero could really benefit from is deeper door pockets, to add some more function to an already function-first cabin.
Engine, Gearbox and Performance
The Power+ is the old-school Bolero’s way of keeping up with the era of engine downsizing. Instead of the 2.6-litre m2DiCR engine, it features a 1.5-litre motor from Mahindra’s ‘mHawk’ series. Smaller engine? Yes, but not only does it make the same 195Nm of torque as the standard Bolero, it makes 71PS of power – 8PS more than its big brother.
Fire it up and in seconds you notice the improved noise, vibration and harshness levels. No, were not saying it’s appreciable, just appreciably better than the larger engine. It still sounds crude, but the improved refinement levels do not go unnoticed. As you’d expect, it’s an engine that doesn’t like to be pushed. It gets considerably louder as the revs climb and no matter how much you mash the accelerator, progress isn’t rapid.
However, the mHawkD70 is generous with its low-end torque delivery. As long as you’re patient, it will get up to cruising speeds easily and you can also benefit from the 16.5kmpl fuel efficiency figure while you’re at it. In fact, the torque is enough to get the Power+ going from a dead stop in 3rd gear. The gear ratios themselves are closely spaced and you will find the need to upshift early. That said, it’s a powertrain that’s ready to take the strain of the heavy passenger load Boleros are usually used to transport. The gear lever though, has a long throw and isn’t sure slotting either. The clutch does have a lot of travel, but thankfully, it is really light.
Ride, Handling and Braking
Here’s a facet that’s rarely a body-on-frame SUV’s selling-point and the Bolero Power+ is no exception. The ride quality is rather choppy, body-roll is ever present and even the slightest road undulation will result in some vertical movement. It’s more noticeable in the rear seat rows, though with the rigid leaf spring rear suspension, increasing the passenger load will make the ride more compliant. Overall, the suspension is like an employee who’s both dedicated and smart; it’ll ensure you’re well supported, but it will make sure you’re aware of the effort it’s putting in.
The steering is light enough for city use; something you will appreciate given its large turning radius of nearly 6 metres. However, there’s no feedback and making the Bolero hold a straight line entails you holding the steering in a position that’s offset to the left. A big grouse for us would have to be the brakes. The pedal feels spongy and needs sharper bite. Given the Bolero’s passion for body-roll, hard braking results in the SUV getting unsettled and warrants a good deal of corrective steer. Not to mention, ABS isn’t offered even as an option.
To state the obvious, the Bolero Power+ behaves like the old-school SUV it is. It doesn’t support enthusiastic driving, but then again, that’s not what it was designed to do.
It’s hard to reinvent yourself when the formula you’ve stuck with so far has been successful. However, Mahindra has figured out the right way to bring something new to the table while leaving the Bolero’s core selling-points untouched, with the Power+.
With prices ranging from Rs 6.87-7.86 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) it’s up to Rs 1 lakh cheaper than the equivalent standard Bolero. For the money you save, you lose, well, nothing! The wheelbase is the same, so you still get the same well-sized cabin. The engine is smaller, yet more powerful, more efficient and more refined. The only catch is that it doesn’t get the 2 year/unlimited kilometre warranty of the standard Bolero, but you still get 3 years/1 lakh kilometres. Not exactly stingy is it?
In the end, you get the same rugged Bolero package for less money. It may be a sub-4 metre SUV, but doesn’t really rival the likes of the Ford EcoSport or Maruti Vitara Brezza, since it caters to a different audience altogether. So if you want a Bolero, the Power+ simply is the better version to buy.
What we like
What we don’t