Things to look forward to in the car:
. New 1.2-litre Turbo charged petrol engine
. Front exterior styling
. Fresh interiors
Things that would make you think twice about the car:
. Not drastically different from Vista visually
When Tata Motors launched the Tata Zest a few months back, it was start of many new things to come from the company. It's no secret that Tata has been left behind in the sales race by its competition with more modern products. To redeem itself, Tata launched Zest, the first new product under the Horizonext, a strategy to concentrate on intense products, world-class manufacturing practices, rich customer purchase experience and consistent quality of service. And this has put Tata Motors back on the right path if we go by the response Zest has been receiving. Now with the launch of Bolt, Tata wants to get the attention of the enthusiasts. While the Zest was more of a family car, the Bolt aims to satiate the driving desires of enthusiasts and the young crowd. Has Tata Bolt got enough to out run its competition? We drove the car around the beautiful city of Udaipur to provide some answers.
Yes the Bolt does look like the Vista. It is the same platform as the latter but Tata has worked a greater deal to make the Bolt much fresher in design. The front of the Bolt looks really good with the new front grille, stretched headlamp units with projector lamps, new muscular front bumper and a bulge on the bonnet adding more character. The Bolt comes off pretty from the side too (though it is here that it resembles the Vista more) thanks to the floating roof effect provided by the black C-pillars.
Get to the rear and gone are the vertical tail light assembly, traded for more compact and modern looking tail lamps. Completing the sporty profile is the floating rear spoiler, ORVM mounted indicators and 15-inch alloy wheels.
Another thing that Tata has made a bigger effort is the interiors. The Tata Bolt gets the best yet dashboard, both in terms of design and build quality, from the company. It is the same as the Zest and you would not believe this is a Tata unless you already know. The interiors get a full black treatment, adding to the sporty effect the company is going for, with chrome highlight and surrounds.
The dashboard is driver oriented and the center console is neatly laid both in form and function. The highlight of the center console is the Harman touch screen infotainment system that comes with features like video playback from SD card, aux and USB support, smart phone based navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition, in-built HVAC controls, and smart phone integration. We just thought that the space left empty between the AC controls can be put to better use. The new steering wheel is compact and gets mounted controls for telephone and audio. The twin pod instrument cluster gets a chrome surround with the multi information display in the middle showing all the necessary information.
Space is a luxury that we enjoyed in the Vista and the same goes for the Bolt too. The front seats offer amazing comfort and support for the shoulders and thighs. The soft material on the door pads where we tend to rest our right arm feels great. The absence of a dead pedal though does bother you, especially on the beautiful, empty highways of Udaipur. In the rear, you get better headroom than the Zest and the seats offer adequate thigh support and leg room. Coming to the storage space, you get a big glove box, rather slim door pockets where you can't fit more than a 500ml water bottle and a cup holder near the gear lever. The boot space should be enough to carry your weekend luggage. The visible suspension bit in the boot is an eyesore.
Enough of gazing. Let's get going. The Tata Bolt is powered by the same two engine lineup of Zest. The 1.2-litre Revotron turbo charged petrol engine is the only option Tata had for the drive but given that petrol engines are making a comeback, it's the appropriate choice too. The engine already has class leading power and torque outputs at 90 PS and 140 Nm respectively in Zest, and with the weight loss in Bolt, it should work to its advantage. The diesel engine puts out 75 PS of maximum power and 190 Nm of peak torque. Both the engines will be coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission. There is no news of availability of the AMT version for the Bolt and we think Tata will keep that option exclusive to Zest, at least for some time.
As with the Zest, Bolt too gets the multi drive modes - City (default), Eco and Sport. The engine is peppy enough from standstill, thanks to all that torque available from 1500 rpm and rises up the speedo without a fuss. Switching from City to Eco mode does shows a significant decline in throttle response but this is all to nurture best possible fuel efficiency.
As we exited the crowded city and on to the long winding roads of Udaipur, it was time for Sport mode to be brought in. The Bolt answered with better response on the throttle with good mid range of power. We were a little disappointed with the top end power delivery though. The 5-speed gearbox gets closer ratios than the Zest for better performance and response. The gear changes were smooth and slotted nicely.
Tata has made several changes to the chassis for better reduction of noise, vibration and harshness levels coming inside the car. The steering is a newly designed electric assisted unit replacing the old hydraulic power steering. The NVH levels are good inside the cabin as you can hardly hear the engine but the noise from outside is quite loud for a petrol engine.
Ride and Handling (4/5)
Considering that Tata is promoting the Bolt as an enthusiast's car, it's only normal that the suspension is going to be stiffened up. Tata Bolt does get a stiffer suspension setup but not overly so with independent McPherson struts with anti-roll to the front and semi independent twist beam with coil spring to the rear. The front suspension gets dual paths to offer better ride quality and the rear has also been modified to support it. The Bolt felt stable in straight lines and confident around the curves. The steering wheel offered ample feedback but more grip could have improved things too.
To say that Tata Bolt is the best hatch to come from the Tata stable is not an understatement. Tata has made all the right moves to make a product that it can be proud of and can put a much tougher fight among the competition. Tata Bolt prices haven't been announced yet but they will surely be competitive and value for money as all Tata products have been.