Tata Bolt Review & Test Drive

OVERVIEW ;

They have been making trucks, SUVs and cars for many years now. The popularity of these vehicles is in the exact order as mentioned. All is well in Tata Motors except for a small change. They have become young…again! As absurd it may sound, it is superbly true. They have shrugged off their conventional approach and have become more Zesty than ever.

Grab a daily or visit online and you shall see how the Zest is lapping sales records and creating many in its course. The waiting period of Zest has also gone up, a trouble which Tata Motors wanted to face for a long time. Now that the Zest has got its feet fixed, it’s time for its younger enthusiastic brother to step in. The elder, being the matured one, is called the Zest while the younger one has a wild streak and thus aptly called the Bolt.

Paying attention to the demands of the young, the Bolt comes loaded with many class rivaling features. Will this Bolt Strike leave the competition in a state of complete discomfort? We reveal soon

DESIGN ;

Tata Bolt is based on the Vista platform, just like the Zest. Both are twin siblings with a DNA similar to the Vista. To not go away from the current design, Pratap Bose, Tata’s chief designer has evolved the styling of the Bolt from the existing Vista design. If one notices closely, it is the same shell like the Vista. This will be the new design language for the coming Tata products; first we saw it in the Zest and now in the Bolt.

The fascia of the Bolt retains a lot of similarity to the Vista, but it does look fresh. It isn’t old or out-dated at any given point of time. There is a chrome lip on the top of the front grille and headlamps integrate well with this design. It looks like a smiling front than an aggressive snout. It does have projector headlamps, but it misses out on Move to the side and one can notice striking similarity between the Vista and Bolt. The Bolt gets the blacked-out pillars that give it a floating roof feel. The rear is a bit of confusion for me, as it is floating but the round ends confuse me. The new tail lamp design is compact and it does look stylish

CABIN ;

If the exteriors don’t manage to convince you that the Bolt is a new Tata, then the interiors certainly will, because apart from the spacious cabin, the Bolt doesn’t share much with the Vista.

In fact, the all-new dashboard is similar to the Zest’s but, instead of the sedan’s dual-tone scheme, the hatchback gets a sportier all-black look. If you’re familiar with the Vista, you’ll find a big step-up in quality, especially with the switchgear and some nicely damped buttons on the centre console. However, some plastics, such as those on the mirror casing and door pockets, have rough edges. Also, the rear seatbelt’s retracting mechanism on our test car went bust after a few uses, which is more worrying as it’s a sign that Tata’s well-known quality niggles still persist.

Typical of Tata hatchbacks, you walk into the cabin and sit relatively higher up in the driver’s seat. The front seats are generous and plush but feel a touch too soft, and lack of support for the lower back can lead to aches after a long drive. While finding a good driving position is easy, taller drivers may find the tilt adjustable steering blocking a chunk of the instrument cluster. Other ergonomic irritants are a narrow footwell which leaves little place to rest your left foot and the ‘Multi-Drive’ row of buttons which are set too low. The Bolt’s strength, however, lies in the spacious rear bench. The ample legroom rivals many mid-size sedans and thanks to the wide cabin, passengers seated three abreast here won’t have to jostle for shoulder room. Surprisingly though, while the front seats feel too soft, the rear bench feels a bit too firm. Tata needs to give the Bolt’s seats consistent foam density.

For convenience, there’s just a single cup holder in the front and an open stowage in front of the gear lever to hold your phone. The top trim also gets a storage tray under the front passenger’s seat – useful to hide valuables when parked. That said, the lack of bottle holders and slim door pockets hampers practicality and even the 210-litre boot isn’t particularly large; in fact, it’s around 10 percent smaller than the Vista’s.

Equipment, though, is what the Bolt has in abundance. The top XT trim gets a Harman-sourced touchscreen interface that also doubles up as the screen for climate control. In the Bolt, this infotainment screen gets an upgraded firmware (vis-à-vis the Zest) that adds GPS navigation through an Android phone. For better readability, the screen’s contrast has been tweaked as well, but that hasn’t done much to improve legibility in direct sunlight. Thankfully, you won’t have to strain your eyes much as the infotainment system can read aloud text messages and supports voice commands for dialling. Surprisingly though, there isn’t a CD player but it supports most modern audio sources such as Bluetooth, USB, iPods and aux. Sound quality from the eight-speaker (four mid-range drivers and four tweeters) set-up sounds great; most customers won’t be tempted to spring for an audio upgrade.

PERFORMANCE ;

Tata officials only offered the petrol Bolt with manual transmission for us to test drive. The diesel and the AMT (automatic) will have to wait for a date closer to the launch next year.

The 1.2T, turbocharged, 4-cylinder Revotron engine is offered in pretty much the same state of tune in the Bolt too. The powertrain remains almost identical with the same TA65 gearbox also on offer in the Bolt. But, compared to the Zest, the Revotron in the Bolt manages to offer a slightly wider band of torque, despite the fact that the peak continues to be the same 140Nm. Maximum power is the same 90PS and though it peaks at 5,000rpm, power delivery from the engine is very linear.

The Bolt shares the new light-weight chassis architecture with the Zest and it becomes clear that it has helped the car massively, making it nimbler and quicker. It is only a few kilos lighter than the Zest, but Tata engineers have done an excellent job in boosting the ride quality. Vibrations and noise have been extremely well contained inside the cabin. Suspension geometry has been calibrated for keeping the ride quality cushy on bad roads, though that didn’t mean that the car bounced or bobbed about too much either. Body roll has also been contained, though you tend to feel that there is a bit more lateral movement due to the tall seating position.

DRIVING DYNAMICS ;

Tata cars always score high on comfort and the same can be said about the Bolt. Ride quality is excellent (a bit soft which results in some bounciness at speed over bad roads), the vehicle takes everything in its stride with utmost confidence and irons out bad roads like it’s child’s play. Even bad roads don’t pose a threat to the Bolt and it won’t be wrong to say that this is the best riding car in the hatchback segment. Where Tata cars aren’t popular is the driving feel, while they are neutral, they won’t make you rave about the handling, the Bolt is a bit different here. Set-up to give you a good time around the bends, the Bolt handles nicely and is eager to corner but there is some body roll.

The new electric steering has good feel and decent feedback at speeds (although it’s on the lighter side) which inspires confidence to drive fast. We love the appearance of the 3-spoke steering wheel and the size just fits in perfectly to make you feel at home. With 10 mm smaller width of each tyre over the Zest, the Bolt still has plenty of grip on offer and cornering really hard makes the acres of under-steer make itself very evident. Stability at speed is excellent and braking performance is also very good. Turning radius is a tad more than rivals while ground clearance is more than adequate for our roads. The Tata Bolt offers a fantastic blend in the dynamics department and is a car you can actually have some fun driving.

SAFETY ;

Tata Motors has given the Bolt front airbags, ABS, EBD and Corner Stability Control. Unlike its rivals from Japan and Korea, the Bolt isn’t a light car and the heavy weight does make its presence felt as you simply don’t feel like your driving a hatchback, the vehicle feels robust. Yet to be tested by NCAP, we expect the Bolt to fare very well but safety equipment on lower trims would be a nice touch. Tata Motors is doing a lot to improve the service experience for its customers and the same is reflecting already although such things take time.

CONCLUSSION ;

After spending a day behind the wheel of the Bolt, we can say that the Bolt lives up to the standards set by the Zest. It looks decent, is spacious and rides pretty well too. In fact, Tata Motors has been smart in changing the suspension setup as well as the steering feel, thanks to which it is a lot more fun to drive and will appeal to a slightly larger audience. Will it beat the competition? Well, a lot of it will also depend on the pricing, but one thing’s for sure, Tata Motors has once again got it right with the Bolt.

 

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