After making a Zesty new beginning with an extremely well executed sub-4 meter sedan, Tata Motors have anchored a climbing bolt in the big mountain ahead to rise above the rest. Is it fastened high and tight enough? We climb up the rope to find out.
Images: Hanoz Patel / Amit Chhangani
Creating a hatch-sedan combo has proven to be one of the most successful formulae for mainstream car makers of late. While the rest of manufacturers have created the smaller hatchback version first, later ‘bolting’ a boot onto it, Tata Motors decided to take the opposite route. So after impressing us with the Zest, Tata Motors decided to remove the bolted-on boot and call the resultant machine the ‘Bolt’ in reverence of the great piece of machinery which made all possible. To make some sense of the name, it’s also the crucial linkage between the not-so refined Tata products of yore and the tech laden, modern products that the Indian carmaker has in the pipeline. We drove the latest hatchback from the car major in and around the Venice of India, Udaipur, on a delightful day with some nip in the air and a beautiful winter sun shining splendidly above us. Here’s how the all-important Bolt elevated our experience through the day.
Design and styling
As evident, the Bolt shares its platform with the Zest, which means that the basic design, right up to the C-pillar remains mostly unaltered, including most of the fascia, the shoulder-line, the roof lines and the panels. Quite a few changes have been made to the styling, though, to lend the Bolt its own unique character. To start with, the Humanity and Trust lines, a name given to the chrome strips sandwiching the plastic portion of the radiator grille have been altered a bit. On the Bolt, the lower chrome element, or the Trust line has been finished in a Piano black material. The daytime running lights from the Zest have been given a miss, though the headlamps, with the Bolt-exclusive smoked treatment look more striking than on the sedan version of the car.
In profile, the Bolt will ride on new 8 spoke, classy looking 15 inch alloys for the top variant, different from the one on the production Zest in design. The C-Pillar has been stickered black for a ‘floating roof’ effect. The matt finish black stickering has a set of 10 faded white vertically laid out lines printed upon it. A plain black treatment would have looked a bit better we reckon.
With the boot taken away from the Zest, the Bolt witnesses maximum stylistic changes at the rear. The rear windscreen, with a body coloured sporty spoiler, replete with a brake light is flanked by piano black elements. The combination tail-lamps are vertically aligned and feature LED mimicking illumination, though the light sources are conventional bulbs. ‘Flame effect’ lamps as the good blokes at Tata prefer calling them look rather nice when lit. Below the windscreen, Tata emblem occupies the surface above the registration plate, and is flanked by ‘Bolt’ and variant badging.
The Trapezoidal number plate recess has a big wide chrome garnish above it, and the engine badging, ‘Revotron’ in this case on the lower right side. The body coloured bumper is split horizontally by a crease. The bumper also features a black, contrasting under-cladding with a reflector element in the middle.
The Bolt, in a nutshell, is not the sensuous beauty that’ll set the desires of car aficionados on fire and take its rightful place on the cover of a fashion magazine. The Bolt is a smart looking car, though, which should hold its own in the company of other hatchbacks sold in its price bracket. We like the new smoked treatment given to lamps, which is a segment first.
Engine and transmission
For the media drive Tata Motors only had the petrol powered 1.2 Revotron engine available. The newly developed turbo-charged 1.2 liter power-plant impressed us with its smoothness and tractability the last time we sampled it in Goa on the Zest, and it delighted with its qualities on the Bolt as well. The engineers at Tata Motors insist that the engine-transmission has been tweaked very mildly for even better responsiveness at the lower spectrum of the rev range. The bolt is being marketed as a lively and peppy car, if not an overly sporty hatchback, and the customers should be able to feel the perkiness as they take it take out for a test-spin, the boffins say.
On the move, the city-friendly character of the Revotron unit comes to the fore instantly. The extremely narrow lanes of old Udaipur, inhabited as much by a multitude of animals as humans, can be a nightmare to pilot a car through. The Revotron engine’s resistant to splutter even when asked to trundle along in higher gears at idling engine speeds, and short gearing for the first three cogs helped us find our way out of the colourful maze that the streets of this historical city are, as we lost our way courtesy Google Maps, with some assistance from a bunch of mischievous rickshaw drivers.
We took the car to the wide, inviting Mount Abu highway. The extremely well laid out road is wide, and has a whole bunch of long sweeping curves thrown in. It’s on such highways that the Bolt gives away a very crucial aspect of its gearing. The first three gears are relatively short, and make for its 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, you’ll have to ensure that the car is well above the 100km/h mark, and doing healthy revs if you’re looking for instant response from the engine in the fourth gear.
Cruising effortlessly on wide highways with medians is never going to be a problem for the Bolt. On single carriageways, however, shifting down to third cog may sometimes become an eventuality, with the 4th cog not delivering enough instant shove at sub-100 speeds.
There are three drive modes to choose from. Default mode is City, which tries to offer an optimum mix of fuel efficiency, good driveability and decent punch. Sport mode extracts most out of the engine with the sole objective to go faster, while the Eco Mode turns the ECU into a stingy miser, making the car’s electronic brain think a million times before expending every single drop of fuel. It may gimmicky to some, but the three modes actually work. The switchover from Eco to Sport mode, in particular, makes you feel the difference in power very clearly. The Bolt decidedly feels livelier in the Sport mode.
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. It is, however, not a hooligan, and prefers, the tranquil, peaceful side of life than going for a wild out night out.
Interior and features
Like most other bits, Bolt shares its interior with the bigger Zest, albeit with a few positive changes. To start with, the Bolt does away with the beige color option for the dashboard. The interior in available only with an all-black trim, to go with the lively positioning of the car Tata is aiming for. 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. We are told that the Zest, too, upon the Bolt’s launch will incorporate these changes. To start with, the fabulous Harman sourced central touch screen infotainment system is now equipped with a navigation feature. You just have to download the MapmyIndia app to your smartphone and connect it to the infotainment unit via a USB cable. Thereon, the system will take over, showing the maps on the screen with turn-by-turn navigation using voice. It’s as good as having a dedicated sat-nav on your car, and no other model in the segment is offering the feature. You get four years worth of free offline MapMyIndia maps with service.
Talking of the Harman system, the eight speakers, touch screen unit is without doubt the best sounding set-up in the segment. It also offers great playability and compatibility with almost every source, including SD cards. 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 – a feature which was not available with the Zest.
The features and comfort inside the car doesn’t leave much to complain about. The Bolt is one of the most spacious and comfortable cars in the segment. Lack of storage spaces, including bottle holders is a problem which has not been addressed despite having been brought to the company’s attention during the Zest drive in Goa. To pick a few other flaws, the headroom for the rear passenger isn’t too great, especially if he’s tall and sitting straight. The wind noise at higher speeds could also have been filtered out better. The boot space, at 210-liters 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 layout, with front suspension comprising lower wishbone and McPherson Struts with anti-roll bar and rear being a semi-independent system featuring twist beam with coil spring and shock absorbers has been left unaltered, though.
The tweaked suspension for the Bolt makes itself quite noticeable on the move with the car feeling a tad bit stiffer than the Zest, though it’s still cannot be termed stiff in isolation. The straight line stability even at high speeds is impressive, though the steering doesn’t feel very alive. At speed, the steering feels medially weighted. It still lacks the precision and finesse of the some of the driver oriented international models we have here, though it still is a massive improvement over the steering units of the Tata products of yore.
In that sense, the Bolt isn’t a point and shoot device, which you can hurtle around a challenging bend knowing exactly where the machine will set its feet. At more than usual speeds, taking tough corners still requires some corrections on the move, with a fair bit of roll thrown in. The Bolt is no Punto or Polo when it comes to sheer dynamic ability. What it is, 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. The Bolt is tuned for practicality and comfort, and those who are looking to raid the switchbacks every weekend should find something else for themselves.
Our test car came shod with 175/65 R15 tubeless, Goodyear Assurance tyres, slightly downsized as compared to the 185 section rubber on the Zest. The overall grip levels were satisfactory, with no perturbing squealing around corners or during braking throughout the test run.
The Bolt, thanks to its shorter body and a mildly sportier suspension as compared to the Zest comes across as bit more involving car to drive. For all practical purposes and keeping the clientele its addressing, the Bolt doesn’t leave much to complain about. It’s not meant for the out-and-out driving enthusiast, though a family guy looking for a comfort and practicality will appreciate it.
Some images of the car’s important details with respective captions
New eight spoke alloys for the Bolt. Good year Assurance tyres perfom well. The width of the tyres has been reduced to 175 from the Zest’s 185
Smoked headlamps look more striking than on the Zest. The DRLs on the Zest are not available on the Bolt
New Tata steering with mounted controls. Could have been leather wrapped on the top-spec variant for a softer feel.
The rear is simple, and well-executed. No flashy elements here, no ugly detailing either. Neat and balanced.
Adjustable rear headrest is increasingly becoming a rarity – not on the Bolt though.
The City / Eco and Sport modes are now represented on the instrument console in distinct color, with a warning chime every time you switch modes
Storage compartments inside the cabin is a downside with the Bolt. We hope bottle holders are introduced in the door panels. That’s the only cup holder the car has for the front passengers.
Black stickering with white stripes for a ‘floating roof’ effect. We would liked it to be plain black. Some people may like the graphics though.
Boot space is not the Bolt’s USP. 210 liters is bettered by some competitors.
Automatic A/C is one of the many features on the Bolt. It’s one of the best equipped cars in the class.
Notice the piano black lower lip of the grille. It’s done in chrome on the Zest.
No push button start here. Twist the key the good old way to bring the turbocharged engine to life.
You can now watch videos or play image slideshows on the central screen using the newly added SD-card slot.
USB connection to the system, along with MapMyIndia app makes it a full scale sat-nav device. First for the segment.
Height adjustable driver’s seat
Summing it up
The prices for the Bolt have not been announced yet, and that would be the single 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.
While the long term durability of the Zest / Bolt platform has not been established yet, Tata Motors’ newfound focus on improving their quality and processes is very evident. Both the cars are extremely well rounded, and that’s exactly why the Zest has been posting segment leading numbers after its launch. The Bolt, too, is highly appreciable as a new product and surpasses its peers in many aspects, especially in terms of cabin space, driveability and features. The interior too, unlike a few new hatchbacks, feels very rich and upmarket. As mentioned earlier, the prices have not been announced yet, but if a 4.5 – 6 lakh rupee (both petrol and diesel variants included) hatchback is what you’re looking for, the Bolt is an option that you cannot skip to consider before making the final call.
Tech Specs both petrol & diesel
|Tata Bolt 1.2T Petrol & 1.3 Diesel|
|Engine type||Revotron 1.2T petrol engine, 4cylinder, Turbocharged, MPFI with selectable driving modes||4 Cylinder, Turbocharged, Intercooled Diesel engine|
|Cubic capacity||1193cc||1248 cc|
|Made of||Head: Aluminium alloy, Block: Cast Iron||Head: Aluminium alloy, Block: Cast Iron|
|Installation||Transverse, Front wheel drive||Transverse, Front wheel drive|
|Max Power||90 PS @ 5000 RPM||75 PS @ 4000 RPM|
|Max Torque||140 Nm @ 1500-4000 RPM||190 Nm @ 1750-3000 RPM|
|Bore/Stroke||75 mm x 67.5 mm||69.6 mm x 82 mm|
|Compression Ratio||9(+-0.3):1||17.6 (+/-1):1|
|Valve Gear||SOHC 2 valves/cylinder||DOHC 4 valves/cylinder|
|Engine Management||ECU Controlled||ECU Controlled|
|Chassis and Body|
|Construction||Hatchback, 5-door, Monocoque||Hatchback, 5-door, Monocoque|
|Kerb weight||1095 – 1125 kgs||1132 – 1160 kgs|
|Wheels||15 inches||15 inches|
|Tyre size / Type||175/65 R15+ Tubeless, Goodyear Assurance||175/65 R15+ Tubeless, Goodyear Assurance|
|Overall Length||3825 mm|
|Max. width||1695 mm|
|Overall Height||1562 mm|
|Wheel Base||2470 mm|
|Track Front||1450 mm|
|Track Rear||1440 mm|
|Ground Clearance||165 mm (Unladen)|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||44 litres|
|Type||TA65*Synchromesh with overdrive, 5 Forward + 1 Reverse||FIAT EVO-II, Synchromesh with overdrive, 5 Forward + 1 Reverse|