The Bolt is the second offering in Tata Motor’s next generation line-up of cars as the company looks to climb out of the hole in which it finds itself. From being an undisputed number 3, it has slipped to a weak no. 5, sporadically slipping to no. 6 in the pecking order. The Bolt follows the Zest sedan that came last year, and on which it is based. But the fight is tougher in a segment that has Maruti Swift, Hyundai Grand i10, Honda Brio and Toyota Etios Liva.
Looks a bit like Indica
The Bolt measures almost as long and wide as the Swift but sits higher than any other hatchback in India, and also has the largest wheelbase. It is a macho looking souped up small car with large swept back clear headlamps, a well-proportioned grille and muscular well rounded bonnet. Black B and C pillars give it a sporty side profile too. The dampener is its in-your-face similarity with the Indica Vista. In a category that does not suffer from a dearth of inspiration, old wine in new bottle? Lose some points.
A lot going inside
A Tata cabin has always been spacious, but in the Bolt you get some more. It houses a fresh dashboard carried from the Zest sedan — simple yet appealing. The big plus is the quality of material and fit and finish, which is a rare commodity in a Tata car. The longer wheelbase means rear leg room is the best in class, with the third passenger getting more room than in a Swift or a Grand i10. The Harmon Kardon music system is a premium for this segment, but is not entirely glitch-free. But no bottle holders?
The Bolt gets Tata’s new 1.2-litre Revotron petrol engine and the familiar 1.3-litre multijet diesel engine that already powers the Indica range. Given the recent surge in demand for petrol small cars and the familiarity with the diesel powertrain, we drove the Revotron version that develops 90 PS power and a segment leading 140 NM torque. The engine is surprisingly refined and peppy at low revs. Steering is balanced and handling quite sharp. The soft suspension set-up also gives a decent ride quality.
What more, it comes with multiple driving modes—sport, city and eco. But only the sport mode is truly exciting. The Bolt’s biggest undoing is its weight, a good 150-160 kg heavier than competitors, which restricts its fun factor to city limits.
At Rs 4.44-6.05 lakh, the petrol version is big value for money, with ABS and dual airbags on top-end trims and a new age infotainment system. The cabin is nearly the best in class, and the petrol engine is not bad. But the car’s visual similarity with the Indica Vista does rankle, and the company has not done any favour by pricing it so close to the Swift.
The Bolt is a big step forward, but may not have enough to spark an instant turnaround that the Tata company is looking for. A few thousand rupees less, and it may have been a different story.