Prejudice is really a tough nut to crack. After employing the Tata Bolt for the past few months over 3,000 km as our daily grinder, that’s the only explanation we could come up with for the hatchback’s lackluster sales performance despite being a very well rounded product. Sure, at one point, there was hardly anything of interest for a prospective private car buyer in Tata Motors’ stable but with the HorizonNext strategy, the automaker has been making some honest efforts to turn the tide.
After handling many car buying queries from both our audience and acquaintances, one thing became plainly apparent – Tata cars are omitted from the shortlists more often than not. If you don’t shortlist a car you don’t test drive it, so there is no way of knowing whether it will suit your requirements or not. The Bolt is arguably the most affected victim of this trend.
Our Tata Bolt long term report is a compilation of good and not-so-good experiences so far. As we continue to dial in more miles, we would be coming up with more of our observations in the future. Before we start, a bit of a background info on our usage pattern is due. Since we mostly work from our home offices, there was no commuting involved. The car was either lying unused for days or was munching mile after a mile on highways during weekends. Our cheery red Bolt rarely witnessed urban traffic but it surely knows every kind of potholes there is!
Let’s get the not-so-good things out of the way first. The prospective customers are not to be blamed entirely for their preconceived notions against the car. It is, to a good extent, helped by its undeniable resemblance to the outdated Indica. In other words, Tata Bolt’s silhouette carries a legacy which effectively nullifies its fresh appeal. People tend to look at the Bolt as a heavily modified Vista rather than a new product in its own right and that, according to us, is the biggest dampener.
The second grouse is actually quite surprising considering that the designers have done a commendable job of uplifting the in-cabin experience but missed out on simplest of the things. We are talking about the utter lack of provisions to store water bottles. The front door pockets are too small to hold 1 litre bottles while the rear door pockets are even smaller. To make the matters worse, there are no pouches on the front seatbacks either. For a family hatchback with comfortable interiors, it’s a shame that such a basic practical requirement was neglected.
Now, let’s move on to the good bits and the Bolt has a lot of them. As far as the exterior design is concerned, it’s only the familiar profile we have issues with. The front and rear fascias are neatly executed with modern elements, making the Bolt worthy of being a family car.
Interior design is probably the Bolt’s USP and is also the most improved aspect of the hatchback over its predecessor. The black color theme suits the car and the overall driver ergonomics (something that Tata cars usually lacked) is impressive. Plastics used have hard surfaces but they seem to age well. The built quality too have improved markedly.
We love with the Harman touchscreen infotainment system for its functionality, ease of use and excellent audio quality. Ensuring good comfort level and leg room for all the occupants has been Tata Motors’ strength and the Bolt upholds the tradition. The auto AC is appreciably effective. Barring the lack of enough bottle holders discussed above, we feel that the Bolt has the most comfortable cabin in its segment.
Coming to the dynamics aspects of the Bolt, Tata Motors’ engineers have tuned the car to offer a very supple ride quality. They achieved it by bestowing the car with ground clearance of 165 mm (looks higher than this in real life) and a soft suspension set up. This is a boon if you happen to live in a region filled with broken roads like we do. With an ability to insulate the occupants from whatever is thrown at its suspension system, the Tata Bolt emerges as the champion of bad roads. The ride quality spoils you so much that you would eventually start taking the speed breakers and potholes for granted. Even after a sparsely punctuated 850 km journey, the occupants emerged with less fatigue than one would expect.
The top notch ride quality comes with the side effect of huge body roll. That said, the Bolt’s handling characteristics are fairly predictable and we are impressed with the steering system that weighs up consistently. There is nothing to complain about the brakes either.
When we received the keys to our long termer, it had already clocked a few thousand kilometers. The first thing we noticed is the improvement in the 1.2-litre Revotron petrol motor’s refinement level over the brand new examples we tested during the media drive. After running in, the turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant becomes a smoother operator.
The three drive modes – City (default), Sport and Eco – are not there just to make the brochure look good. They actually change the engine’s nature to suit the driver’s preference. The sweet sounding snarl near the red line in Sport mode is highly addictive but it’s ridiculously easy to arrive at a single digit mileage figure if you continue to belt this engine. Performance is not hair raising but can be termed as sporty. We will comment on the City mode in our next report as we spent most of our highway time in the Eco mode, trying to extract a good fuel economy.
The throttle response and torque delivery go blunt in the Eco mode so it takes a bit of getting used to. This is exactly why overtaking in this mode requires some amount of planning but maintaining a respectable highway speed is never an issue. If at all there is a room for improvement, we would like to see a better fuel economy. Our car managed a best average of 17.9 kmpl during a tedious hypermiling highway stint of 180 km. Regular driving fetched us a mileage of 15.7 kmpl on a combined cycle (predominantly on highways) which is not bad but not very impressive either. Gear shifts are nice and easy.
Three months and 3,000 km later, the Tata Bolt proved itself to be a very comfortable and reliable family hatchback whose positive attributes clearly outweigh its negative ones. It has quite a few upmarket elements that clearly enhance the car’s feelgood factor like projector headlamps, turbocharged petrol motor with Multidrive modes, alloy wheels, a touchscreen infotainment system and auto AC. And yet, it is cheaper than its primary rival, the Maruti Swift, which doesn’t offer most of these features.
It’s a type of a car which will not sweep you off your feet instantly but will definitely grow on you in the long run. NO, it’s not merely an upgraded Vista. We are looking forward to get to know the car better as a trip to the beaches and mountains beckons.