Auto focus

A Bolt to climb out of the blues

S. Muralidhar | Updated on December 17, 2014 Published on December 11, 2014

bl12_Bolt_1.jpg

bl12_Bolt_10.jpg

Plusher cabin: Despite the similarity with Zest's interiors, the Bolt comes with better choice of colours and a helpful navigation app. S MURALIDHAR

bl12_Bolt_14.jpg

bl12_Bolt_7.jpg

bl12_Bolt_9.jpg

bl12_Bolt_8.jpg

bl12_Bolt_6.jpg

bl12_Bolt_4.jpg

bl12_Bolt_3.jpg

bl12_Bolt_2.jpg

bl12_Bolt_15.jpg

bl12_Bolt_12.jpg

bl12_Bolt_11.jpg

BL05_spec_tata.eps

The future of Tata’s passenger car business hinges on the Bolt.



The Bolt will be a make or break car for Tata Motors passenger cars division when it is finally launched in the first quarter of 2015. We test drove the new Bolt, and came away with a lot of questions in our heads.

Thankfully, these were ‘positive’ questions this time around. The ride quality is really good, isn’t it? How has the fit and finish quality been achieved? The cabin noise levels are surprisingly low, eh?

The Bolt will land into people’s minds even as the Zest is still fresh and continues to make inroads into the sub-four-metre sedan category. The two cars are, of course, easily identifiable as being related, but the Bolt has been given a special character that attempts to distinguish it from the sedan.

Design

They are both based on the X1 platform and a lot of components come from the same parts bin, yet aside of the overall shape of the front of the Bolt which it shares with the Zest, there are a lot of new bits when one gets down to comparing. 

The front of the Bolt is more expressive mostly due to the headlamp design and some changes to the front fender. The bonnet grille with what Tata designers call the ‘Humanity’ line offers a pleasing introduction to the Bolt too. The headlamps, though, are different, combining projector bulbs with highlighted and blacked out elements to create a unique eye-like effect. The same eye-liner structure is carried forward into the fog lamp housing in the fender. A large airdam in the centre of the fender and design lines that merge seamlessly into the bonnet creases and further into the A-pillar give the Bolt’s front a strong and clean look. 

The same scheme of trying to impress without going overboard continues at the rear of the Bolt. The most eye-catching bit of design at the rear is the blacked out C-pillar arms that give the Bolt a reverse floating roof look. The rear of the Bolt is, of course, the completely new bit of design. And the good news here is that the designers have desisted from giving the Zest and the Bolt awkward resemblances. Instead the Bolt has a completely different backside. 

The tail-lamp’s combination has also shed the legacy design of vertically stacked elements going all the way up to the roof. Instead it is now a more petite, clean and very European combination that ends below the rear glass and below the shoulder line wrap.

The roofline and the rear hatch have an air of familiarity and that is why the blacked out C-pillar arms is possibly a good strategy to distract the onlookers’ attention.

We came away with the general impression that the design of the Bolt’s exterior has a cohesiveness and solidity to it. Shut lines are tight, the integration of the various elements are clean and its stance is more relaxed and much less ungainly compared to the previous Tata hatches. Yes, larger wheel rims would have given the Bolt a better stance, but they will also affect ride quality.

Cabin

The same eye-brow lifting experience is what we got after stepping into the Bolt. There is the obvious resemblance with the cabin of the Zest, because it is nearly identical. But, differences in the choice of interior colour theme and the upholstery have actually made a difference to the Bolt’s cabin making it seem more plush and well-finished. The black colour theme and the unpretentious dashboard layout combine together well in creating an impression of European appeal. It is also a welcome departure from the not so premium ‘biege’ interior themes of previous Tata models.

The cabin sports pretty much the same features as the Zest - the centre stack with the Harman infotainment system and touchscreen, a similar instrument cluster with the rpm-needle that turns red when it crosses the redline, the same neatly chrome-lined aircon vents and the 360mm steering wheel with controls. Variations to the materials used are there, but the parts and the layout have been shared with the Zest. Yet, in the Bolt, the cabin seems better integrated and less ‘plasticky’. The feature that was highlighted during our test drive was the ‘MapmyIndia’ navigation that gets delivered to the touchscreen by connecting a smartphone loaded with the free-to-download app for which Tata Motors has an exclusive tie-up. The cabin still has some ergonomics issues. The front seat’s construction felt like it was a bit narrow and the squabs were too firm for us. Height adjustment is available only for the driver’s seat and even at its lowest setting we felt that the driving position was tall. We would have also liked a chunkier steering wheel and missed having a dead pedal. But, the quality of materials used and the fit and finish quality are surprisingly good. The cabin now certainly matches up to the competition in this segment. Noise levels in the cabin have also been extremely well contained. The centre transmission tunnel is a bit tall, though thankfully leveled off at the top making it less inconvenient for the third middle passenger at the rear.

Performance

Tata officials only offered the petrol Bolt with manual transmission for us to test drive. 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 140Nm. Maximum power is the same 90PS and it peaks at 5,000rpm. 

The Bolt shares the new light-weight chassis with the Zest and 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.

High speed performance and straight line stability was also good as tested on private roads even at speeds of over 150 kmph. The Revotron’s performance has already been tested in the Zest too and it could turn out to be a gem that Tata Motors can hope to leverage for years to come. The Bolt also gets the three drive modes that the Zest was also offered with - Eco, City and Sport. While the default mode is City, you can change to Eco (high fuel efficiency) or Sport (peppy and agile/ lower efficiency) modes at the press of a switch. Mode-specific mapping for the engine ECU and the throttle position ensures that the powertrain’s behaviour changes to enable the changes in performance.

Bottomline

A lot of effort has gone into making the Bolt a more wholesome car compared to anything that has rolled out with the Tata logo on it. The company is also hoping to make a statement with some of the safety features that the car will be offered with as standard. Details about the number of trim levels are awaited.

The Bolt has the potential for rewriting Tata's presence in the passenger car business. It is now up to the buyers who need to look beyond the brand’s image. Test driving the Bolt when it arrives in showrooms next year will be eye-opening. Expect prices for the Bolt to range between ₹ 3.9 lakh to ₹ 6 lakh.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on December 11, 2014
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor