Tata Bolt (2015) First Drive

Bolt Hatch 6 1800x1800

Tata has launched its new Bolt hatchback featuring a turbocharged engine. Is this the car to help Tata break new ground? We took it for a drive at its local launch.

What does the word “bolt” conjure up for you? An athlete kicking out of the starting blocks in the 100 metre sprint? I think that’s the thinking behind Tata’s name for its all-new car. We were going to say entry-level car, but bear in mind that for now, you’ll still be able to buy the Tata Indica at a smidgeon under R100 000.

Turnaround Plan

Remember the Tata Indica? Shoddy plastics, bumpers that look ill-fitting? A dashboard to forget about? The Bolt with a capital B moves Tata’s game into another league. While the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, at least it is fresh, and the levels of trim fittings and yes, build quality, are way ahead of where Tata was 10 years ago when it launched the Indica to mixed reviews.

Price was the factor that led people to buying a little Indian hatch then, and price is still the name of the game with the Bolt. But this new hatch and its sedan sibling are now operating in the R130 000 to R150 000 category, where the competition is a little tougher.

Improved safety features

First off, the car is not a bad looker, although it does have a rather tall ride height, much in the way that Datsun’s Go does, and, hey, that car is carving up some solid sales figures despite not being launched with proper safety equipment, such as airbags and ABS.

The Bolt makes no mistake in the safety stakes. It has Bosch Generation 9 ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution, and, a first for this segment, Corner Braking Stability, a system which has been around in up-market cars for over 15 years. The system individually brakes wheels at various corners of the car to sort out skids.

Dual airbags for driver and front passenger are present, and there is a rear park assist system – warning buzzers – to enable easier parking.

Right there, in that safety equipment package, you have about R20 000 worth of hardware that would probably cost more if you were to retro-fit the gizmos. Suddenly the pricing looks more attractive.

Interior

Now you take a look at the interior and note the vastly-improved level of plastics and fabric upholstery used to clad this little cabin. You also note the interior design-work, which is very acceptable to a South African eye that is used to offerings from the Japanese, the French and the Germans in this segment.

Then you start checking out the features. All the models have air-conditioning – the car does come from India, for goodness sake, where temperatures in the 40s are not something to remark upon – and electric windows front and rear on all models. All models also have remote central locking and electric mirror adjustment.

In the line of luxury,  all models come with a Harman-developed four-speaker infotainment system, with radio, IPOD connectivity  and auxiliary inputs standard, while the upper-level XT models get a touch-screen system by Harman which includes voice command and SMS management on the touch screen, as well as an SD card reader which can provide video playback.

And for exterior image, all but the base XMS hatch have 15-inch alloy wheels.

Engine

The engine fitted to all Bolt models is a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, petrol-fuelled of course, and rated at 66 kW with 140 Nm of torque. No performance figures were noted by us in any of the information provided at launch, but we can tell you something about the performance. It is easily possible to see 160kph and above on the speedo, and as far as fuel consumption is concerned, well, myself and my co-driver achieved an average consumption of 4.8L/100 km for the run from OR Tambo Airport to the Zwartkops Raceway near Pretoria.

Our economy run included lots of freeway driving and special techniques to achieve this, and we would imagine a realistic consumption figure would be in the 6 to 6.5L/100 km range. By the way there is an “Eco” button for extra conservative driving, but we would recommend staying in the normal button as you can feel a noticeable power drop-off as you hit the button.

Tata Bolt Pricing

For the record, there are four new models launched as from this week in early October 2015, and they are positioned as follows:

XMS Hatch - R132 995

XT Hatch - R142 995

XMS Sedan - R142 995

XT Sedan - R152 995 

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