Thanks to my good mates at SA Car Fan I hooked up an invite to the launch of Indian manufacturer Tata's latest range called Bolt. Admit it, that's a pretty cool name. Over the last few years we've been seeing manufacturers choose to have some of their cars made in India thanks to more affordable labour. Tata is different though, it's a homegrown brand in India and I think this affords it a better reputation and gives it a better overall quality too. They didn't move there to save money, they originated from there to make money.
The launch was set at the Intercontinental Hotel at OR Tambo bright and early. The presentation outlined Tata's history as well as their current and future plans before getting on to the reason we were there - the Tata Bolt. On paper the Bolt is mighty impressive, a fresh new car from the ground up with a brand new motor too. They're aiming to make a dent in the B-segment and it looks like they could possibly be on track to do it. They've put a lot of effort into their new philosophy: Design, Drive and Connectivity with the three operating programmes known as DesigNext, DriveNext and ConnectNext.
When it was finally time to get behind the wheel of the Bolt, I paired up with Dirk in a sedan version and we headed off to Zwartkops Raceway. The Tata chaps set up a challenge though, we had to use the least amount of petrol as possible but still get to the track in the alloted timeframe. The 1.2 litre 4-pot is quite the fuel efficient little thing, upon arrival at Zwartkops our Bolt returned figures of 18.4km/litre, quite impressive but still not the bestof the day. One of the other teams managed to get it well into the 20s and they arrived before us too.
We then had a few more challenges on the go-kart track that included shooting targets with a paintball gun, a Q&A session, a spot the difference stop off, a short slalom and then a driving blind section . Myself and Dirk did pretty well here as we'd find out at the lunch venue a little later. Our combined efforts netted us a fancy trophy for 3rd place over all. It's the first time I've gotten recognition for driving slow...
The Bolt's interior is impressive, especially for a car at this price. A nice dashboard with piano black finishes and chrome trimmings is what you get along with a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment screen - influences that stem from the Jaguar Land Rover stylists in Coventry. Comfort features include air-con (climate control on the XT), electric windows all round, electronically-adjustable side mirrors and remote openers for the fuel flap and boot. The gauge cluster has a multi-information display with a digital clock, outside temperature, dual tripmeters, live fuel consumption, average fuel consumption and distance to empty - most of the things can be accessed via the steering-mounted controls.
That 1200cc motor is an all-new piece dubbed the Revotron, arguably one of the coolest names out there for an engine, it's turbocharged too. It's the first Indian-designed and made turbo petrol unit and was subjected to 300 000 hours of rigorous testing before the Bolt was launched. The small capacity unit makes 66kW at 5000rpm with torque at 140Nm between 1500 & 4000rpm. There are three different settings for engine response - Sport, Eco and City modes with Sport being the default setting for the Bolt in SA. The cars are available as 5-speed manual with an automated manual transmission (AMT) being a possible option in 2016.
The setup is good, it's an easy drive and manages city traffic and the highway just fine. The power output is not bad, but on the drive to the lunch venue we didn't have to watch the fuel consumption and so I was able to give it a bit of welly. It does feel like it could do with more power, it tapers off pretty quickly. When we mentioned this at lunch one of the Tata chaps was a little surprised with the comment, but one only has to look at the likes of Peugeot Citroen's Puretech setup that's making 30kW more at the same capacity. That said, they've been making their own engines for quite a while now, so for Tata it's pretty much a case of onwards and upwards from here.
The Tata Bolt seen below features an optional body kit and wheels, and it looks great. One of the Tata guys mentioned that it was a roughly R14 000 upgrade.
The Tata Bolt range is ok, that goes for the looks as well as the build quality. The guys have shown that good things can certainly come out of India's car manufacturing facilities. In the B-segment where they're planning to fight they could do well, I think a lot will come down to the way the brand is marketed though. B-segment buyers already have their favourites so there will be a tough time convincing them to change - local car buyers are pretty set in their ways. I'm keen to see what happens.
Bolt Hatch XMS R132 995
Bolt Hatch XT R142 995
Bolt Sedan XMS R142 995
Bolt Sedan XT R152 995
All models come with a 5 year / 100 000km factory warranty, a 2 year / 30 000km Service Plan and 5 year roadside assistance for peace of mind.
For more head on over to the Tata website.