Tata Motors has been selling cars since 1954, although in Mzansi operations only began in 2004 with light commercial vehicles. Eleven years later the company has sold over 60 000 vehicles in total locally. The new Bolt range is said to start a new chapter in the life of the Tata car brand and represents the modern take on the name. Launched in both hatch and sedan, the Bolt replaces the ominous Indica whose shoddy reputation did the brand no good.


Design at three different studios, rigorous testing and high manufacturing standards are said to have ensured the Bolt uncovers a different chapter in the life of Tata. This is no Indica. At all. Quality is apparent even at first glance and the Bolt is immediately placed in the same league as the likes of Renault Sandero and Toyota Etios.


The interior is current for the segment, with good quality plastic material, piano black finishes and ergonomically sound layout applied. Tata crammed in many of the goodies would expect to find in the car’s rivals, including a multifunction steering wheel, a trip computer, air conditioning (climate control on the higher-spec model) and a new touch screen infotainment system. Harman provided the sound system that plays radio, plus media from the USB port, SD card and Bluetooth, which of course also gives you that handsfree option for your in-car conversations. Mind you, Tata was generally ahead of the curve when it came to in-car tech, with the old Indica being the only car in its segment to feature a DVD player with rear seat monitors.


Although Bolt is only 4 metres long, it is able to accommodate five adults in relative comfort. The sedan has 210 litres of boot space, while the hatch goes up to 360 litres. Competitors in the segment do include the above-mentioned French and Japanese, as well as the Volkswagen Polo Vivo, Chevrolet Spark, Honda Brio and Ford Figo. Tough segment.


Tata hopes the new 1.2-litre “Revotron” turbo engine will further set it apart from rivals who mostly go with natural aspiration under the bonnet. It produces 66kW at 5 000rpm and maximum torque of 140Nm between 1 500rpm and 4 000rpm, making, on paper at least, a good spread. Sport, Eco and City driving modes can be actuated through buttons and each maps the engine differently for the prevailing need. A 5-speed manual transmission is fitted and sends torque to the two front wheels, while Tata SA is considering an automated manual transmission for 2016.


I found the engine at best adequate during our launch test drive. Nothing amazing, but with enough zest to make the daily commute. It didn’t like steep hills much, especially when loaded with four passengers. I didn’t like the fuel tank range indicator on the trip computer as it works in kilometres per litre instead of what we are used to here in Mzansi, which is L/100km. I had to keep converting the figure in my head.


Overall I believe the Bolt is miles ahead of the old Indica and indicates where Tata wants to take its mass brand. With the design and engineering help of premium subsidiary Jaguar Land Rover, the company should soon be able to match the best from Japan and Germany, which would give it the edge in its ever-growing India home market.


Tata Bolt Prices

Hatch XMS (R132 995)

Hatch XT (R142 995)

Sedan XMS (R142 995)

Sedan XT (R152 995)

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