More than any other kind of vehicle, it’s the hatchbacks that are bought with the head and not the heart. That’s probably a given – but at a more basic level, would you rather have a hatchback that’s exciting and divides opinion? Or one that’s pretty straightforward and simply blends into your everyday life? This is the sort of question I've come across often in the couple of months that I’ve spent in getting to know our Tata Bolt.
Let’s establish straightway that even within the modest confines of the mid-size hatchback space; the Bolt is not a particularly exciting car. What it does really well though is deliver a high degree of practicality in a simple and comforting manner. It’s been playing the family car role very well all this while, besides coping up with my daily grind. Speaking of which, my regular commute route is riddled with narrow diversions and a few bottlenecks, meaning I often end up covering it at a rather low pace. Thankfully, the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol motor and all its midrange grunt make the Bolt feel sprightly in stop and go traffic.
The looks have grown on me, too. I’ve been put off by the oversized headlights and the arc-like silhouette in the past, however, there have been instances during our photo shoots wherein I’ve caught sight of the Bolt in multiple angles and thought it looked rather good– those headlights especially are quite nicely detailed.
Having driven it on Bombay’s maddening roads for a couple of month now, the Bolt has made for a decent daily companion, thanks to its light clutch, high driving position and a large glasshouse. The latter really helps in dodging rowdy auto rickshaws and two wheelers which seem to come out of nowhere. Adding more comfort to my commute is the brilliant 8-speaker audio system and the air-conditioner which is proving to be really effective now that summer’s here. All in all, our fully specced XT variant features everything that we have come to expect from a mid-size hatch although I do miss having rear parking sensors.
The Bolt is not without its faults though. It’s been through the hands of most of us here at CarWale and all those who have driven it seem to have a uniform opinion, especially on the way it drives. Yes, the turbocharged engine really shifts the car provided I was willing to work it hard but the amount of flat spots throughout the rev range is too glaring to be missed. And as we have known previously with the diesel-powered Bolt in our four car shootout, the suspension lacks the suppleness over bumps, especially at high speeds. This is particularly evident during our frequent runs on the Mumbai-Pune expressway wherein the ride quality feels wooden as the car knocks its way over patchy stretches, with minor imperfections causing slight wobbles and vibrations. Don’t get me wrong, the Bolt still rides nicely in the city (where it will inevitably spend most of its time) and soaks up most of the bumps and potholes without unsettling the occupants.
The Bolt has covered around 6,000km in two months and minor annoyances and a couple of odd squeaks aside, its run really well. Everyone who’s done long-distance trips in it observed how comfortable and spacious it was. That said, perhaps the strongest praise I can give the Bolt is that it never felt underwhelming when the time came to drive it back home from a shoot, following a day of either driving or riding shotgun in some high-end exotic machine.
Date acquired: February 2016
Odometer reading when acquired: 7,866km
Current odometer reading: 14,246km
Fuel efficiency: 11-13kmpl
Photos by Kapil Angane