Tata, which has retailed more than 60 000 cars and light commercials in South Africa since its products arrived here in 2004, aims to become a bigger player in the local market with the launch of two new Bolt models into the B-segment. Tata will also be embarking on an energetic programme to renew its brand awareness locally as well as putting increased focus on quality after-sales service.
Tata’s cars and LCV’s are marketed in South Africa by Accordian Investments, a company in the Imperial Group. The company’s recently appointed CEO Kyri Michael is determined that the arrival of the Bolt will herald a new era for Tata in this country. The Bolt has already received a very positive reception in pre-launch customer clinics, with particular praise for the interior styling.
“The introduction of the Bolt comes after a three-year drought of new models from Tata. The Bolt hatch and sedan will extend the current product offering from Tata in the local market. Each of the Bolt derivatives will be offered with two trim levels – XMS and XT – and with a choice of five body colours.
The attractively-styled Bolt range is competitively priced and offers buyers the option of a five-door hatch or a compact four-door sedan. The initial thinking is that the sales split will be 70% hatch and 30% sedan but this could change as the sedan is a good-looking car with the benefit of a large, secure luggage compartment.
A well-appointed, spacious cabin with an impressive list of standard equipment – particularly in terms of infotainment – make these newcomers from India strong contenders in a category which is dominated by entries from Europe, Korea and Japan. It is one of the most keenly contested sectors in the South African market but Michael is confident the Bolt will be able to make its mark despite strong opposition.
“As the name suggests, these two new models exude excitement and energy as worthy examples of Tata Motors recently-launched strategy to launch a number of new products over the next five years, so as to significantly grow its market share internationally,” explained Michael.
“The Bolt is the result of a culmination of ideas from Tata Motors’ three design studios, located in Pune (India), Coventry (England) and Turin (Italy), to ensure international appeal. The new models were shown for the first time in concept form at the Delhi Motor Show last year and went on sale in India in January.
“The Bolt hatch and sedan have already gathered positive comments in the Indian automotive media. There was particular praise for the cars’ high quality levels and ride comfort,” added Michael.
The Tata R&D team used three descriptive slogans to project the company philosophy of Confident Dynamism in terms of Design, Drive and Connectivity. The Bolt is the first result of Tata Motors’ HorizoNext strategy which aims to introduce two new models to the Tata car range every year for the next five years. The three programmes are known as DesigNext, DriveNext and ConnectNext.
The exterior wedge-style design uses Tata’s new design language, known as The Humanity Line, while retaining the Tata signature grille. The Tata sedan is limited to 4m in overall length due to favourable tax rates for this category of car in its home country. It is actually a truncated sedan and the styling succeeds in giving the sedan model individual flair.
The spacious Java Black interior of the Bolt can seat five adults, with claimed class-leading legroom for the rear seat occupants. The layout and treatment of the various aspects of the instrument panel are most impressive and show influence from the Jaguar Land Rover stylists in Coventry. The instrument panel is boldly styled with easy-to-read instrumentation, while discreet touches of chrome are used to highlight certain aspects in tasteful style.
There is a full complement of comfort features including Atir-conditioning (climate control on the XT derivatives), electric windows front and rear, electrically-adjustable exterior rear view mirrors and remote openers for the fuel flap and luggage compartment.
Luggage space in the Bolt hatch is 210 litres while the sedan boasts an extra 150 litres capacity, taking the maximum available volume to 360 litres.
A 5” infotainment screen dominates the piano black centre section of the instrument panel, leading to the gearbox console heralding the connectivity of the Bolt range. A multi-information display incorporates readings for a digital clock, outside temperature, dual tripmeters, instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption and distance to empty fuel tank.
The star of DriveNext in the Bolt’s DNA is the 1.2-litre Revotron turbocharged petrol engine, which powers the Bolt hatch and sedan, is the first Indian-designed and made turbo petrol power unit and underwent 300 000 hours of rigorous testing – including driving it in cars in South Africa – before the Bolt was launched.
The engine was developed by the Tata R&D team in conjunction with global power unit consultancies and leading global suppliers. Power output is 66kW@5 000r/min with an impressive 140N.m of torque being available between 1 500-4000r/min. There are three different settings for engine response, being Sport, Eco and City modes with Sport as the default setting for the Bolt in South Africa.
The engine drives the front wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission with the top two ratios being overdriven to assist in lowering fuel consumption. The addition of an automated manual transmission (AMT) in 2016 is a possibility.
Steering is electronically controlled with electric assistance and is speed sensitive.
Suspension is by means of lower wishbones, coil springs and Macpherson struts in front and at the rear the Bolt uses coil springs and a twist beam axle.
Safety features rate high on Tata Motors’ priority list and the Bolt is well equipped with ninth generation Bosch ABS for the disc/drum braking system with electronic brake distribution (EBD) , including a corner-braking feature. There are airbags for the driver and front passenger, speed-sensitive, automatic door locking and daytime running lights.
In terms of vehicle security there is an alarm-immobiliser and remote central locking.
The third aspect of the Bolt design philosophy is ConnectNext where the Tata design team has worked with well-known audio specialists Harman to develop an acoustic and infotainment system.
There are steering wheel-mounted controls for the audio and phone facilities, while a centrally-located 5” screen (touchscreen for XT variants) supports the multimedia experience with Bluetooth technology for smartphone integration.
The infotainment system supports video playback (using USB and SD card when car is stationary), smart voice recognition which understands user commands, incoming SMS notification and read-outs so that users can integrate their private and personal lives into their commute while bringing a high quality infotainment experience.
“The Bolt hatch and sedan have certainly moved on significantly from their predecessors, and we believe we now have two models well placed to grow Tata’s share of the important B-segment,” commented CEO Kyri Michael. “In addition we are happy with the competitive pricing position despite the weak rand at present and the Bolt is certainly a value-for-money offering in the discerning South African car market.”
The 4 derivatives and pricing are as follows:
Bolt Hatch XMS
Bolt Hatch XT
Bolt Sedan XMS
Bolt Sedan XT
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.