Review: Tata Bolts in to a league of its own

<b>FIT FOR A FAMILY:</b> The Tata Bolt passes the test to make a good fit for a small family who needs a daily vehicle. <i>Image: Tata</i>
<b>FIT FOR A FAMILY:</b> The Tata Bolt passes the test to make a good fit for a small family who needs a daily vehicle. <i>Image: Tata</i>

'I don't know what it is, but I get a hella kick out of testing the more affordable, less popular cars that find their way into the Wheels24 garage'. Janine Van der Post gets cosy with a Tata Bolt for a week.

Cape Town - I found it pretty amusing having just driven Porsche's beautiful 911 GTS for two glorious days, and then having to trade it for a Tata Bolt like a hawker at the fruit market.

But, I don't mind these things. After all, I'm as average as the next Joe and South Africans are looking for ways and means to cut costs in all forms - downsizing and going for smaller, more affordable cars is one way of doing that.

The Tata Bolt could serve as a considerate downgrade, or, a great purchase for the small, young family who wants to have their own vehicle. Pricing for the Bolt starts at R157 995. And, for most families in SA, that's still the price of an arm and a leg. But... it's a lot more accessible and affordable for most.

Having driven the Bolt two years ago on launch, it feels a lot better than it did for some reason. Perhaps a better batch in quality? The build definitely feels more solid, and that the car is not going to fall apart at speeds in excess of 100km/h.

The Reverton 1.2-litre engine holds its own on the highway at the national speed limit without having to turn your knuckles white to help fight and keep it on the road during gusty winds. It's good for 66kW at 5000rpm and 140Nm at 1500-4000rpm.

The facia is simple in the entry level XMS version, there are upholstery seats and it's not too crammy. It even has a big enough boot for a small family to fit a small load of monthly shopping.

Other than that, there's not much else to write home to mom about.

Maybe except for its infotainment system consisting of four speakers, four tweeters, video playback and an image viewer on the13cm display screen. It also comes with advanced voice command recognition.

Other niceties include fog lights, daytime running lights, LED indicators, Aux and Bluetooth connectivity, incoming SMS notifications and read outs, a multi-function steering wheel with audio controls.

On the safety front, there's ABS, EBD, corner stability control and not one, but two airbags in the front of the car - one each for driver and passenger.

With all that said the Datsun Go is one of the Bolt's direct competitors and its fast becoming one of the most popular budget cars taking SA by storm. Just in June, the Go reached the Top 10 list of most-sold passenger cars for the month, even knocking Ford's Fiesta off the list. 

The Datsun Go's downfall was always that it didn't have suffice safety features, but even opting for a Lux version with two airbags still knocks off about R30 000 for the Bolt's cheapest unit from R126 900 for the 1.2-litre powered Go.

The Bolt offers as much fun as you can have with a bucket and spade in the sand, and it genuinely is suffice for the average family who needs to get the kids to school and travel to work, and the odd weekend outing.

However, my concern did arise when my test session was coming to an end. I had started to hear some strange noises and kinks and niggles that wasn't there when I had received the car. I didn't go off-roading, nor did I take any long-distance drives this time round, so it was a bit disconcerting.

Either it was my imagination, or it was alarm bells that a car like this might need a lot more maintenance and servicing that you would plan for. For the sake of the car, and what it's worth, I sincerely hope it was not the latter.

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