Tata Motors is one of the few surviving Indian car makers. Although the car maker enjoyed great success back in the 20th century and early 2000’s, the indigenous car maker has failed to keep pace with its competition. The emergence of foreign car makers such as VW, Hyundai and Nissan dealt a great blow to native automakers. However, after a long period of absence, Tata is back to regain market control with its all new Bolt hatchback. We pit it against Volkswagen’s popular Polo to see how the latest Tata hatch fares.
The all new Bolt is a refreshing change from the dated design of the Indica. Though the Indica proved to be a value for money product, its popularity in the commercial vehicle segment resulted in the hatchback developing Although the Indica Vista introduced a slew of changes and improvements, the Vista’s uncanny resemblance to the original Indica drove many to opt for other vehicles such as the Maruti Swift and VW Polo. For the 2015 Bolt however, the Indian car maker has introduced an all new design philosophy that attempts to provide the premium feel the Indian consumer is looking for without the high price tag commonly associated with such products.
The Bolt is a major step up from the Indica Vista in terms of design. The blackened C pillars, aggressively styled headlights and silver foglamp accents all contribute to the car’s appeal. Despite all the changes Tata has managed to squeeze in, the Bolt still feels a bit dated in design when compared to the more contemporary VW Polo.
The 2015 VW Polo sports minimal exterior changes. Key changes include a reworked front and rear bumper, revised headlight cluster design, new alloys and a strip of chrome across the lower bumper. The neat, restrained design of the Polo is executed perfectly and the understated presence and business like demeanor of the German hatch is far more modern when compared to the Bolt.
Winner: VW Polo
The sporty all black cabin of the Tata Bolt may seem claustrophobic to some. However, the Bolt features one of the best interiors from the Indian manufacturer in a long time. A sporty three spoke steering wheel complete with steering mounted controls greets the driver. The instrument cluster makes its way back to its conventional position behind the silver accented steering wheel.
The Indian automaker has also fitted the 2015 Bolt with a best in class infotainment system. The specially designed Harman sound system features a high res touchscreen with established features such as Bluetooth telephony, USB, AUX in and iPod connectivity. However, unlike any other system in its class, the Harman entertainment system also offers navigation, voice recognition, SMS readout and even video playback.
Interiors of the previous gen Polo was a very humdrum affair. Though the hatchback’s build quality vastly surpassed its Indian rivals, the Polo suffered from an issue most VW models bear. The clinical precision of a German made car comes at the price of creativity and outright style; A trait most of the Indian buyer community look for in a premium hatch.
The German automaker has made tremendous strides in the latest iteration of the Polo. The glossy black flat bottomed steering wheel and the addition of a dead pedal will surely help VW score some brownie points in the enthusiast community. Unlike the Bolt, the German car maker has opted for a dual tone beige and black interior giving the cabin an airy feel. Despite the Polo offering an ergonomically well balanced cabin, the low functionality of the car’s infotainment system is a major downside against the fully loaded Bolt.
Winner: Tata Bolt
Under the Hood:
Tata offers the Bolt in both petrol and diesel avatars. The petrol variant is powered by Tata’s all new 1.2 l Revotron engine that produces 89 hp @ 5000 RPM and peak torque of 140 Nm @ 1500 RPM. Power from the turbo petrol is sent to the front wheels via a five speed manual gearbox. For the first time ever in its segment, the Tata Bolt offers three different driving modes. Based on the user’s choice of Sport, Eco or City, the engine’s mapping is reworked to provide power, maximum fuel economy or a computer estimated combination of both.
The 1.2 l diesel unit produces 74 hp @ 4000 RPM and 190 Nm of torque @ 1750 RPM. The QuadraJet engine is mated to a five speed manual transmission. Unlike the cutting edge Revotron engine, the diesel variant is rather conventional in nature, offering no new tech under the hood.
VW is the only automaker to offer a truly high performance variant in the hatchback segment. Although Fiat made an attempt very early on with the 90 hp Punto, VW offers the Polo with 100+ hp in both petrol and diesel variants. Powering the more pedestrian petrol variants is a 1.2 l four cylinder unit that churns out 74 hp @ 5400 RPM and max torque of 110 Nm @ 3750 RPM.
VW packs a detuned variant of the 1.5 l diesel mill found on the GT TDI. Producing 89 hp @4200 RPM and a peak torque of 230 Nm at 1500 RPM, the diesel Polo is far more powerful than the diesel variant of the Tata Bolt. Both engines are mated to a five speed manual.
Winner: Tata Bolt
The VW Polo offers a little more than just style and features. Its solid build quality and dual airbag standard is an indication of the German car maker’s commitment to producing safe, quality cars. However, for the extra premium that the German hatch demands, VW offers little in terms of creature comforts.
Tata has come a long way from the Indica. The Bolt is a near perfect blend of style, features and engineering ingenuity. Setting a benchmark for the hatchback class here in India, the Bolt is easily one of the best from the Indian car maker in a long time. It’s cost to features ratio will play a major role in sales figures and may just bring Tata back from the brink.