The Tata Motors office must've been like a party place for the last three months. The sales numbers are on the upswing, and the delivery bays at the Tata dealerships are seeing a lot of activity. And, that's because the Zest - a promising product from Tata after a long time - was launched in September this year.The Zest is a fresh product with new styling, latest features and modern-day technology under the skin. And with all this, the Zest has been accepted by the market with, well, a lot of zest. To a level where the sales number have overtaken that of Honda's Amaze - a strong competitor and a sales-number monger. But only one product is not going to sustain the company. Obviously, the Safari Storme and others have been gathering some numbers, but not enough, and to get a good stronghold in the market they need to broaden their horizons. And that's exactly what they've been busy doing. World, welcome the new Tata Bolt.To start with, it's based on the same platform as the Zest and the styling too is similar. The two biggest differences between the Zest and the Bolt are that the Bolt has no protruding boot, but a hatch at the fag end of car. And the second one is that it will compete with brilliantly-engineered cars - the Maruti Swift and the Hyundai Grand i10. So does the Bolt have what it takes to worry the rivals?The styling is neat. It's got presence, it's got poise, and things like the blackened C-pillar, projector lamps and sharp lines make it look edgy in the sea of hatchbacks. Inside too things are plush. It's been given a generous dose of piano-black finish, uncluttered dash and a today's-age media system. The materials used on the dash and the other parts of the cabin are decent, too. Things don't fall off if you go over bad roads, so, in short, it's unlike any Tata of the past.
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Talking of the media system, it's the one that has the obvious USB, Aux-in and Bluetooth, but in addition, it has the ability to transfer the navigation screen from your Android smartphone with the MapmyIndia app installed, via an USB cord. Mind you, only an Android smartphone. Not iPhones and Windows phones.If you're born in a family with parents and siblings leaning towards the healthier body build, you'll love the Bolt. The front seats are comfortable and the rear bench has class-leading space. Not bad, eh?Under the hood, you'll find the tried-and-tested Quadrajet diesel engine (the same one in the Punto, Swift and the Vista among the rest) or a new turbocharged 'Revotron' petrol block. This powerhouse was first used in the Zest. It's a 1.2-litre unit that's good for 88bhp and 140Nm of torque. The power delivery is linear with no sudden surge of power, but as you climb up the rev range, it starts to get a bit too noisy and you can feel the coarseness even inside the cabin. The engine is mated to a five-speed gearbox. It is slick and the throws aren't too long.The steering on the Bolt is a pretty good piece of machinery - it's comfortably light to help manoeuvre the car in tight city spaces and of the right size. It's not too communicative though. But for a city hatch, you don't even expect it to be. This one serves the purpose well.Tata, being a true-blue Indian company, knows that India has been cursed with horrible roads, and that it needs to make nice riding cars in an attempt to save Indian backsides. The Vista was good, so was the previous-gen Indica. And this one too does that rather well. No thuds, no complaints, just plain bump-flattening is what the Bolt does nicely.Like all Tata products, this one too has a few niggles that need ironing before it can catch up with the competition in terms of refinement. When you get the Bolt to speed, you'll have to talk to your passengers a bit loudly. And, that's because a fair bit of wind noise seeps into the cabin, even at moderate speeds of 95-100kph.And then there's the Multi Drive system that Tata has been making noise about. It has three modes to choose - City, Eco and Sport - to suit the driving conditions and your mood for the day. That's not a bad thing actually. In fact, it's good to see such stuff that we've seen only in expensive luxury cars come in to desi hatchbacks. The problem is that the system does barely more than lighting up a lamp inside the buttons. The Bolt drives almost the same in all these modes. So, is it solely to make the brochure a bit flowery? Yeah, something of that sort...As a company, as a product, the Tata Motors and Bolt both seem grown up now and heading into the right direction. But coming back to the question that passed all our minds earlier - is it ready to take on the Swift and the Grand i10? It's almost there. The other two products are great benchmarks in terms of ride, handling and refinement.The reason why we say it's almost there is because it does most things right. It offers the buyer a complete package that they're looking out on. But it falls short on running that last mile of refinement. And the only way to compensate for the lack of refinement is to make some love to the wallet.While the Swift and the Grand i10 both cost ?4.82 lakh (ex-Mumbai), the Bolt is priced at ?4.65 lakh (ex-Mumbai), undercutting the competition by around ?17,000. Enough of compensation? Nah, we would say half a lakh would have been more like it.The numbers1193cc, 4 cyl, turbo-petrol, 88bhp, 140Nm, 5M, FWD, LxWxH\: 3825x1695x1562mm, Kerb weight\: 1125kg, ?4.65 lakh (ex-Mumbai)The verdictOverall a good package, does most things well but lacks the last bit of refinement compared to the competition.