Over its eleven year career in India, the Mahindra Bolero has made quite a reputation for itself for being a reliable and rugged people carrier. The company has already moved over nine lakh copies of this utility vehicle but off late, its sales have begun witnessing a downward trend. The Indian maker has pulled a quick one out of the hat by introducing a new and cheaper version of the Bolero called the Bolero Power+ in a bid to revive interest in its venerable workhorse.
The talking point of the Bolero Power+ is its length. Mahindra’s engineers have cleverly shaved off 112mm from Bolero’s length to 3995mm and have replaced the old 2.5-litre four-cylinder m2DiCR engine with the 1.5 three-cylinder MHawk diesel. All this ensures is that M&M’s latest sub-four metre SUV (the company’s fourth in a year) falls under the lower excise tax bracket of 12.5 percent from 30 percent. The excise reduction of 17.5 percent along and lower infrastructure cess by 1.5 percent translates into a whopping eighty thousand rupee benefit to the consumer over the standard Bolero.
This new Bolero Power+ remains virtually identical to the standard Bolero except at the edges. Look closer and you’ll notice that the front bumpers are actually inward sloping and don’t jut out any more. Even the metal foot plate at the rear has been re-designed so that this vehicle qualifies as a ‘compact car’. There are some badges on the sides with the ‘P’ in Power+ marked in red which suggest that this is the more powerful version (more on that in a bit).
On the insides, the driver will still have to make-do with the ergonomically-flawed large steering and pedals placed in a very truck-like manner. Quality of materials is below-par for a vehicle whose price nudges nearly eight lakh. Even equipment levels remain identical to the longer Bolero. The front seats are narrow and not very supportive, the middle row feels cramped thanks to limited knee room on offer and the third row is best left for small kids. In other words, the interiors of this new version remain unchanged.
What’s it like to drive?
The heart of this Bolero Power+ is a three-cylinder 1493cc diesel engine which produces 71hp (8hp more than the 2.5L version) and 195Nm of torque. While these numbers might not seem impressive on paper, what’s truly incredible is the way in which the engine performs. All the torque is available at lower revs and that combined with its short gearing makes it very easy to potter around town and keep up with city traffic. There’s adequate pulling power from as low as idling revs (1000rpm) which means that a downshift isn’t required to pull away from crawling speeds in third gear. Drive sedately and this motor rewards you with excellent drivability. If you try to hustle this engine, it will take its own sweet time to build speed. Having said that, out on the open road in terms of outright acceleration it takes 20.90 seconds to reach 100kph from a standstill, which is 4.71 seconds faster than the outgoing version. Even in-gear acceleration times have significantly improved now with the car taking 4.32 seconds lesser for 20-80kphin third gear and 6.15 seconds lesser for the 40-100kph sprint in fourth gear. The shortened Bolero is shockingly refined for what is essentially a rural SUV. Even at higher revs it doesn’t sound coarse or strained. Noise, vibrations and harshness (NVH) levels of this vehicle are minimal and sound insulation is surprisingly good. Where it does begin to show its age is when it comes to its ride quality. It’s actually compliant at city speeds but feels loose and wayward over wavy surfaces, the faster you go. The high centre of gravity can be felt at every curve and there’s a fair bit of body roll and vagueness in the handling that can be unnerving at highway speeds.
Claimed fuel efficiency has marginally increased to 16.5kpl (from 2.5 litre engine’s 15.96kpl) but we’ll have to wait for a full road test to see how it fares in the real world.
Should I buy one?
While traditional Bolero fans might miss the higher displacement engine in the Power+, Mahindra has proved that in this case, there is a replacement for displacement. Yes, this 1.5-litre unit is the best three-cylinder diesel engine out there in the market today which offers great drivability and refinement. This Bolero’s lower sticker price makes it a lot more affordable than before but is this hero of yesteryear, which is essentially an 15 year old vehicle still worth the asking price of Rs. 6.87-7.86 lakh? It’s still crudely built, the interiors are cramped and there are no safety features to speak off.
If there is competition for the Bolero it’s in the form of its own sibling the TUV300 which carries forward the same strengths in a far more contemporary package. In fact, with a starting price of Rs. 7.38 lakh the TUV300 isn’t priced that much higher and in comparison is a far better choice for both the urban as well as rural environment.
However, the Bolero still strikes a chord with customers in the deep hinterland who swear by its tough-as-nails character and the fact that it’s easy to repair anywhere – reasons that have made it such a popular brand. Its sturdy build and body-on-frame chassis makes it well-suited to rural areas where badly broken roads and deep potholes would make soft roaders and crossovers wince. And frankly there is still no direct substitute for it.