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Mahindra Bolero Fuel Smart (Old)

10th Dec 2009 8:00 am

Compared to modern SUVs, the Bolero may be crude and outdated but it is by far the best-selling SUV in India


  • Make : Mahindra
  • Model : Bolero

The square sunken headlights, the nicely done wheel arches, the square and almost architectural façade, it's as familiar as it can be. The flat and stamped doors look like they've been designed to deliver a retro effect, the door handles are difficult to operate and need crowbar-like force. The body finish is generally poor with inconsistent panel gaps and a wavy finish.

In this start/stop system, the engine shuts down when the car is stationary and starts up automatically when it’s time to get going. In fact, all hybrids including the Honda Civic Hybrid have a start/stop system but the Bolero isn’t a hybrid. There are no expensive batteries or electric motors to assist the regular 2.5-litre turbocharged direct injection diesel. It’s a simple, low-cost system developed jointly by M&M and Bosch for duty in the direct-injection 2.5-litre motor that powers the Bolero.

The hardware is essentially a starter motor reinforced to take the additional stress of frequent starting. The system includes an uprated alternator and a stronger battery which is up from 55 amps to this car’s 72 amps. The brain of the system comprises controlling software integrated into the ECU, a crankshaft sensor to sense crankshaft position, and a battery sensor which monitors the battery charge level and relays this information to the energy management system. If the battery doesn’t have enough charge to restart the car, the system won’t shut the engine down.

The cabin is where the Bolero looks old. The beige fabric does brighten things up a bit but dashboard panel gaps and the general design give the game away. The poor ergonomics, a time-honoured Bolero problem, persist. The front seats are quite unsupportive, the steering is too big and the position of the power window switches inconvenient. And don’t attempt hill starts in reverse. You can’t use the handbrake because it hits against the gearlever when it’s up!

Move over to the rear and you are greeted by cramped seats which don’t offer much legroom or under-thigh support. You don’t even get inertia reel seatbelts there. We can’t remember the last time we tested a car that didn’t have these.

The driver's seat is actually quite comfortable but the dashboard layout is an ergonomic disaster. The slot for the sound system is at the bottom of the centre console and the huge steering wheel masks the dials. Legroom at the second row is severely limited, especially with the driver's seat pushed back and the backrest reclined. Tall passengers will have their knees making contact with the back of the front seat and the new and poorly finished seat pockets aren't of much use.

It’s no different from an ordinary Bolero except when it is time to idle. When you are at neutral (with your foot off the clutch), the system waits for 10 seconds and switches the engine off with a mild shudder. A flashing light in the instrument console tells you the system is active. Step on the clutch and the engine fires up instantly for you to select first and go. This system works well and you won’t be delayed moving off from the traffic lights.

The Bolero is also much improved from behind the wheel. The controls in general function in a more direct manner, the rack and pinion steering, first seen in late 2002, is a massive improvement over the old steering system and this allows you to direct the massive Mahindra with surprising ease.

The light wheel and decent feel mean you actually maneuver through traffic with surprising ease. The improved steering makes it easy to place this big vehicle where intended and straight-line stability is improved as well due to the longer wheelbase and the addition of an anti-roll bar on the rear suspension. The Bolero also handles with a greater amount of confidence.

However, given its vintage, the Bolero’s road manners are much better than you would expect. On uneven surfaces, it’s less of a kangaroo than a Scorpio; the ride is quite level and absorbent over most surfaces with only sharp bumps kicking through to the cabin. There’s not much steering feel and the crisp handling typical of modern SUVs is just not there.

Mahindra Bolero Fuel Smart (Old)
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