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First Drive: Mahindra Bolero Neo



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Prices of the new Mahindra Bolero Neo start at Rs. 8.48 lakh (ex-showroom).

The Bolero has been Mahindra’s highest selling car for more than a decade. In all the company has sold more than 13 lakh units of the car in the market in the last 2 decades. Perhaps why the latest product from the brand not only gets the Bolero name but also tries to be a practical offering. Yes, the name is Bolero Neo but clearly under all the updates it’s a TUV 300. Essentially, a facelift of the TUV, the car comes with several changes both on the outside and inside.

Also read: Bestseller Gets Modern Avatar: Mahindra Bolero Neo Launched; Prices Start At ₹ 8.48 Lakh

Design

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The chrome laden grille and new headlamps give the Bolero Neo an attractive face.

The silhouette of the Bolero Neo pretty much remains the same but this is definitely a more aggressive looking car than the TUV 300. The chrome slats on the grille make it look quite bold and add to the premium character. The redesigned headlamps now come with DRLs and yes, the bumpers too get a refresh and get more curves. On the profile you get dual 5-spoke alloy wheels along with square wheel arches and cladding. And a nice touch is the cladding that runs along the door handles all the way to the rear. And there’s a sidestep too, something that always adds to the appeal of cars like these.

Also read: Exclusive: Mahindra Bolero Neo Plus Will Launch Soon

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Silver cover on spare wheel is available on top N10 trim, rest get body coloured covers.

Overall the Bolero Neo gets lower hood & body for easy ingress when compared to the TUV300. At the rear the tail gate mounted spare wheel gets a nice-looking cover finished in silver. However, this colour of the cover along with chrome inserts on grille, static bending headlamps and alloy wheels are only available on the top-of-the-line N10 trim of the car. In all, there are 6 colours to choose from. These are Rocky Beige, Majestic Silver, Highway Red, Pearl White, Diamond White, Napoli Black. A 7th option called Royal Gold will be added soon.

Interiors & Tech

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Pininfarina designed interiors present a more impressive picture.

Inside you get the same new fabric on the seats while the dashboard design (designed by Pininfarina) now looks more contemporary. Overall, the idea is to give a more premium looking interior than what is offered with the Bolero or what came in the TUV300. On the driver’s seat you can adjust the height and also have the comfort of an armrest, but again only on this top N10 trim. Also available on the N10 is the 7-inch touch screen infotainment system we’re now quite familiar with owing to its presence in many other cars from the brand. Some functions can also be controlled via the Mahindra BlueSense App. However the more advanced BlueSense plus app with more connected tech seen on the recently launched Mahindra XUV300 Petrol Autoshift is missing here. The twin pod instrument mostly analogue instrument cluster is the same on all the trims and comes with a small MID in the centre.

Also read: Ceat Becomes Official Tyre Supplier For The Mahindra Bolero Neo

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2nd row gets ISOFIX mounts on top trim, but middle passenger gets a lap belt.

The second row gets decent amount of leg room but once again features like ISOFIX child seat mounts and centre armrest are available only on the top trim. Overall, the cabin does feel premium enough when compared to some other subcompact SUVs sold in the market.

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Missing seatbelts on the  3rd row is a big disappointment on the car.

The Neo is a subcompact SUV therefore the 3rd row is not very welcoming unless you’re a kid. I struggled with the shoulder room and head room here. But what could worry you more is the absence of seat belts on this row, even lap ones. It is better case that you fold these seats and create more luggage space and get 384 litres in all.

Dynamics    

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The 1.5-litre Diesel engine remains the same but gets more torque than before.

The Bolero Neo is built on the 3rd generation Scorpio chassis which is mated to a rear-wheel-drive setup. The 1.5 litre diesel engine remains the same as was seen earlier on the TUV300. For the time being the car will be offered with just a 5-speed manual gearbox. The 1493 cc mHawk100 engine delivers 100 bhp at 3750 rpm which is the same as before. but what has improved is the torque figure. You get around 260 Nm which is roughly 20 Nm more than before and it is available from 1750 to 2250 rpm. How it helps is that it reduces the frequent need for downshifts even when you’re not moving too fast. The throws are short and nice but the gear shifts could still be a bit smoother.

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A smart hybrid setup promises better fuel efficiency on the car.

I didn’t get a chance to drive the car at high speeds but there was no lack of feedback on the steering at lower speeds. The clutch travel meanwhile is longish, something we have gotten used to when it comes to diesel cars from Mahindra. The Bolero Neo also gets a smart hybrid setup which just takes the fuel efficiency figure a wee bit up. The Eco modes in the drive train and on the Air conditioner system also helps in the cause. Though Mahindra has still not told us about the exact figures, we know that this has always been a frugal motor.

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Multi-Terrain Technology limits loss of traction on the Bolero Neo.

Mahindra invited me to sample the Bolero Neo on an off-road track despite it not being an all-wheel drive vehicle. And there is a good reason for that. This car gets something called a Multi-Terrain Technology but only as an option on the top trim. A mechanical locking differential bails you out of slightly tricky situations by providing more traction when engaged. A difference of 100 rpm between the wheels is all it takes for the system to be engaged automatically. The system works fine but gets engaged a little later then expected.

Safety

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A difference of 100 rpm between wheels engages the mechanical locking differential.

Talking about safety, apart from ISOFIX mounts the Bolero Neo gets dual airbags, ABS with EBD and cornering brake control as standard. But the lack of seat belts in the third row do stick out like a sore thumb, given that the company has been a big adopter of safety features in its cars recently. We await the crash test results on the car, specially after looking at the fact that recent Mahindra vehicles like XUV300 and Thar have got impressive crash test ratings.

Prices

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Prices of the top N10(O) with Multi terrain tech have still not been revealed.

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The Bolero Neo has been launched starting at ₹ 8.48 lakh (ex-showroom) while the N10 is priced at ₹ 9.99 lakh while the price for the N10 variant with multi terrain tech is still not out. This makes it one of the more affordable Diesel subcompact SUVs. As a reference the Ford Ecosport is priced between ₹ 8.89 lakhs and ₹ 11.19 lakh for the Diesel model, Neo’s cousin the XUV300 is priced between ₹ 9.00 lakh and ₹ 12.66 lakh for the Diesel manual. This has kept the prices within the reach of many especially looking at the name Bolero which has always been associated with the value for money tag.

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