New Delhi, India - While Jaguar Land Rover has thrived under Tata ownership, the Indian carmaker's own brand has never really evolved into anything that could be called competitive.
Dare we say that the tide is about to turn for Tata. Of course, the jury will be out on that until we get some wheel time, but the new Bolt hatchback and Zest sedan look like a promising sign of things to come.
In fact, these new models are the result of collaborative design inputs from the three Tata design studios in Pune (India), Turin (Italy) and in JLR's home turf of Coventry, UK.
Although the cars are loosely based on the current Vista's platform, some extensive redesign work has been carried out to convey Tata's new design language. There's a brand new front end, complete with Tata's new signature grille and towards the rear the C-pillar has been blacked out to give the impression of a floating roof while the taillights are now mounted lower.
SMALL TURBO MOTORS
Yet the most radical change occurs under the bonnet, where the Zest and Bolt join the modern downsizing trend with a brand new Revotron 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol engine, with 62kW on tap.
Tata will also offer a Fiat-sourced 66kW/200Nm 1.3 turbodiesel, which will be offered with a brand new five-speed Automated Manual Transmission.
Furthermore, an improved suspension system aims to up the ride and handling game, and Tata has also fitted a new speed-sensitive electronic power steering system.
The modern vibes continue in the cabin where a brand new driver-focused dashboard houses some neat new features like a Harman infotainment system with a five-inch touch-screen, advanced smartphone integration and next generation' navigation and location based services.
Given the fact that the two models are billed as global products, we'd bet on them arriving in South Africa at some stage. In fact, our contact at Tata SA tells us they're currently testing a Zest unit on local shores, but can't give us any definite on-sale dates.