From time immemorial, there have been the Tata Sumos and the Mahindra Armada as also Boleros roaming about the streets of India. Earlier us Indians weren’t spoilt for choices and instead concentrated more on these two utility vehicles. However as of now, with the advent of technology, there are many Multi Utility Vehicles or even SUVs masquerading as Multi Utility Vehicles coming up in the Indian market. However we just thought of the earlier years and where most of the Indians had to make do with this two or rather three choices. Today its very hard to envision how people can travel in such cramped compartments earlier on. Then came the Toyota Qualis which actually spoilt the party for these two however the call center public relied on the Sumo for their transportation whereas the rural populace were more happy with the Mahindra Bolero’s rugged capabilities. Both were seemingly right in their own way and it was evident that they needed to be pitted against each other. Well, this was the right time since we had already compared almost every vehicle in the Indian car market and this comparison makes sense since these vehicles haven’t been compared much. So the Mahindra Bolero in India says hello to the Tata Sumo Grande in India. Lets begin with the roar of diesel gravelly noise.
The Tata Sumo Grande as it is known now is actually the fresher design whereas the one for the Bolero dates back to ages ago. It has even virtually carried on with the same design theme and also the same colors. However with Mahindra coming up with a new engine and upmarket interiors as also some minor exterior changes, the Bolero ends up being the better looking car. It has that Mahindra saber tooth in the front which ensures that this vehicle has a good road presence. Some bulges here and there also ensure that the Bolero rounds off a staid design with good packaging elements. However if you look in isolation, the Tata Sumo Grande in India seems like its rather an evolution of the Sumo design. Way back in 1994, the Sumo has been selling like hot cakes however in 2008, Tata Motors thought of giving it a fresh lease of life by injecting some new design themes and stuff. The Sumo Grande doesn’t look like the old Sumo from any angle except the side one. This is the place from where it actually seems like a Sumo. Newer and thankfully fatter rubber with body colored mirrors and bumpers ensure that the Sumo has some freshness within its character. The wheel arches are also more on the flared side and the typical Tata problem of having wheels which don’t fill the wheel wells is solved in this Tata. Some chrome strips embedded in the rear tail light assembly really light up the typical MUV like rear styling. The Mahindra Bolero in the meanwhile is known for its ruggedness and this displays in its stance. The white colored bumpers as opposed to the body color and also the wheels with their dated wheel cap design, the white running boards and lines wouldn’t make you mistake this MUV for any other MUV than a Mahindra. The rear lights get clear lens effect and hence keep up with the modern times. However the wheels of the Bolero don’t look too flared as compared with that of the Sumo Grande and hence lose out on the overall stance.
The Tata Sumo Grande has got a bigger car feel however it doesn’t look solid enough whereas the Mahindra Bolero is a arm wrestling champion. The choice would depend if you are staying in the city or in a village. For city, the Sumo makes sense while in the village, it’s the Bolero for sure. Both seem inspired by the Mercedes G-Wagon.
The earlier Sumo with its various Victa and subsequent editions was more of a utilitarian types with sometimes the front panels also falling off however with the newer iterations, it isn’t a problem. The dashboard plastics are of the soft touch variety and they are even dual colored which lends it an upmarket feel. The steering wheel is still the 3 spoke unit which modern day Tatas get. The chrome ringed dials are also a far cry from the basic ones on the earlier Sumo. The seats or rather the upholstery is also not bare basic and is befitting the name of Grande. There is some wood trim on the door pads and also clothed upholstery on the top end variant. The music system with an aux input is standard fare. The best part is that the overall plastic quality is a revolution over the earlier Sumo. The Mahindra Bolero in India has also undergone a sea change in its interiors. However they are still no patch on the ones of the Sumo. The three spoke steering wheel and the flowery upholstery (seen first on the Scorpio) are a new addition. Also the there is the same flowery upholstery adorning even the doors. However the plastic quality is not upto the mark and is almost of the same variety as we have seen on the Mahindra Thar. About the seats, the front seats of the Mahindra are far more easier to adjust than the ones on the Tata. You get into the Mahindra while you climb inside the Tata. The Tata still makes do with a steering wheel position which seems more on the ape side of things. However it is a tilt adjustable one and so is the one on the Bolero. Moreover they are power assisted now.
As for the rear seats, the Sumo’s are far better than the Mahindra’s which simply don’t provide enough of under thigh support. Moreover the leg room is also lacking in the Mahindra while the Sumo shows similar comfort as the bigger Safari. The gear shift lever on the Mahindra looks a bit rudimentary whereas the one in the Safari seems very upmarket and keeping line with the current Tata vehicles. Both the cars are seven seaters however the Mahindra seems ill equipped to handle seven passengers since there isn’t enough space at the rear seats. They are too cramped plus they don’t offer roof mounted AC vents or sufficient air conditioning. This is where the Sumo Grande triumphs. It not only offers a second and third row AC vent but also ensures that it is functional with a separate additional compressor. The best part is that the Grande’s third row of seats is far more comfortable than the Bolero’s plus its competes with one step above competition like the Tavera and Innova. Boot space with all the seats in place is slightly bigger in the Sumo than the Bolero. One glaring thing is that Mahindra still use the rudimentary bolt type nuts inside the cabin while Tata does well to mask its roots. Build quality noticeably seems better on the Tata than the Mahindra.
The Tata Sumo Grande wins this hands down owing to a better space utilization as also providing better features and more comfort aids.
Handling and ride quality
MUVs aren’t usually known for their sense of handling and this is made amply clear by both these MUVs. Moreover handling has never been the forte of Tata cars and the Sumo Grande doesn’t aim to destroy that myth. With the new edition MK2 version, Tata have now significantly improved the ride and handling characteristics of this vehicle. The Sumo however still carries forward the construction as body on ladder frame. It actually retains the old suspension from the earlier Sumo however a few revisions in the form of better rebounding characteristics eliminate the earlier choppy ride quality from the Sumo Grande. Compared to the older car, this newer one has got a less rolling characteristic as also much aligned body control. Moreover the conventional leaf springs used for the suspension parts mean that ride quality should be bad however keeping in mind customer preferences, Tata Motors have made the leaf springs to be a bit on the softer side and also have put in an anti roll bar which is thicker than the earlier one. At low speeds, the Sumo Grande just demolishes the entire potholes and doesn’t let anything into the cabin. However at higher speeds, the potholes do tend to get things messed up. However occupants wouldn’t be tossed around as was the case with the earlier Sumo. As for the Mahindra Bolero, even it uses the same suspension setup. However due to its lower center of gravity, it can handle better than the Sumo. Body roll is also on the lower side as compared to its competition here. Ride quality is firm and agricultural in nature. The bumps are transmitted more than that on the Sumo. NVH is also damped a wee bit better in the Grande than the Bolero. However Mahindra have improved the NVH characteristics of the Bolero from its earlier form. Vibrations are kept to a minimum by both the motors however it’s the Tata which seems to have an edge in even this one. The steering wheel feel from both the MUVs is almost similar and while the Tata may have a bigger turning circle, the Bolero gives an even lazy feedback from its hydraulic unit. Out on the highway, both the MUVs are stable with the Bolero least affected by crosswinds whereas the Tata seems to get itself somewhat wired up.
The Tata Sumo Grande steals one over the Mahindra Bolero here.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The engines on both the cars have now gone the common rail way. This means better fuel efficiency, confirmation to the stricter BS4 norms and also lower NVH. The one on the Mahindra Bolero is a 2.5 liter turbocharged diesel unit which features Mahindra and Bosch’s ingenious stop start system. Though the Bolero is no hybrid car, Mahindra have made an attempt to get this MUV to have one of the topmost cost effective nature saving technique in it. This engine makes peak power of 63 Bhp and 192 Nm of torque. It is assisted in the transmission duties by a 5 speed manual. The manual gear lever is not an ergonomically placed unit and isn’t quick to shift. Infact it baulks more than it shifts. The MicroHybrid system ensures that the Bolero switches off its engine whilst at traffic signals and a slight depressing of the clutch or accelerator results in the engine springing back to life. However this system also has its cons by the way of the air-conditioning unit also shutting down once the engine is stopped. Only the blower is left on. However Mahindra have allowed the luxury of keeping a switch which would deactivate the stop start system and hence allow the MUV to run as the regular Bolero. However what belies the fact is that this car is very much drivable in traffic. Pottering around in traffic even in the 3rd gear is for given on this car. However flat out 0-100 kmph runs are disappointing with the accelerator pedal feeling really slow to respond. For the lap timings, 0-100 kmph comes up in 32 seconds and a top speed of 143 kmph can be achieved in this MUV. For the Tata Sumo Grande, Tata Motors have offered two engine options. For the sake of playing a fair game, the lower powered 2.0 liter engine with 88 Bhp of power and 190 Nm of torque has been considered here. Like the Bolero, a 5 speed transmission handles the duties. However the shifts on the Tata vehicle are positive than the ones on the Mahindra. Surprisingly, the clutch feel is also a bit on the lighter side and this helps while one is going through heavy traffic conditions. This engine is approximately 12 seconds faster than the Mahindra one for the 0-100 kmph lap timing. Its top speed is also a bit higher at 149 kmph. However this engine isn’t as driveable as the Bolero’s and there is no stop start gimmick to play around with.
As far as the braking goes, the Mahindra retains the typical scary braking that we have come to expect from the first generation Scorpio. But over the years, the feeling has diminished a bit but it does return back to haunt one when several high speed braking attempts are done back to back. No ABS or EBD to help reign in the power and this shows with the aforementioned attempts. As for the Sumo, it comes with bigger discs than the earlier model and a reworked brake booster module which helps it in reigning its power better than the Bolero. However brake fade was a noticeable issue even in this MUV. Like the Bolero, there are no braking aids available. Both the Bolero and the Sumo don’t offer any safety features like air bags or anything. Infact the Bolero’s metal looks like it would cause more harm in an accident than the one on the Sumo.
Coming to the fuel efficiency part, both are diesel engined and hence running costs are expected to be on the lower side. In the city, the Bolero with its Fuel Smart technology could bring in about 10.4 kmpl while the Sumo returned 9.5 kmpl. However the Sumo’s long legs are amply displayed on the highway where it returned 17.7 kmpl to the Bolero’s 14.3 kmpl. The Sumo also feels better at cruising than the Bolero here.
If you travel on the highways more, then the Sumo makes sense whereas if it is more of the city usage, then the Bolero cuts in well.
From the onset, we had maintained that both these cars are different in their characters. The Bolero looks tough from outside however the interior plastic quality isn’t upto the mark and certainly un-Mahindra like. After all we have seen an export product in the Scorpio and Mahindra can definitely do way better than one expects from them. However this very same nature may appeal to the rural buyers. Ergonomics is a big issue in this Mahindra but we all have seen that rural people care a damn about these things. As an urban work about, the Tata Sumo Grande makes more sense. It is spacious and moreso has a rear bench which is very much usable as also comfortable. Couple this with the features that it offers and it makes a compelling buy. However the Bolero with its Fuel Smart technology claws some lost ground. So the verdict is clear. The Bolero appeals more to the rural populace who have to deal with unpaved paths, ruts and all. All this comes naturally to a car which has the Mahindra DNA in it. The Sumo Grande is more for the urban person who has a bunch load of kids to transport to school each day and also go on long trips on weekends with his friends or family. Sales of the Bolero state that its far ahead of the Sumo Grande and the gap is widening each day. Now comes the pricing terms. The Tata Sumo Grande price in India is Rs 5,70,215 and this is for the least frills version whereas the top of the range DICOR engined Grande goes for Rs 7.80 lakhs. The Mahindra Bolero price in India starts from Rs 5.43 lakhs and ends at Rs 6.33 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai. Now that the prices have been disclosed here, it is pretty much obvious that going in for a few more thousands, it is wiser to get the Sumo Grande. Service aspect is better with Tata Motors as they have many service centers in India whereas for Mahindra, there are limited service centers. But all across, there are many complaints regarding Tata servicing whereas for Mahindra, there are lesser complaints. So both these MUVs finally make a compelling case for those on a tight budget and need 8-10 seats as also diesel fuel economy. Gone are the days of the crude MUVs and these ones are now more on the refined side. This shows the engineering prowess by both these automobile giants in India.
Our pick of the day is the Tata Sumo Grande Mk2.