Mahindra Bolero Neo First Drive | Is it an authentic Bolero?
The Mahindra Bolero Neo gets a host of cosmetic updates, and a few critical mechanical ones over its predecessorMahindra Bolero Neo

Mahindra Bolero Neo First Drive | Is it an authentic Bolero?

The TUV 300 gets a few cosmetic updates as well as some off-road goodies and a new moniker, we get behind the ’wheel to find out if the Mahindra Bolero Neo lives up to the iconic name

The Mahindra Bolero Neo sits in the very competitive compact-SUV segment that is populated by the likes of the Kia Sonet, Maruti-Suzuki Vitara Brezza and the Hyundai Venue, among others. The Bolero Neo, essentially a facelift of the TUV300, is still the only rear-wheel-drive, proper body-on-frame SUV in that category. And aside from a new calling card, the Bolero Neo also gets a BS6-compliant mHawk100 engine, a mechanical-locking differential and some cosmetic updates to make it look more like the OG Bolero. But first, let’s talk about what the Bolero Neo is like to drive.

Rear-end of the Bolero Neo gets bold Bolero lettering on the spare wheel cover
Rear-end of the Bolero Neo gets bold Bolero lettering on the spare wheel coverMahindra Bolero Neo

Mahindra Bolero Neo: Driving Impressions

Under the hood of the Bolero Neo is the mHawk100 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine. Now this is pretty much the same engine that was found in the TUV300, but it has been updated to meet BS6 emission norms. Power stands at 100bhp, while torque has gone up by 20Nm to equal 260Nm. Speaking of changes, while the TUV300 also had the option of an AMT, the Bolero Neo is currently only available with a five-speed manual. What’s it like to drive? The mHawk100 engine has lots of low-end torque which makes its presence felt in the city — in stop-go traffic, crawling over speed breakers, even setting off in second gear isn’t much of an issue. If you take the Bolero Neo off-road, the torque also helps you climb steep slopes and maneuver tricky low-speed obstacles just by modulating the clutch, which isn’t a leg workout. The mid-range is strong, but narrow. Peak torque comes in at just 1750rpm but it sticks around till just 2250rpm, this means that you do need to row through the gears for quick overtakes. That said, the five-speed gearbox works well. While the shifter is long, not sporty in anysense of the word, it is light and easy to find the gear you’re searching for. Past the 3000rpm mark, the Bolero Neo starts to feel a bit out of breath, almost encouraging you to shift up a gear. Shifting up also has an added benefit because the engine starts to get quite noisy at that point too. Even at low-speeds, the NVH levels are higher than what you’d see on something like a Kia Sonet, but it isn’t a dealbreaker.

The Bolero Neo is great at handling loose surfaces, thanks to the MTT
The Bolero Neo is great at handling loose surfaces, thanks to the MTTMahindra Bolero Neo

The mHawk100 engine feels well suited for highway cruises, as is the suspension and chassis. The suspension setup isn’t particularly different from the TUV300’s, but the Bolero Neo rides 20mm lower than the TUV300. Does that make the Bolero Neo handle much better? In a word, no. It still leans on its outside wheel when you push hard into corners, but the Bolero Neo isn’t here to set lap records. The benefit of having a slightly softer suspension setup, plus the body-on-frame chassis from the Scorpio, means that the Bolero Neo tackles poor road conditions like an absolute champion. It feels robust from the driver seat, giving you the sense that it could take on a lot more battering — the hallmark of a good SUV. Poor road conditions aside, even with no roads, you’d be perfectly happy in the Bolero Neo. The N10 (O) variant we drove gets the MTT (Multi Terrain Technology) — an automatically-operated mechanical diff-lock that engages when it senses loss of traction. What’s a diff-lock doing on a rear-wheel-drive SUV? Well, we tried it out on a small off-road course set out for us and it does a great job of managing traction in situations where one wheel could be losing traction. It engages with a solid thunk and disengages automatically when the tyres get traction. More than for hardcore off-roading, the MTT is useful in situations where you might need to put one wheel off the road, or if your route involves sandy trails, slush or some light articulation.

The Bolero Neo does resemble the rest of the Bolero family
The Bolero Neo does resemble the rest of the Bolero familyMahindra Bolero Neo

Mahindra Bolero Neo: Styling and Features

Aside from the powertrain, there are a few other updates to the Bolero Neo, primarily styling related. As mentioned earlier, the stance of the Bolero Neo is more widely-appealing thanks to it sitting 20mm lower than the TUV300. The bonnet itself is also 20mm lower, to ‘make the Bolero Neo look more approachable’. Other updates include trapezoidal wheel arches, more plastic cladding and the iconic plastic strip on the beltline taken from the Bolero. The Bolero Neo also gets slimmer headlamps, a new grille and refreshed bumpers. Overall, the Bolero Neo looks objectively more handsome than the TUV300 and should attract more buyers.

On the inside of the Bolero Neo, not too much has changed as compared to the TUV300. The layout is pretty much the same as before, it also retains the 7-inch infotainment screen which still doesn’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (though it has Bluetooth and USB connectivity), and there’s still seating for seven thanks to side-facing jump seats behind the second row. The beige upholstery is new though, it also gets a tilt-adjustable steering now and behind it, a fresh instrument cluster with a new MID in the middle. Other features include arm rests for the front seats, cruise control and steering-mounted controls for media, among others. In terms of safety kit, the Bolero Neo gets dual-airbags, ABS, EBD and CBC (Corner Brake Control).

The Bolero Neo has a bit of body roll, but it also has a very comfortable ride
The Bolero Neo has a bit of body roll, but it also has a very comfortable rideMahindra Bolero Neo

Mahindra Bolero Neo: Verdict and Pricing

The Mahindra Bolero Neo is a compact-SUV but not in the conventional sense of the term. While others in the segment are jacked-up extensions of hatchback or sedans, the Bolero Neo really is a proper SUV. In that sense, it certainly carries forward the legacy of the Bolero while being appealing to a wider audience thanks to it having more creature comforts. With a price range between Rs 8.48-9.9 lakh, the Bolero Neo is not one of the more affordable compact-SUVs around, and that's without the top-spec N10 (O) variant which is currently not on sale. But still, the Bolero Neo is a compelling choice for anyone who lives where the road network isn’t great, or plans to head out where it isn’t.

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