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North to South with TATA


A TRIP across South Africa – more specifically, from the most northern tip to the most southern. It’s roughly 2 100km spanning a vast road network, many cities and towns and enough Wimpy burgers to feed an army. TATA Motors set a challenge for myself and other motoring media; travel from north to south on just 120 litres of fuel. Our mode of transport would be the new TATA Bolt. Let the journey begin…

DAY 1: Monday: On the first leg of our cross-country trip, we all met at Wonderboom Airport east of Pretoria. Our flight out to Musina was set to depart at 9am. After a few cups of coffee we headed out and departed from the small airport on a chartered flight.

Upon touch down a fleet of TATA Bolts arrived, covered in stickers of our challenge. The magnitude of the challenge slowly sunk in as we all posed for pictures, I mean, 2 100km is no small distance to cover. Our starting point was Beitbridge, the most northern border crossing to Zimbabwe. From there we filled the tanks and hit the road to Pretoria.

As we had limited fuel, my driving partner and I decided that we were going to try our hand at an economy run. However, we agreed to keep it as realistic as possible, so no yellow lane driving and this being Limpopo, we had the air-conditioner on. That night we arrived in Pretoria with an average fuel consumption figure of 20km/litre.

DAY 2: Tuesday: It was my turn behind the wheel and Bloemfontein was our destination. I decided that I would do my utmost best trying to squeeze the most out of the tank as possible. A task which was not going to be easy because as we took the first turn out of the hotel parking, we hit morning traffic.

After what felt like hours, we finally headed out of the city and on to Bloemfontein. The little TATA Bolt proved to be a great little city car and not as bad as one might think on the open road. It has a decent little infotainment system as well as a good air-conditioner. The road to Bloemfontein was long, especially when the goal is economy. I employed some fuel-saving tactics along the way, for example slip streaming. This is something that I really wanted to test out. Finding a truck travelling at around 100km/h and sitting about a car length behind it got me to 26.7km/litre at one stage. The issue with this is that the truck drivers don’t particularly like it and I wouldn’t recommend doing it due to the potential hazards involved. Many hours later, we arrived at our hotel in Bloemfontein. Our Bolt was sitting on 25.4km/litre which was pretty good. It was also my limit for what would be realistic. Quite frankly, travelling at around 90km/h on the N1 is just silly.

Day 3:Wednesday: Bloemfontein to Oudtshoorn – the longest leg of our trip – 730km to be exact and the weather decided to make it tough. We awoke to a nasty thunderstorm, the roadways were drenched and the wind was howling, none of this was good for our fuel economy.

Unfortunately, when we reached the N12 just outside Beaufort West, we encountered magnificent mountain passes and our inner petrolhead took over. The Bolt’s little 1.2-litre MPFi turbocharged engine develops 66kW and 140Nm which we put to work, destroying our fuel economy but it was pretty fun. We arrived a whole hour ahead of the next team due to our hooliganism through the passes, but it was well worth it as we sat and watched the sun set over the Karoo.

Day 4: Thursday: This was it, the final leg – Cape Agulhas. We left early because not only did we need to reach the most southern tip of Africa, we also had a plane to catch in Cape Town later that afternoon. About an hour into our trip, my driving partner and I got hopelessly lost.

This put us out of the running for the best fuel economy. What it did mean was that we now had a reason to exploit the car's little turbo engine on yet more fantastic roads.

After passing everyone else, we arrived at the finishing line – right under the lighthouse. Our little adventure resulted in a fuel usage of around 115-litres of fuel over 2 250km, taking into account the fact that we got lost. Our average fuel usage from the very top of South Africa to the very most southern tip was 5.3-litres per 100km.

The TATA Bolt was a real little star performer. It did what we asked, it was comfortable as far as budget hatches go, it let us have some fun and it was economical.

Was this a fuel-economy challenge, no, it was not. Taking four days to cross the country is a bit long, however, as far as a road trip with good friends goes, this is what it was. If you have a limited budget for fuel and were wondering if you could get across the country on 120 litres of fuel then now you know, you can.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
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