From being the innovator to being the laggard, Tata Motors has been through a tough journey off late. The automaker which was solely responsible to kick start the sub 4-metre compact sedan class, was lagging behind massively in every segment. In fact, Tata Motors hasn’t launched a single all new product in the past five years and that has taken a hit on their market share. With a rejig of the the top management, coupled with new thinking, Tata Motors is now all set to climb the sales ladder with their all new cars, the Bolt and Zest. These vehicles have a lot riding on them, they have been spotted in-numerous times on test and promise a lot on paper. The Tata Zest is the first of the twins to arrive in the market and we drive it in pouring Goa to see if it ignites the Zest-y feeling.
DESIGN AND STYLE ;
Now the Zest saloon looks totally different from any Tata motors existing vehicles as already mentioned earlier and even all the body panels used in the car are also new but somehow I cannot completely delete the thought that this new compact sedan will be the successor of the existing Tata manza compact sedan or the Vista hatch that is present in the Indian market because you will definitely find some similarities with the old Vista or the Manza when you look at the new Zest. The headlamp has been stretched towards the bonnet which will definitely remind you of the Tata Vista or the Manza however the Zest headlamp consists of Projector units which is something new for this segment and most of you will love this fact that it will provide better illumination at night. The front grille with the Tata Motors logo has been surrounded with chrome strips while the lower front bumper also gets LED daytime-running lights which (will only available with the top end trim) now can also be seen on other cars and helps in adding the premium touch to the vehicle.Take a walk towards its side profile and here also you will find some visual elements that match with the Vista hatch. The Zest gets a stylish new 15 inch alloy wheels which helps in enhancing the overall look of the compact saloon while adding a tall stance to the car. The side profile also gets body colored wing mirrors which also comes with LED indicators, body colored door handles and bumpers which is tandard across all the trims and variants. Get offers & discounts on Tata Zest
However the most interesting part of the car got to be its rear styling which looks different and new. The wrap around tail lamp units looks completely different than what you will find in the Vista or the Manza and helps the car in giving its own unique identity, the LED tail lamp units are segment first and gives the rear profile a neat and upmarket look. Moreover you will also find chrome strip running in between the tail lamps. The rear of the Zest has been perfectly blended with the overall design of the car which is very important for a compact sedan because it has been curved to look different from the hatch.I must admit here the Zest looks different than the car which was showcased at the Auto expo but the new Zest looks practical and neat and we must say that Tata Motors has played it safe this time they have added some important new additions which are important and necessary while maintaining slight touches of the old car as well.
CABIN AND COMFORT ;
A much bigger surprise is the cabin, which is easily the most modern and classy looking one we’ve seen in a Tata vehicle to date. The two-tone colour scheme makes it feel really airy, and the piano-black and gunmetal grey plastic trim do liven up the dashboard. The steering wheel is smaller in diameter than the Vista’s, it has a smart new hexagonal boss and there are audio controls here too. The speedo and rev counter dials are also very attractive, with a chunky-looking 3D jewelled effect, and a detailed fuel and trip computer nestled between them. It’s not just the look that’s improved, but the quality too. The texture and finish of the plastics look and feel much better to be on par with Maruti and Honda (though not quite at Hyundai’s level). If we’re going to nitpick, panel fit still isn’t perfect, the edges of certain parts are still quite rough, and the shiny plastics still reflect too much. It’s a shame that all the leather trim from the car shown at the Auto Expo 2014 is missing, even on the top-spec car, and that there is just one cup holder in the cabin; the slim door pads could barely fit a half-litre water bottle.
A lot of work has been done to the seats as well, and the big front chairs are well cushioned and supportive. The high dashboard means shorter drivers might have to use the seat height-adjuster (only available on the top trim), but you will be comfortable over long journeys. The rear seat is like a sofa – easily wide enough for three, with good support and space in every direction. The air-conditioning – automatic climate control on the top-spec car, manual otherwise – has also been improved, and though we didn’t have a hot summer’s day to test it on, it regulated cabin temperatures very quickly and efficiently.
Finally, another talking point on the inside is the new infotainment system developed with luxury audio experts Harman (of Harman and Kardon fame). The eight-speaker audio sounds fantastic for this class of car, and gets USB, Bluetooth, aux and SD card input (no CD player though). The touchscreen infotainment system on the top-spec car is very ambitious, offering higher-segment features like a proximity display for the rear parking sensors, alternate controls and display for the air-con, vehicle settings control, and even voice commands. It gets the job done, but is a little rough around the edges; the voice commands are too few and specific, for example. The screen is a bit too reflective to easily read on the move as well, but the unit itself feels really good to use, with high-quality controls. The lower-spec car misses out on the touchscreen, and with it, some of the aforementioned features, but its unit looks neat and works well.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
This is one area where Tata Motors claimed to have cracked revolutionary changes with its first in class 1.2 litre Turbocharged MPFi petrol engine. So what’s so special one would ask? To begin, the 1.2 litre petrol power plant features shift-on-fly technology which basically aims to provide three different driving modes comprising of Economy, City and Sport. In detail, the petrol variant comes loaded with an 1193cc engine on board that puts out a maximum power output of 89 bhp with 140 Nm of torque.
All of this basically translates to an impressive engine performance which is said to be extracted out of a modern water cooled turbocharger that aims to provide faster, flatter response along with better torque spread. Having said this, there is a bit of turbo lag especially lower down the revs, the presence of a 5 speed synchromesh gearbox catering to smooth shift indicates that the Zest is perfectly packaged and meant for Indian conditions. Its ride quality, we must say is at par with rest of the competition within its segment as going over potholes and broken roads isn’t really an issue. Throw it at corners and curves, the Zest will do its best in providing decent handling as per its ability. Having mentioned all three driving modes earlier, its Sport mode really tinkles the maximum power from the engine making it rev all the way to 5,500rpm where in the needle automatically changes its colour to red indicating ‘redline’. Just to highlight the petrol model runs on ‘City’ which is its default mode.
This is just not it, for the increasingly competitive and growing diesel compact car segment Tata Motors have come out with an automatic diesel option which is again a first for this category. Interested in knowing more, christened as F-Tronic AMT, Zest diesel caters to a 4 cylinder; turbo intercooled 1248cc diesel engine that gives out a maximum power output of 89 bhp with 200 Nm of torque. Featuring a 5 speed F-Tronic AMT with Shift Assist Manual, the manufacturer has tried to address driving comfort for an end consumer considering that automatics are a boon nowadays keeping our traffic conditions in mind. The diesel provides two modes for driving; normal and sport. In normal mode the sedan remains subdued and goes about taking its occupants swiftly to places while the sports is more torque heavy relating to better power for those swift getaways.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
The steering is now an electrically assisted unit, and Tata has taken care that it returns to the straight-ahead when the driver isn’t turning it. It works well, this system, and the steering assist at low speeds is very well tuned. It is accurate at speed, but doesn’t weigh up very much as speeds increase, but we’ll put off a final opinion about this until we get a chance to slingshot the Zest along our favourite set of corners. However, Tata’s claim about it not having vibration stands true: it is as refined as the petrol engine now. The brakes also are very confidence inspiring. Bite and progression are good, and outright power is good enough to let you brake late with full confidence. ABS, EBD and Corner Stability Control (what I gather to be an advanced form of EBD) are present on the top-spec variants. The suspension is the traditional layout of McPherson struts in the front, and twist-beam rear. However, to keep the plush Tata ride intact with the larger wheels, Tata has included a second rubber mount for the front suspension that helps the secondary ride. The traditional mounts are also different to work around this, so if you’re thinking of swapping your Zest front suspension for something else, it won’t be possible. However, this is a very interesting solution for the problem at hand – secondary ride, in case you didn’t know, is the shock absorption done by things other than the actual spring and damper. Usually it is the tyres and the suspension mounts (made of hard rubber) that do this job, which is generally at low speed, and the primary ride is taken care of by the spring and damper at speed, because that is when the tyre starts moving vertically over bumps. Goa’s roads are smooth and flowing, so we didn’t get to verify this fully on our short drive, but I can safely say that both in high- and low-speed ride, the Zest is a traditional Tata. As far as handling is concerned, it is a whole new Tata – it takes the fast with the slow equally well, giving an unexpected level of feedback and therefore driver involvement. Of course, the Zest isn’t at the top of the class in the driver involvement section, but that was never the expectation. Is it much improved compared to before? Definitely.
BRAKING AND SAFETY ;
Tata Zest comes equipped with Disc brake as front brake while Drum brake does the duties as the rear brake. This primary braking system responds instantly and to ensure much better braking, the company has also introduced the most advanced, the 9th generation Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) as secondary braking system. Tata has also blessed the Zest with Speed dependent auto door lock system and Front and rear fog lamps. But unfortunately, the XE variants in both the guises miss out on these features. The company in a bid to avoid any mishap and make sure of maximum safety of the occupants, has also incorporated segment-first, the Corner Stability Control feature in the Tata Zest with mid and top trims. There are also dual front airbags and front seat belts with pre-tensioner & load limiter in the top-end trim. However, for the security of the vehicle; the company has come up with Immobiliser with every variant. But, the top-end trim XT also has a Perimetric alarm system that makes loud sound if any attempt of burglary or thievery is made.
It is great to see Tata Motors injecting passion and enthusiasm in their next generation cars. It might sound very cliché but then the Zest will indeed take the compact car scene with storm. It gets ultra modern design with amazing detailing. Even the interiors which were never a Tata domain will now make the audience sit up and notice.The Zest also comes with so many first in class features which include projector headlights, Day time running lights, LED tail lamps, touch screen infotainment system, premium interiors, different drive modes, automated manual transmission etc. Even the driving dynamics does not feel like a conventional Tata car. It gets a ninth generation ABS system with cornering stability for precise handling.