Tata Zest Review: The Zestique
We have all heard the classic hare and tortoise story. The bragging hare was taught a lesson by the steadily hard working tortoise. It might be a fictional episode but proved inspirational for Tata Motors.
They have decided to slash all the criticism against them with their next generation products. The Zest, a compact sub 4m sedan, will be the first of many cars to come in the near future. A radical new design, refurnished premium interiors and an all new petrol engine makes sure that it will take competition fiercely.
Utilizing their world class international design facilities and putting countless hours in precision calibration, Tata Motors will not just compete against its rivals but set a new benchmark in the segment. We were in Goa to test drive both petrol and diesel variants of Zest. Did we get Zestified by them? We reveal it in our first impression report.
This Tata car doesn’t look like a Tata car. It might sound confusing but holds strongly for the Zest. With its modern contemporary design language, it looks way different from their portfolio models and it is for the first time a Tata car looks in sync with modern trends in automobile.
Ditching aggression and angry looks, the Zest gets a human touch on its face. It has a humanity line which consists of the smiling radiator grille. The overall shape as many would expect is based on the Indigo but it is the finer details which differentiates the Zest from its siblings.
Is if the first car in its segment to offer projector headlights and day time running lamps which can’t be switched off. It is encouraging to see Tata Motors paying attention to features which add to the overall safety of the vehicle. To make sure everyone notices the new engine, the hood has subtle power bulges displaying strength.
Front bumpers are completely new and have a reverse trapezoidal air dam. The petrol variants had the DRLs mounted along with the fog lamp while in the diesel; it just gets a mild chrome strip and no DRLs. Even the detailing on the fog lamp housing in the petrol variant is more than that of the diesel.
Petrol and diesel also have different alloy wheel design. It gets clear 8 spoke 15 inch sporty alloys in the petrol while the diesel gets multi spoke type alloys which look more elegant than sporty. It has a length of 3995mm and a width of 1706mm. They claim the Zest to have the best in class width and wheelbase of 2470mm and it is true when compared with Honda Amaze which has a width of 1680mm and a wheelbase of 2405mm while the Maruti Suzuki Swift DZire has a width of 1695mm and a wheelbase of 2430mm also the height of Zest is greater than the other two meaning better headroom.
A strong shoulder line followed by sculpted wheel arches make the side profile of the Zest look and feel attractive. External mirrors affixed with turn indicators are body coloured. They can be adjusted electrically. Visually the ground clearance looks higher. Height of the Zest has gone up but the slender Diamond DLO design of the side window panel make the roofline travel lower than others.
It gets a sling shot line on the rear profile which flows around the body giving it an in motion look even in standstill position. Wrap around tail lamps with LEDS are modern highlights given to the Zest along with a smart lip spoiler integrated with the rear boot lid. Continuing the theme, the rear bumper gets inverse trapezoidal design with plastic cladding.
Step inside the Zest and you might step out instantly mistaking it for a premium sedan. The team has not only improved but taken the standard several notches higher. First glance of the dashboard, central console and the steering wheel and it won’t remind of any other Tata car.
It is the suave beige dashboard panel which manages to attract all attention possible. The trim quality and the plastics used are fantastic. The instrumental panel which sports a new design along with a central display of essential information has been tweaked too. It feels similar to the one on VW models. It displays all the information along with the gear engaged indicator.
The XT petrol variant comes loaded with features and functions. The Zest is one modern Tata car and the reason behind that statement is the series of duties the infotainment screen can do. If you wish to set the temperature or change the mode of air conditioning, it can be done with ease. It gets a powerful fully automatic air conditioner with climate control.
Personally I feel, the most important aspect inside a car has to be its entertainment system. I was thoroughly impressed with the one on Ford Classic but the one in Zest is equally amazing. It gets an 8 speaker individual channel music system by Harman. You can fiddle around with the sound quality along with adjusting the area of concentration with just a simple touch on the infotainment screen.
It also gets USB and Aux-in options along with Bluetooth telephony. All of them can be controlled via the screen in addition to the controls mounted on the steering wheel. There is also a segment first feature of voice assist in the Zest. The system is quick to understand voice commands. It can play music, adjust AC and make phone calls without any efforts.
Seats are reasonably comfortable. Even in top spec variant there are no leathers and instead it gets high quality fabric seats. Leather seats will be available as an optional pack. The Zest is primarily a driver centric car and it feels roomy in the first row while it is reasonably spacious for the second row. Door trims do not get space for large bottles. There are cup holders in the central zone. The boot swallowed our bags giving us a fair its large storage area.
In the past few months, we have driven many cars across segments but with the Zest, the experience was different. Firstly, it is the first Tata car to get the recently launched Revotron 1.2T petrol engine and secondly, it is the first car in its segment to get an AMT transmission.
Let’s begin with the petrol. It is very rare that a Tata car has been associated with ‘Fun” as they have always been functional and lacked emotional connect. With the all new Revotron 1.2T petrol engine, the company attempts to revamp its brand image from purpose built to built to perform car maker.
We knew it that the new engine is a result of extensive research and ticks all the boxes on paper. Fire it up and you would expect the rattles and shivers as expected but to everyone’s shock, it is not the case. The engine idles smoothly without any redundant noise. Push the throttle harder and the sounds gets sporty with a slight grunt.
One can also choose a driving mode from three options which are Eco, City and Sports. It is amazing to see a car in this range sport multiple driving modes catering to mileage and performance needs. City mode, which is set by default, works on maintaining a balance between economy and performance. There are two buttons on the console which are Eco and Sports. In Eco mode, it concentrates on fuel efficiency while in the Sports mode; it is pure based on performance.
The engine feels quick if not fast. The 1197cc engine produces 90PS at 5000 rpm and generates a torque of 140Nm. Petrol variants come with a standard five speed manual transmission. The engine doesn’t react at a touch on the pedal but once it crosses the 2500 mark, its performance gets evident. The tacho needle travels all the way to 6000 rpm before shifting to next gear. One interesting bit is the needle going red at peak rpm alerting the driver to shift to the next gear.
The petrol feels great on straight section but then on hilly sections where the climbing angle increases it loses breath very quickly forcing the driver to downshift. During overtaking, one has to squeeze every bit of power to make sure one manoeuvres confidently. The power band is very short in the petrol engine. Second and third gear help building momentum but at fourth it falls flat and similarly in the fifth gear.
Then was our turn to drive the diesel AMT. Thanks to Maruti Suzuki Celerio, we had an idea on Automated Manual Transmission. Gyaan goes like this; it is not an automatic transmission but an automated manual transmission unit meaning the upper half has an electronic mechanism which works with the help of a control unit and hydraulic actuators while the lower half acts like a conventional manual transmission. It comes at a price of a manual and offers convenience of an automatic.
The diesel F-Tronic AMT is equipped with the same four cylinder diesel engine which was also seen on Vista D90 hatch. This 1248cc engine produces 90PS of power and generates 200Nm of torque. It is offered with a conventional 5 speed manual transmission but then there is an additional option of getting the diesel in AMT version. The engine is amazingly quiet and all the measures to make sure the cabin is insulated have worked really well. It fairs a lot better than the Honda Amaze and Maruti Suzuki Swift DZire when it comes to low NVH levels.
It comes with three different shift modes namely the automatic, sports and manual. In automatic, the drive feels sluggish at lower engine speeds but then once it enters 3000rpm to 4800rpm band, the torque delivery gets aggressive. The cut off engine speed to shift to next gear is 4500rpm. Even the intermittent delay between shifts is less. Sports more gets activated with the help of a button below the transmission stick. Power delivery doesn’t improve but the shifts happen quicker than in normal auto mode. Then comes the manual mode which is the best when it comes to outright performance.
In manual mode, the driver has to upshift or downshift manually by shifting the stick forward or reverse respectively. In this mode, the engine holds on to its power delivery for a longer duration. We found a way to ‘Cheat’ the shift by downshifting few rpms before its ideal limit for example while shifting from first to second, the cut-off happens at 4500rpm and thus shift it at close to 4300rpm so the delay between shifts gets shorter and it slides to next gear quickly without losing on speed.
This Tata car rides well and handles great. The Zest impressed us completely with its amazing handling potential. It has a taller ground clearance but at the same time the roof line flows at a lower height bring down air resistance. Introduced in the Nano, EPAS (Electronic Power Assisted System), with speed sensitivity along with a segment first feature of Corner Braking stability makes the Zest handles corners confidently.
All the earlier issues of steering losing grip and wobbling on high speeds has completely gone. During out test drive in Goa, it was raining heavily but the ride quality of Zest held the wet roads firmly. The 185/60 R15 tyres have great traction. Even on rough patches, the suspensions refused to give up doing its best to keep the disturbance felt at the lowest level possible. It is evident that the team at Tata Motors has worked really hard to make sure the Zest delivers on points where Tata cars have been highly criticized for like ride and handling, in cabin noise insulation, gear shifts and steering response.
|Power in PS/RPM||90 / 5000||90 / 4000|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||140 / 1750 – 3500||200 / 1750 – 3000|
|Gears||5 / MT||5 / AMT|
|Wheel base mm||2470||2470|
|Kerb Weight in Kg||1115 – 1135||1170|
|Ground clearance mm||175||165|
|Fuel tank capacity L||44||44|
|Tyre Spec||185/60 R15||185/60 R15|
|Tata Zest Price||To Be Announced||To Be Announced|
|Headlamps||Projector type (“Follow-me”, remote key operated)||Projector type|
|Daylight Running Lights||Yes (LED type)||No|
|Multi Information Display (MID)||Yes||Yes|
|Multi-Media Touch Controlled Speakers||Yes||No|
|AUX & USB||Yes||Yes|
|Steering Wheel Mounted Controls||Yes||Yes|
|Smart phone integration||Yes||No|
|AC with Climate Control||Yes||No|
|Anti-lock with EBD with Cornering Stability||Yes||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||XMA||VX MT iDTEC||Zdi|
|Power in PS/RPM||90 / 4000||98 / 3600||74 / 4000|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||200 / 1750 – 3000||200 / 1750||190 @ 2000/|
|Gears||5 / AMT||5 / MT||5 / MT|
|Wheel base mm||2470||2405||2430|
|Kerb Weight in Kg||1170||1075||1080|
|Ground clearance mm||165||165||170|
|Fuel tank capacity L||44||-||-|
|Tyre Spec||185/60 R15||175 / 65 R14||185 / 65 R15|
|Tata Zest Price (Ex-Showroom Mumbai)||To Be Announced||791240||761679|
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.
It might appear as a derivative of Indigo but surprisingly it’s not. The Zest was built to appeal the enthusiasts as well as the conventional generation. Answering our queries on reliability, the engineers assured the painstaking efforts taken to ensure the Zest ticks on all the right boxes. Before showcasing at the Auto Expo, the test mules had clocked an amazing distance to get the noise levels down and insulate the cabin from any redundant external noise.
Tata Motors have also worked on improving the after sales experience by providing the sales team with modern gadgets to serve the customers in a better way. Customers can even track the exact progress of their car in the service station with the help of different applications. With this we conclude that the Zest is the correct answer from Tata Motors to competition.