Tata Motors has finally ended its new product launch draught with all new Zest as it got back into groove after years of exile. Probably this all new Zest marks the most important launch in history of this homegrown auto major as all the revival hopes of Tata Motors now rests on shoulder of this 3-box compact sedan. Left in tatters amidst rising competition and marred by poor reliability and apathetic service Tata Motors started working on Zest around 2011 with its best resources spreading across the globe. The professional expertise of late Mr. Karl Slym also came in handy while developing this all new compact sedanfrom the ground-up. Backed by such an extraordinary effort, Tata has pinned all they reclaiming hopes on wide shoulders of Zest. In fact the market response of Zest will lay down the future strategic course Tata Motors will tread on. Going against the likes of Maruti Dzire, Hyundai Xcent and Honda Amaze, Tata Zest has its task cut out for it. It won’t be easy to rise against so many formidable rivals and the poor perception about Tata Motors will make Zest task further daunting. But then Zest confidence swagger has a remarkably confident air of self-belief. Looking quite confident to brush off rival challenges, Zest has indeed got off to a flying start. Now whether it has the substance to carry on this generated momentum, we find out in this road test review.
Despite retaining the design heredity of Tata in terms of smiling face and silhouette, new Zest has been successful in carving its own distinctive identity that is quite attractive to look at.
Up front large stretched smiling grill with chrome strips at upper and lower edges (also called Humanity line) define the new fascia of Zest. Large parabolic headlamps look attractive and also boast of fires-in-segment projector lighting. Long bulged hood with curved-up side edges, while DRLs’ and air-dam give Zest a unique air of sophistication.
In profile, Zest looks uncanny similar to other Tatas’ as window line has been carried over from Vista platform. Strong character lines especially the one on the shoulder and blackened B-pillars are some of the highlights of Zest. Further the long hood and chopped boot makes it a bit disproportionate in side viewing. ORVMs’ with very sleek side blinkers look nice and so are the alloy wheels with modern spoke design.
Move to the rear and a thick chrome slat highlights the Zest character. Wrap around forward pointing LED tail lamps are tucked away very nicely and looks just fabulous with LED lighting elements. A black matte finished on rear bumper helps to cut down the visual bulk and it useful for muddy roads too.
Dimensionally Tata Zest stuck under 4-m length barrier as it measures 3995 mm from head to toe. On other parameters of width, height and more importantly wheelbase, Tata Motors dwarfs all its rivals by handsome margin. Not only is it wider and taller than rivals bot also holds considerable advantage over others in wheelbase department. With a boot of 390 litres, Tata Zest marginally lags behind the Xcent and Amaze that come with 407 litres and 400 litres respectively.
Cabin And Interiors
Wide opening doors and taller stance of Zest make ingress-egress quite a breeze in this compact sedan. Step inside and the cabin of Zest feels like anything but Tata. In fact it is a pleasant surprise to see the progress made by India’s largest automobile manufacturer on interiors front. Two-tone black and beige dashboard with minimalistic pretensions not only looks god but also augments the space feel of the Zest. Silver accents and black piano finished inserts make the Zest cabin upmarket and luxurious.
Tata Motors has worked hard on ergonomics too and in Zest everything seems to be in right place. Steering wheel diameter has got reduced and now feels more operable. Addition of mounted controls has heighted the practicality of this new unit and buttons feels very tactile in the operation. Large dialled instrument cluster is now in front of driver view unlike Indica Vista where it is stacked at centre. Touch-screen infotainment system developed that Tata has developed jointly with Harman has been placed at top of centre console. In addition to controlling music and other car settings, this screen also doubles up as display for parking sensor. Top of the line variant has got automatic climate control while lower variants come with manual HVAC.
Tata has bettered its strong forte of space in Zest and undoubtedly Zest is one of the roomiest cars in its category. Front seats are large, wide and have got excellent side bolstering. High-driving position and height-adjustability further inspire the driver’s confidence though thick A and C-pillars are a bit hindrance to outside view. On rear too, there is plenty of space and with longest wheelbase and tallest virtues, Zest can seat even 3 adults at back with an ease. However this seating could have been more comfortable had Tata Motors made an effort to reduce the intruding floor hump. Although it is not as terrible as in previous Tata vehicles still it is tall enough to irritate the middle passenger.
Boot space of 390 litres is capacious but here too the suspension towers intrude heavily. Its design too could have been improved that would have made it best-in-class trunk. Loading lip is quite high though its width is satisfactory in nature.
Heart And Veins
Tata Zest is launched with two engine options – 1.2-litre Revotron petrol and 1.3-litre diesel engine. While first in class turbocharged petrol unit is made in-house by Tata engineers’ diesel unit is the very familiar 1.3-litre Fiat owned multi-jet motor rebranded as Quadrajet by Tata. Further another distinction that Zest comes equipped with is automated manual transmission that is mated to diesel unit only. Our test car come with 1.3-litre diesel unit mated to 5-speed manual transmission that is rated to 90 PS of max power and 200 Nm in top variant.
NVH levels of the diesel motor are quite impressive and there is almost complete hush up inside the cabin. Low-end torque availability is phenomenal too as Zest finds little difficulty in crawling at slow speeds. City driving aspect has been worked upon by Tata engineers and with revised ECU calibrations Zest torque curve has become more responsive and flatter. Mid-range is satisfying too as rev-happy nature of Quadrajet comes to fore once we started to wring the engine. However the motor is still not as rev-happy as it seems in Maruti Dzire.
Mated with 5-speed manual transmission, power from Quadrajet engine is channelized to front wheels of Zest. Gear throws are neither short nor long; they lie in-between these extreme poles. Overall quality has been improved and the engine-tranny package performs on par with the segment standard. Braking responsibility has been divided between up front disc and drum at rear though the pedal feels spongy and wobbles a lot on our test car. Steering feedback is surprisingly good for electric unit and its light manoeuvring is an added advantage.
Driving position on the Zest is spot-on and everything right from steering to transmission is placed very ergonomically and user-friendly manner. With dual path independent MacPherson strut up front and torsion beam at rear, Zest uses quite a familiar suspension set-up in Zest. Even with this standard hardware Zest achieves extraordinary results on ride and handling front as this Tata sedan shows impeccable ride quality with good handling characteristics. On all sorts of roads, Zest remains unfazed as its suspension works brilliantly and silently without showing any kind of tantrums. Wide track enhances the straight line stability and it is probably first Tata product that can confidently holds its head high even at higher speeds.
Even the handling has got its share of improvement with Zest coming across as a confident vehicle while cornering manoeuvres. Of course there is squealing when Zest is thrown around at high speeds but that doesn’t threaten to go out of control. 185 mm wide rubber provides enough grip to Zest and for a typical city driving, Zest is on par with the course even on handling front.
With most affordable price range between Rs 4.64 to Rs 6.99 lakh, Zest scores gold on value for money pricing front. With spacious interiors, equipped cabin and powerful yet efficient engines Zest marks the quantum leap forward by Tata Motors. Add to it the many best-in-class and first-in-segment features and Zest looks like a winner, at least on paper.
The biggest concernthat Tata Motors has to deal with is Zest reliability and quality issues; something that plagued the older generation Tata vehicles. The past image of Tata is not something company wants to take a bow. Now if Tata manages to convince customers about Zest reliability and quality then only Zest will be able to maintain the sales euphoria that it has successfully generated at its inception.
Style & Substance 4/5 Ride & Handling 3.5/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3.5/5 Safety & Equipment 3.5/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 4/5 Fuel Efficiency 3.5/5
Value for Money 4/5