Tata Motors was the first manufacturer to enter the compact sedan segment in India in 2008 with its Indigo CS. Even though they had the first movers advantage they could not make it a run away success just because of the taxi image that its vehicles have been plagued with. their sales declined heavily in the last couple of years and had quality issues through out their product offerings. With the introduction of the Aria and Manza came new quality standards but they still were not perfect.
In order to reclaim their lost ground Tata has put in a lot of hardship to come up with a quality and class leading Sub 4 meter sedan- Tata Zest. It is a brand new product with almost no carry-over components from its older products. A statement that most of the Indians would deny to agree to but we do give a nod to is- “It is actually a class leading product with world class quality standards from TATA.”
Not just the exteriors but even the interiors on offer all scream out to be top notch unlike the present gen cars of Tata. Tata Zest has a slight resemblance to the Manza at a certain angle. But the design no longer looks like a taxi-cab design. the side profile is well designed and looks proportionate as opposed to the quirky looking Maruti-dzire. Headlamps are long and are equipped with projectors, first in this segment to be offered. The corona rings surrounding the projectors act as parking lights and look really cool, surely gonna turn heads on the road. Fog lamp cluster is given a nice chrome touch and also houses the DRL ( Day time running lights) also the first in this segment.
The doors are wide and the side profile is highly identical to the larger sibling the Manza. Coming to the rear a strong shoulder line is sculpted with wrap around LED tail-lamps that look stunning in the evening hours. Designers have made a good use of chrome on the front grill,fog lamp cluster and at the rear boot lid. 15 inch 8 spoke alloy wheels look upmarket and fill the wheel arcs very well.
Enter the cabin and you will be surprised to see the impressive work that Tata Zest has been given. Hide the logo inside and you can easily mis-judge it to be a non Tata car. Certainly the plastic quality has been improved three-fold. It is up-market, has great looks and ditches its taxi cabin image. A usual complaint from their cars has been the large less sportier steering wheel. Zest now has been equipped with a new 3 spoke 360 mm diameter steering. A two tone color scheme has been used inside and the parts that are touched most have been kept black. A generous use of chrome around the AC vents and instrument cluster makes the cabin classy. The seats are softer than usual, an additional layer of foam was easily felt in comparison to Manza/Vista. All the power window switches are backlit. The only places out of sync with the design and quality were door handles and gear knob.
What would be your reaction if we tell you that a Harmon-Kardon infotainment system used by high-end luxury car manufacturers is found in a Tata car. Its true guys the vehicle that we drove was a top-end variant equipped with a 5 inch touch screen unit by Harmon-Kardon with integrated controls to the Automatic climate control. Just turn the volume to the maximum and you will find not even a single sound distortion is felt thanks to the 8 speaker system. The Harmon system is equipped with voice commands for buetooth telephony, temperature, fan speed. Cabin space is one of the best as it is the widest of all the compact sedans offered till date at 1706 mm.
Engine and Performance
Tata has provided the tried and tested Fiat sourced 1.3 Quadrajet engine producing 89 Bhp and 200 NM of Torque. Turn on the engine and you will find the engine to settle down to be nice and quiet engine, thanks to the three layers of sound proofing provided. Tata has worked hard to keep the vibrations down and the NVH levels are one of the best. The engine is equipped with a variable geometric turbo and the power can be felt from as low as 1750 RPM till 6000 RPM. The engine is mated to 5 speed manual gear-box. The gearing is shot and so is the turbo lag. In city the vehicle was able to cruise ahead in the third gear from 30 Km/h to 60 with just a gentle push on the paddle. It was quite surprising to see how good the gear ratios were. The clutch was soft rather a lot spongy unlike what is found in Manza, making it easy to drive in the city without tiring your leg. The engine is quite frugal and provides good average on the Manza, and is expected to outperform it in terms of fuel efficiency as the Zest sheds a lot of weight. With the inclusion of new electronic power steering (EPAS) and the reduction in size city drive is a breeze. At high speeds the steering weighs up pretty well and provides a decent amount of feedback. It feels more sporty and provides nice grip with Suspension is plush and irons out majority of pot holes as the front gets an all new setup of dual path independent mc-pherson strut and anti-roll bar. It can easily be said that TATA has provided one of the best balance between ride and handling.
From Interior to exterior styling the Tata Zest is a winner in its segment. Tata has tried its best to shed its Taxi-Cab image and has come out with a well engineered futuristic model loaded with a great engine, plush ride, upmarket interiors, great features and none the less providing india`s cheapest diesel automatic. With the promise to revamp its after sales service Pan-India we expect Zest to set charts on fire for the homegrown automobile manufacturer.