First Impression – Tata Motors has managed to make Zest as synonymous as possible to its name. New design language, its key elements play vital role in transforming Tata’s conventional appeal to add a sense of charm and sport. Tata’s design intent was to achieve confident dynamism, for which they invented and incorporated three new expressions.
Humanity Line is upper and lower contours of signature Tata front grille running visually through and finishing into headlamps, seamlessly extending the smile of Zest’s face. This is where you begin to think Tata couldn’t have come up with a better name for the car. Front fascia of Zest has more abstract elements to support the statement that Tata has finally learned to make a car that would attract younger audience like never before.
Anime-eye projector headlamps elevate the presence of Zest, giving bolder yet calm character. As Mr. Pratap Bose, Head of Design, Tata Motors, said, new design theme was carefully crafted to not involve even a hint of aggressiveness. Tata’s objective is to make new cars that look friendly and part of customers’ families, Mr. Pratap implied, and the Zest attempts to show just that.
But in no way Zest looks puny or soft natured. Power bulge, as Tata calls it, at the centre of bonnet augments feel of Zest’s capability. Inverted trapezium lower air dam of front bumper painted in black compliments the grin on grille and builds sporty flavour. Fog lamps on either side gets slash like LED DRLs, and lower variants get step slanted stylish chrome trim within the boomerang shaped pocket.
Second aspect of new design era of Tata Motors, here the Zest, is Diamond DLO (Day Light Opening). At the side, from the point where A pillar emerges from side fender, originates diamond form of DLO through the figure of window frame up to C pillar at the back, showcasing attribute of modern style. Strong shoulder on side of Zest with the help of sculpted form factor, body lines, is proof of contemporary composition.
Third feature is Slingshot Line, athletically runs from front fender of one side, thins down progressing backwards, meets and passes through attractive wrap-around tail lamps, then subtly slightly above thick chrome garnish on boot lid, takes on other tail lamp, takes a turn on the same, starts deepening from rear door all the way to opposite front fender. So far from the outside of Zest compact sedan, it is evident that Tata has evolved and matured to meet expectations of the masses, lets take a look inside.
Interiors of Tata Zest took us by surprise, as all newfangled ingredients in latest B, C segment passenger cars are served on a platter. Include dual tone beige and black dashboard and door panels, piano black veneer on centre console, steering wheel and instrument housing, auxiliary gloss-silver motif on sides of centre cluster and on tri-spoke steering wheel, chrome surrounds and trims on AC vents and centre controls, gentle brown inside door handle carrying mirror and power window buttons and soft fabric cushion seats matching grey panel on door.
In-cabin aura of Tata Zest also lives up to its name. Although some indications of cost cut like flexible lip above instrument panel on dashboard and peel ready silver trim on lower spoke of steering wheel do try to invert the smile on our faces, there are other pleasant elements that mask the niggles and keep us cheerful.
Tata Zest gets new key fob with remote, that highly resembles those of German cars. LED ring around key hole is a nice touch. Turning the key to ignition, speedo, tacho and other meters perform POST (Power On Self Test) by turning the needles to max. limit and lighting all indicators up. Dual pot console with display in-between looks lit up like christmas tree for a moment then. On the left, find all new Harman ICE (In Car Entertainment) system turn on, where most fun in Zest can be felt.
Top spec Zest gets touch screen system and lower variants get buttons on either side of LCD screen. Both players are loaded with exciting features like speed dependant auto volume control, multi adjust equaliser, bluetooth, USB and AUX-in functions, smartphone and iPod integration, dialling from recent calls, easy navigation through music albums and folders and display of album information. Touch screen system gets additional reverse / parking sensor display and voice command feature that recognises most Indian English accents to control music, climate (AC temperature) and similar options inside Zest. Harman system is probably the most significant USP of Zest.
Special mention: AC performance of Tata Zest seems to be segment leading. Throw speed is very high and cooling rate is exceptional.
Another USP is F-Tronic Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) that is equipped in diesel version of Zest only. 1.3 litre (1,248 cc) Quadrajet diesel engine produces 90 PS max. power at 4,000 rpm and 200 Nm peak torque at 1,750 – 3,000 rpm band. While reputation of this engine is acclaimed, focus shifts to AMT.
Being first in class / segment, first in diesel and first for Tata, AMT bears lot of attention and expectations. Operation is simple. Shifter rod slotted to N (Neutral) by default is to be pulled downwards to slot to A (Auto Drive) and the job is done.
Enjoy freedom from calculating engine behaviour at the back of mind to depress clutch pedal and choosing appropriate gear while you incidentally notice one of countless speed breakers or potholes in middle of road to re-consider the choice of gear and keep ahold of clutch in exact position, while navigating through creeks and cracks of dense city traffic.
F-Tronic AMT in Zest however is not a perfect system, especially when you’re newly getting acquainted. Shift response is not jet quick and somehow keeps catching the throat of engine while making shift decisions. As justified by a technical team member from Tata Motors, the software program that inputs throttle position and vehicle & engine speed to impose appropriate clutching and engaging next gear is at nascent stage, which will be updated in due course to increase responsiveness.
With AMT, there are three modes on offer – City, Sport and Manual. Depending on the condition, you can decide the best suited mode to drive. As far as gearshits are concerned, they are not exactly smooth, as this is not an automatic gearbox. The gearshifts are evident, and there is also a lag, when gearshifts take place.
Though the tacho supports till 8,000 rpm, the engine does not rev beyond 4,500 rpm, even when you are in manual mode (as the gearbox up-shifts automatically). Tata Motors did not reveal official mileage figures, but expect them to be around 16-18 kmpl for the AMT variant.
For anyone who is not particular or obsessive about what happens underneath the bonnet while driving, Tata Zest diesel AMT is a relaxing drive machine. It is to be noted that ride quality and driving controls are superior to earlier Tata vehicles, so much that it does not tire the driver like usual diesel cars do. It runs as smooth as petrol model. Suspension / shocks are well tuned for city ride and equally good and stable at high speeds.
New 360mm – smaller than conventional steering wheel, along with exceptional material quality and very ergonomic and tactile buttons offer good amount of driving pleasure. Steering is very, a bit too light at stand still and low speeds, but as you take on a corner or perform a swift manoeuvre, incremental resistance is offered by EPAS (Electronic Power Assisted Steering) system, making for an enjoyable experience turning the Zest. Active return feature works well bringing steering back to position on light and hard turns. Feedback from road is well heard on the wheel as well.
Braking quality is decent in Tata Zest, front wheels get disc and rear set come with drum brakes. For those who expect a bite, will feel a toothless one, but for those who want to just stop the car, will not complain. Tata Zest gets Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and new Corner Stability Control. Nothing more to say than they perform their duties well.
To sum it up, Tata Zest is a first step towards promising future for Tata. Its was either jackpot or broken pot for Tata, and we would say Zest will save the present of Indian automaker.
Why would you buy Tata Zest
– Only diesel automatic sedan in the segment
– Drive performance
Why would you not buy Tata Zest
– AMT not smooth
For review of Tata Zest petrol variant with 1.2 litre Revotron engine, head here.