The Tata Zest: A New Beginning

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan

While the hatchback and sedan categories have become quite crowded in the Indian automobile market in recent years, one segment has remained relatively light in comparison. The sub- 4 metre car / compact sedan offers the best of both worlds when you think of it and it seems quite surprising that more companies have not chosen to tap into this market yet. Presently, the competition here in India would be limited to the trio of Maruti Dzire, Honda Amaze and Hyundai Xcent.

Tata Motors have had their share of successes and failures over the years with their products, to be honest. Over two years ago, the feedback received about overall car satisfaction from the Indian public had been scathing by their own admission. 
The most heartening aspect of it all was that they have listened. Over 250 engineers worked across 3 years, changing nearly every aspect of what we knew of their cars, both within and without. 
The result? The Tata Zest.

As I mentioned, the Tata Zest is not just a case of using segments of previously available models but is a whole re-imagining of the Tata model. They've wiped the slate clean and started again with new ideas and designs, from the steering wheel down to the new Revotron engine.

So how does the new kid on the block do? Having received rave reviews from popular national car websites and media channels, Tata decided it was time to get the opinion of the general public too. Thus, with the help of Blogadda, some of the best bloggers of the country (and me, ironically!) got the opportunity to find out more about the car ahead of the launch as we test drove it along the picturesque roads of Goa this weekend.

I. Exterior
Image from
- The Zest features a newly designed grille they call “the Humanity line.”
- Projector headlamps are a welcome addition. LED daytime running lamps are provided for the top end models too. The "follow me home" headlamps can actually be set up to stay for as many seconds as you wish after you turn the car off, using the infotainment system. LED tail lamps are a segment first.
- 15 inch alloy wheels are better than its competitors who provide 14 inch wheels for the same segment.
- The broad shoulder line running across the sides lend some character and incorporate both door handles into its design before ending up neatly at the tail lamps.

Picture courtesy: Senthil Kumar
- The boot is always an issue with sub- four metre sedans with many complaining that it sits awkwardly upon some cars, as though forced upon it. The Zest seems to do a better job than the Dzire at this and is perhaps on par with the Amaze.

II. Interior
Rejoice for the interiors have been redone entirely and not just copy-pasted on from previous hatchback models (Amaze, we are looking at you!).
- The traditional dull grey has been removed and a more soothing dual tone greeted me as I entered.
- The dashboard is easily better than even certain higher end sedan models that have come out recently. It feels like a much higher grade material overall.
- The meters ( speedometer, rev, fuel and trip ) have been modified too and once more look more vibrant than previous offerings.
- Seat height adjust for shorter drivers are available in the higher end models, something you may want to keep in mind. The seats themselves offer good support and Aseem seated behind me (well-built, well-nourished Obelix-esque me) was pretty comfortable with no complaints of feeling cramped up.

There's always time for a Selfie!
DJ Sneha had a blast with the infotainment system

- First in class: Harman-Kardon infotainment system! I mean, seriously! Talk about stepping up your game. The 8 speaker audio is easily miles ahead of the others in this segment and is a joy to listen to. We are talking about a system that is better than what the VW Vento and Honda City have on offer.
In addition, the touchscreen system also doubles up as your rear parking sensor, climate control and voice command. Yes, I said voice command! It could understand my heavily Mallu accented English, something even my English teachers struggled to do so back in the day! Hmmm, perhaps I should ask it to reevaluate my eight standard English exam essay question… In addition, it allows you to actually give voice commands such as "Set AC to 22 degrees", "Tune to Radio Station XYZ", "Play "Hotel California" etc.
- Oh ya, they have also worked with MapMyIndia to design the navigation and location based services.
- The steering wheel is a touch smaller than others I've handled and that is an intentional move by Tata. In addition to having the full features of controlling the infotainment and call options, it also has been set up so that while it felt light at low speed, at higher speeds, it felt heavier adding a sense of stability to it.

Team Awesome : My driving partners and fellow bloggers
Sneha Sharma and Aseem Rastogi

III. Drive
All the bloggers got the opportunity to drive both the top end Petrol manual and the Diesel Automatic version across South Goa, incorporating both the narrow roads and the highways along the way.

Petrol: An all new turbo charged petrol engine greeted me here. The 1.2 litre Revotron looks to improve vastly upon its predecessor and for the most part, does so easily. The drive was smooth and the car very responsive.
By default, the manual is set to "CITY" mode but the true genius lies in that you can change to "ECONOMY" and "SPORT" mode with the click of a button. The former allows the engine to strive for better cruising on the highway aiming for fuel economy. Click on "Sport" and the car begins to show the beast within it, revving up happily to make overtaking a breeze.

Image courtesy: Tata Zest

Diesel: The 1.3 litre multijet Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) I tested was again a fun ride. Once more, it is a "first in its class offering". The self-explanatory gearbox does have an additional fun feature - "S" for "SPORT" once more which acts like the "nitro boost" from our old computer games, providing a very zesty pickup (no pun intended)! I liked the diesel a tad better than the petrol personally.
IV. Experience

- The car rides quite smoothly across the roads and we had the chance to test it across narrow village terrains as well as the highways. Its suspension surprised me by the sheer effortlessness - it has been tuned with the Indian roads in mind. Body roll, though present, was not significant and can be easily handled. Space in the back seat is once more best in class.
- For those who want numbers: the Tata Zest offers up a maximum power output of 90 bhp and 140Nm of torque.
- The car comes with dual air bags and passes all national safety standards in addition to a few international standards its competitors lag behind in.
- There are a variety of options in seat covers and body colours as is expected, though my fav still remains the blue one I drove.

- The after sales service, a sore point of Tata in the past, has been revamped and exclusive training been given to over 3000 employees across the nation.

I said it at the very beginning.
Tata Motors have listened to the public and they have learned. They have retained some of their better bits and literally thrown out the rest and started from scratch. And the willingness to change has resulted in a class product in the Tata Zest. They know they have a quality product in their hands.

This one stands toe-to-toe with the other three competitors in its segment and even betters in them in so many regards. The diesel AMT, higher quality interiors, advanced infotainment system, smoother ride, multiple driving modes and what I anticipate will be a very competitive price range are going to be key factors in the coming days once the car arrives in the market and the test drives begin.

They had two major hurdles when they started down this road: getting a quality product and earning the trust of the public back. The former has been achieved. Now begins the second part of the journey.
For now, its a very easy two thumbs up for this car. It is unlike any other TATA product in the last decade and there is going to be many a sleepless night for its competitors in the days to come.

P.S. You can check out the live twitter comments of the weekend with literally hundreds of pictures and opinions by searching twitter and facebook for the hashtag : #ZestUpYourLife

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Let me know what you think.

  1. Tata has wiped the slate too often and started afresh many times. Starts from indigo, indigo ls, indigo cs, indigo manza, etc etc etc...
    The service centre work culture and the way they talk to costumers is so bad. The reason is they are used to talking only to taxi drivers.
    The poor over all administration was one of the reasons for downfall of fiat in India.
    Let them come out with more models and refine their engine, learn to deal with customers decently..... well this will take atleast 2 decades...
    All the best TATA

    1. They've done the hard work with the car, Riyaz. This is miles ahead of the Manza or Indigo. But yes, how their after sales service is the final litmus test for them. That will decide how this fares...

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