First Drive: 2014 Tata Zest, new entry-level sedan

  • Jul 14, 2014

It’s been a rather long time since Tata Motors came out with a revolution. After the Nano launch, which had the whole world abuzz, Tata has lost it’s ground. Though Nano as a product did not succeed as much as the company hoped but it did put Tata Motors in a proud place. Now, Tata has another product all-set to roll out. It’s young, it’s energetic, it’s tech savvy and the best part is it’s a big big step up from other Tata Products. We bring to you today, the Zest- Tata’s all new entry level sedan.


How does it look?
Young, smart and vivacious

Very European. That was my reaction when I saw the car. The lines, the shape, the flow and how it captures your attention is something you do not expect from a Tata vehicle. Tata Motors says it’s taken them three years of hard work to develop the Zest and the design reflects every bit of labour put in. The face of the car is rather pleasing. The lamps are big and swept in and stand tall at either end of the grille. The grille is something that you will recognize as typical Tata but the border of chrome around it adds to the bling factor. The projector headlamps are complemented with chrome accents for petrol and diesel versions. Only the petrol version, however, gets the day time running lights. Tata Motors calls the lower lip of the grille as the Humanity line. The bumper is chunky and supports the overall look of the car quite well.

Coming to the side profile, the design flows well here too. The windows get a chrome border. A bold shoulder line runs from the A-pillar to the C-pillar and the Zest also gets 15” alloys. We particularly like the ones on the petrol. Then there’s the boot and this is where we were bowled over. The boot blends beautifully and seamlessly into the cabin and it does not look like an after-thought. In fact, it just adds to the stance of this new entry-level sedan.

Which brings us to the rear of the car and this is where we hoped Tata Motors had worked a little hard. The lamps are almond shaped and look a little dated. There is a strip of chrome just above the number plate for the bling! The logo is mounted above the chrome strip and in the centre with Zest and trim branding on either corner of it. The engine badge is placed at the right lower corner of the boot door. The rear bumper comes with a rear fog lamp.

The boot of the Tata Zest seems spacious too. Though it doesn’t seem big enough as the boot of the Amaze or the Xcent but can fit 3 big suitcases with ease. We do not have the specifications of the boot space yet as Tata Motors is holding onto some information till the launch.

LengthxWidthxHeight: 3,995x1,706x1,570 mm
Wheelbase: 2,470 mm
Kerb Weight: 1,170 kg
Boot Space: Not disclosed

Is it Feature Rich?

YES. This is another area where Tata has taken all of us by surprise. Zest is as feature rich as any other car in it’s segment, if not more.

Step inside the cabin and you feel a dash of freshness. The dashboard design is, again, unlike any Tata Motors’ car. It comes in a combination of beige and black and the quality of material used is very fine. In fact, quality is better than that of the Maruti DZire and Honda Amaze.Two rectangular air conditioning vents are on either side. The ones in the center get chrome outline. Tata designers have very smartly divided the cabin into two parts. One flows from the the driver air con vent till the centre vents and the beige covers the rest of the area.

The music system of Tata Zest has been developed by Harman especially for Tata. This touch screen music system is USB, Aux-In, radio and Bluetooth compatible. It is connected to 4 speakers. This is the regular bit about this music system, now comes the special bit. The 5-inch touchscreen when connected with Bluetooth reads out SMS, sends SMS too. Also, it is voice enabled and it is compatible with 19 Indian accents. With this you can change music modes, tracks, send SMS’ etc. The infotainment system also allows you to set the duration of follow me headlamps and auto-locks. This system duplicates as a reverse sensor display in the petrol version too. The voice and music controls are provided on the steering wheel as well. You can view your phone images on the screen as well.

The unfair deal is that the diesel version of the Zest does not get the 5 inch screen. Not just this, the diesel Zest is deprived of the touch-screen air conditioning. Also missing on the diesel Zest are the rear parking sensors.

Take a look at our video review

The multi info display (2.5” screen) shows clock, dual tripmeter, outside temperature, instantaneous fuel consumption, distance-to-empty, average fuel economy and drive mode indication.
Then there are low fuel warning, door ajar warning, gear shift and other warning indicators too.

The seats of the Zest are comfortable and well-cushioned. Front seat leg room is decent and the drivers seat gets a height adjust as well. What’s missing in the cabin are the cubby holes. There no place for for knick knacks and just one cup holder in the front. There is a storage tray below the co-driver seat.

Coming to the rear seat, it’s like any other Tata. It’s comfortable, it’s spacious and can seat three people with much ease. There’s good thigh support and knee room on the rear seat. However, no cup-holders or bottle holders on this seat too.

How does it drive? (Engine and Transmission)
There’s something new about both powertrains

This is the third aspect of surprise. Not just has Tata Motors introduced country’s first diesel AMT in it’s segment but has also gone ahead and developed a whole petrol engine for the Zest.

The Revotron engine first. This 1.2 litre turbo charged petrol motor has been developed by Tata Motors from scratch. 1.2 litre engine has a power output of 90PS@5,000 rpm and a peak torque of 140Nm@1,750-3,500 rpm. It’s one of the most easiest engines to drive. It’s responsive and peppy and it pulls very well. You can drop to lower speeds in higher gears and the engine pulls up so smoothly that we are much more than impressed. The drivability of this engine will come very handy in peak traffic when the speed drops and you don’t want to change gears out of sheer habit or laziness. The turbo kicks in seamlessly at 1,750 rpm and is available thereon. The 5-speed manual gearbox on the Zest is smooth and switching is very easy. This is an effortless petrol engine.

The petrol engine is mated to three driving modes: City, Eco and Sport. The automatic setting is that of the city mode. Eco mode is what gives you optimized fuel efficiency. The DID keeps flashing the gear you driving in and whether you need to upshift or downshift.

Now comes the turn of the diesel. The 1.3 litre MultiJet unit tuned to deliver 90PS of power@4,000 rpm and 200 Nm of peak torque@1,750-3,500 rpm. It does seem good on paper. Before we get down to telling you more, in the journalist test drive we were only provided with the AMT diesel. The AMT by Tata Motors on the diesel unit is where the car isn't up to the mark. The gearbox is shift assisted and yes it will be a blessing considering how crowded our roads are getting. The AMT does the job but it’s not a very smooth unit especially the downshift. There is a very evident jerk that tells you that the gear has changed. When if you have to come to a sudden stop the downshift is even more jerky. There is an option of manually switching gears too.

Then there is a Sport Mode in the diesel AMT too. It activates by pressing the little button at the rear end of the gear lever. This changes the gearbox settings and the gearing becomes longer for the extra punch in your drive. However, because of the extra long gearing with 3rd breaking at little over 3,000 rpm the engine noise in the cabin becomes too much and the enthusiasm level drops. Tata has compensated by giving the volume control feature in the music system.

Fuel Efficiency figures have not been disclosed yet.

Ride and Handling:
The Tata Zest is a big step up in ride and handling.

The steering on the all-new Zest is a delight. It is responsive and there’s much feedback from the road. In fact, when you cross the 90 km/hour mark on the speedometer, the steering takes the game further and remains calm and composed (this is a first). The steering could be a little more precise but it does the job well.
The handling on the car is much improved too. The 15” tyres and front independent suspension lower wishbone with McPherson Strut with Anti-Roll bar and Coil spring and rear with semi-independent twist beam with coil spring and shock absorber does a very good job. Body roll is well under control and the Zest takes corners with much confidence. In fact, we were driving the car in Goa in heavy rainfall and despite that the car behaved very maturely and took even speedy corners with ease. It’s the first car in it’s segment that comes with corner stability control.

Safety list is long!

Tata Motors has left no leaf unturned with the Zest. When it comes to safety, Zest when launched will be a step ahead than competition. It’s got 2 airbags (driver and passenger), Anti-Lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (which in easy terms we call ABS+EBD). Like we said above, it’s the first with Corner Stability Control. Then there’s rear parking sensor for the petrol, engine immobilizer, speed sensing door auto-lock and day/night mirror.

Tata Motors has not given out variant specification yet so we do not know if these features will be available on lower variants or not.

It’s unlike any other Tata.

Tata Motors has big plans for the Zest and Bolt. With these cars they want to revamp their image as a “taxi” brand and build an impression of reliability in the minds of the customer. The company has worked very hard on the car and it reflects in the final product.

Zest is young, good-looking and seems promising. It’s what the company needs to win the trust back. Tata Motors after a long time will bring a product which will impress buyers in more than one way. Yes, the Zest has a lot of competition in the market. It’s not easy to beat a Maruti Suzuki DZire or a Hyundai Xcent or a Honda Amaze but if the company gets the price right, Zest has the potential to shake the market up.

Pricing is yet to be disclosed (another couple of weeks) but we can safely expect the Zest to come with a price tag that will be less than that of the DZire and the Amaze.

Tata Zest Videos

Watch latest video reviews of Tata Zest to know about its interiors, exteriors, performance, mileage and more.

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