Now in its fifth year of existence (as of 2018), the Tata Zest arrived on the scene on a backdrop of rather bleak times in its maker's history. Tata Motors was struggling on sales front as the Indian buyers failed to inspire desirability for its products in their hearts. Not that the products were bad, it was just a matter of timing, the rivals had moved on and Tata was left playing the catch-up game. Tata needed a new way of thinking and a lot more desirability to put into its cars and Tata Zest (with its younger sibling, the Bolt) was created to test the waters for the new modern breed of Tata passenger cars that would arrive after it. And, to a much larger extent with the Tata Zest, the behemoth that is Tata Motors declared it was on a path of resurgence. The Tata Zest, hence, is a much more significant product in Tata’s line up that one could imagine.
The Tata Zest brought with it a far different and much modern take on the Tata passenger car family gene pool. There were hardly any similarities between the Zest and the Indigo CS it replaced. Yet, you could be certain that it was a Tata nevertheless. Starting from the front, the Zest’s front grill, though was reminiscent of the old Indigo platform, still offered a much sleeker and modern honeycomb design that had a Bolder Tata Logo at the center. The top spec variants got projector headlamps with corona rings in a new yet evolutionary dual-barrel design. Then there was a bump on the bonnet designed to add sporty air to the car’s front. The side profile had a tight coupe-like shoulder line lending the Tata Zest an aggressive stance, something the Tata’s of old lacked. The cars came shod with 15-inch wheels while the turn indicators were shifted to the ORVM’s bringing the modern to the old Tata design. Aided further by a thin chrome strip under the windows, the Tata Zest looks premium for a sub-4 meter sedan. Tata’s design team also worked hard to manage the rear end to keep the design flow intact. By using a matt black bottom half for the rear, the designers were able to hide the high rise tail end of the car. This was further achieved by a number plate mounted on the boot lid flanked by a large chrome strip joining the tail lamps with the subtle ‘spoiler’. The Tail lamps are themselves large wraparound units that lend sporty elements to the design further. With the Zest, Tata Motors had brought about changes that signaled towards its dedication to change the market perception of Tata cars for good, and it showed.
The efforts to make Tata cars contemporary leaked into the interiors as well. Tata thankfully moved away from the centrally mounted instrument console. The ‘traditionally’ mounted cluster is much like that of the Manza times and is not a bad place to start. The Steering wheels though is much smaller to further the ‘sporty’ aura of the car. The steering itself is easier to hold and with mounted controls, it accentuates modern and eases of use ergonomics of the cabin. Going further, the white backlit main cluster looks upmarket and classy with its clear two pod appearance. You also get a multi-function digital display sharing info like fuel consumption, gear indicator, modes (in automatic variants) etc. We loved how the cars do not have a rev limit marker on the clocks, the needle would just go red when you breach that limit, just like in the erstwhile Manza, and very neat.
Tata’s of old were criticized for the lack of premium feel inside the cabin for the occupants. The team addressed it with a dashboard design that gets a premium feel with the use of asymmetric air vents at the center. The slim chrome trim that runs around them makes you feel that you are looking at the dash of a much premium car. Speaking of premium, the Tata Zest offers a dedicatedly and comprehensively designed Harmon infotainment system. You could use this system to handle the climate control setting via a touchscreen, something the Zest was the first to bring to this segment. Being a Harmon unit, the audio quality is great for the segment. The standard AC controls are well, usual rotary knobs.
For your packaging needs, there is a cup holder towards the driver side while the left one gets a 12V charging socket for your devices. Then there is a small cubbyhole located in the space between the gearshift lever and the handbrake one. Since it is a Tata, after all, the comfort has been taken care of with big seats that offer enough support. Being among the widest products in its segment, the Tata Zest ends up being the most car for three humans in the back seat. The Driver seats are height adjustable while Tata, as always have given a boot to swallow almost the entirety of your weekend getaway luggage. However, what strikes the most is the significantly evident NVH control inside the cabin. It is something of a level unheard of for Tata’s and only signals towards a great future line up.
Tata’s have always been the sturdier of the cars in their segments and the Zest takes it further by offering dual airbags, having ABS, EBD and something that Tata calls, Corner Stability Control. You also get an underrated but useful follow me home guide lamps into the mix. The interior build quality feels premium with use of soft-touch plastics, panels that merge into each other flawlessly, a material quality that feels it would not rattle for a long time to come.
Not just in the aesthetics, safety and interior comfort parameters, Tata has also invested a lot into bringing newer much modern and driver friendly updates to the car’s engine and gearbox. With the Zest, Tata introduced its now proven and capable Revotron petrol series and a new turbocharged and inter-cooled diesel engine. The diesel engine on the Tata Zest makes a good 90bhp with a commendable 200Nm of peak torque. Interestingly, you can use this impressive torque peak from as low as 1750rpm to 3000rpm. Adding to this clear drivability champ for our traffic conditions, the Tata Zest also became the first small capacity Diesel AMT car to go on sale in India. Though like every other AMT in India, it is never in a hurry to change gears, enthusiasm not being its virtue by a long shot. The Revotron petrol, on the other hand, provides much better interaction with the driver in you. The turbocharged 1.2 liter makes a pretty decent 90bhp and 140Nm of torque. What is great to note that Tata has managed to give this new petrol unit that exact peak torque performance range of the diesel unit. You get the play with 140Nm of torque from 1750rpm to 3000rpm, that’s impressive. This is a smooth engine that is sensitive to its NVH numbers. Power comes through it in a linear non-offensive manner. Refinement as already obvious is at par with the segment bests. However, the best part about this new engine is the delightfully light and positive gearbox. Something that was almost blasphemy for the Tata’s of old. Tata Zest also offers, driving modes on the Revotron variants, three of them to be precise. They are City, Eco, and Power, with the City one being the default choice.
At present, the Tata Zest competes with the likes of the Maruti Desire, Honda Amaze, Ford Figo Aspire and its more popular sibling, the Tigor. The car is offered in 11 variants combined for petrol and diesel powered motors. The prices start from INR 5.5 Lakhs for base petrol and go up to INR 9.0 Lakhs for top end diesel.
Good build quality. Great engines. Smooth gearbox. AMT being offered in a diesel. Value for Money. Safer than key rivals.
Showing its age Many upmarket rivals currently. Tigor is an overall much more famous Tata Compact Sedan.