Interiors – If the exteriors are a step up for Tata Motors, the interiors are even a bigger step up. The Zest has a very exciting dashboard, it’s all new and there is absolutely nothing in common with other Tata cars. If you remove the Tata logo on the steering wheel, you will be fooled to think that your sitting in an European vehicle, such is the leap in interior design and equipment. The dashboard is focussed towards the driver and the dual-tone treatment works well to boost the appeal. Tata Motors has used a slew of colours, the top part of the dashboard is black, with the centre using beige for that airy feel. Still, there are more colours like the piano black finishing on the centre console, above the glove box and around the instrument cluster. Silver finishing at multiple places and chrome surrounds around the AC vents and instrument cluster give the cabin the premium touch.
The instrument cluster is very neat on the Zest, on start-up, it swings the needles to the max and comes back. The tacho and speedo have a digital display in between them which shows instant economy, distance to empty, two tripmeters (with average mileage), gear shift indicator, time, driving mode, individual door open warning, outside temperature, etc. There is no redline marking on the tachometer because once the car approaches the redline, the tachometer needle turns from white to red. The temperature and fuel meters have bars. The stalks are chunky and the headlight leveller is on the right stalk itself. The steering wheel is small and a prefect 360 mm in size, it has height adjust. It has contours on 2 and 10 O’clock positions for added grip. The 3-spoke wheel also gets audio controls, not too many buttons but highly functional as you can accept/reject calls, use voice commands, change audio source, mute, increase/decrease volume all from the comfort of the steering.
The Tata Zest is the widest car in its class, it also has the biggest wheelbase. No wonder then, it has a very roomy cabin. The front seats offer good support and cushioning is just right with ample back support (the driver seat gets height adjust but the seat belts don’t get height adjust). Even at the rear, the seats impress you, they offer terrific levels of comfort with plenty of leg, knee and head room on offer. Under thigh support is decent too but there are no pockets behind the front seats, which are scooped out to boost knee room at the rear. The cabin being wide enough makes seating three at the rear an easier task than in other compact sedans but the floor isn’t flat and there is no fifth headrest in the car. The Zest lacks a rear seat centre arm rest, a shocking omission as all other sub 4-metre sedans come with this feature. Each door has an arm rest with the power window switch falling right in hand. The rear windows are big too (they roll down completely) and visibility is good from the rear. Storage inside the cabin isn’t great as the doors don’t have bottle holders but small pockets which will take a half litre bottle but not a 1-litre one. There is only one cup holder (below the centre console) although the glovebox is very big and there is a storage tray below the co-driver’s seat. Even the rear parcel shelf is small.
Where the Tata Zest over-impresses is with the ConnectNext Infotainment system which has been made by Harman, specially for this car (and the Bolt). The system has a plethora of features, most of them being a segment first. There are two head units, the top of the line model gets a 5-inch touch screen (the touch is smooth and accurate) while lower models gets a 3.5-inch screen, still there is not much difference in features. The audio system comes with Bluetooth, AUX, USB/iPod (also charges a phone), SD card (supports up to 64 GB) connectivity options. The system also doubles up as a reverse parking sensor display, image viewer, climate control display (the AC works very well) and the likes. The features are just countless. There is voice commands (for the Phone, Radio, Media and Climate Control) which works flawlessly, even complicated names are easily picked up and if you search for a song, the system will search across all sources to find the song and play it for you. A long hold on the right button (on the steering wheel) activates the voice command feature. There is also an IR remote.
One can also browse songs to see which is next in line while the phone options are insane. You can send an SMS through the car when you reject a call telling the caller that you are driving, you can also read messages on your mobile phone through this system. The 8-speaker (4 speakers and 4 tweeters) music system offers impressive audio quality and there is no cracking from the speakers, even on full volume (which is 30). Even the radio doesn’t crack and when on full volume, you can hear everything crystal clear on the outside of the car. The attention to detail really blew us over, like the system has volume sensing and increases the volume according to speed, decreasing it when you get into reverse. A long press on the next song results in it going into the next folder. You can use the audio system on battery power for an hour, without inserting the key and when you do turn on the car, the system doesn’t pause for even a second, usually in other cars it halts for a couple of seconds when you turn on the vehicle.
The audio system supports all music formats and the time is linked with the cluster, so any change on either will automatically update the clock on the other. There is also video support but it doesn’t play when the car is in motion. Special attention has been paid to FM quality, there is no hiss sound and the reception is exceptional. Tata Motors claims that that the ConnectNext system on the top-end Zest is on par with luxury cars when it comes to audio quality. The acoustics have been tuned very well and there is the staging effect. It is, in fact so good that the lower infotainment system with the 3.5-inch display is miles ahead of the closest competitor. The only thing lacking is navigation but could be added in the future. The ConnectNext system is so feature rich that along with the car manual, there is a whole manual for the infotainment system.
The power window lock has a red light which blinks when the lock isn’t activated and when it is, the driver can still operate all the windows. Some switches are lifted from the Vista/Manza and don’t feel as solid. The buttons for the parking sensor, front and rear fog lights are placed below the AC controls on the centre console. The doors autolock when the car reaches 10 km/hr and the best part is, they will continue to lock at 10 km/hr even if you open them (autolocking only happens the first time in most cars). You can also choose in the infotainment system if you want the autolocking to happen, for how long you want the follow me home headlights to stay activated, the beep of the reverse parking sensors (there are three tones to choose from), park assist volume, park assist delay timer, etc. There is an illuminated key ring for making it easy to insert the key into the ignition.
The boot is decently big but is hampered by suspension intrusion on both sides, the rear seats don’t flip forward. There are springs for making opening and closing of the trunk very light. The spare wheel doesn’t get an alloy wheel and the wipers are single blade ones with the two nozzles throwing twin jets of spray each. There is no dead pedal but the pedal placement is good. When you turn on the parking light, the DRLs switch off which shouldn’t be the case as the DRLs would look even better at night. The DRL tell-tale light glows in the cluster all the time. The horn is a dual-tone one and sounds good. The stalks are designed in a way that they could take buttons but there are no buttons so we can expect them to be used in the future. The Zest also has lane change indicators and the rear number plate light uses two LEDs which helps to save space. The car also gets a crank lock, so if the vehicle is on and you try to crank it, it will just blink the fuel and temperature bars, neat. Overall, the interiors of the Zest are not only a huge leap over the Manza, they also beat the competition in several areas. The quality is excellent as well and we couldn’t spot any panel gaps on our test cars. A big thumbs up to Tata.