Performance – The Tata Zest is offered with the tried and test 1.3-litre Quadrajet diesel engine which produces the same output as it used to earlier. This engine is sourced from Fiat and is also popularly called as the “National Diesel Engine of India”. While offered with a 5-speed manual earlier, it now also gets paired to a 5-speed AMT automatic gearbox, making the Zest the cheapest diesel automatic in the country and also the only diesel automatic car in its segment. The bigger news is the new 1.2-litre Revotron petrol engine, which has been developed by Tata Motors in conjunction with AVL. It’s the first and only turbocharged petrol engine in its class.
The 1.2-litre Revotron turbo engine uses an alloy head and a cast iron block, it belts out 90 PS at 5000 RPM and 140 Nm of torque at as low as 1750 RPM (up to 3500 RPM). The Zest gets a clutch lock and once you start the vehicle, you will really appreciate the low NVH levels, the motor is super refined with no vibes at all. In fact, the NVH is so good that at speed with the audio system playing, you can’t hear much of road, tyre or wind noise. Drivability is where the 1.2T Revotron mill truly shines, it offers an excellent low and mid-range punch but lacks top-end thrust. There is no turbo lag and performance is instant too, with power delivery being linear. The engine doesn’t rev quickly though and you do have to work the gearbox for quick overtakes, more so if the RPM drops below 2500 RPM in higher gears (4th and 5th).
So for instance, driving at 90 km/hr in fifth and you stand on the pedal, the motor does take its time to pull, clearly fifth gear is for cruising. Redline comes in just under 6000 RPM with the tacho glowing red once you whizz past 5500 RPM. 100 km/hr comes up in third gear with the tacho ticking in at around 2300 RPM in top gear at the same speed, so the engine is relaxed when you want to maintain cruising speed on the highway. Tata Motors has tested the engine for 3 lakh hours and there are many highlights of this powertrain – 10% faster than the closest rival, highest power and torque density in it class, 23% better peak torque than the closest rival. The engine doesn’t sound sporty but you can hear the turbo whistle. This is not the motor which will put the tarmac on fire as it’s not tuned for high revs but drivability is its forte. Still, it does cut off smoothly when it hits the redline (like European cars) and doesn’t feel jerky there.
While accelerating, if you lift off, the RPM doesn’t drop quickly, it increases a bit and then falls very slowly. First gear is good for 50 km/hr while second will see you do 90 km/hr. The engine won’t rev more than 5000 RPM in neutral. The Revotron engine also has a first in class drive mode selector (developed with Bosch), you can choose between Eco, City and Sport. By default, the car is in City mode and a touch of a button on the centre console changes the mode (which is reflected on the 2.5-inch display on the instrument cluster). This change happens on the fly and the Eco mode is aimed at mileage, the Sport mode boosts performance marginally while the City mode gives you the best of both (the throttle response is altered). You can feel the power trailing off a bit in Eco mode while the accelerator feels more instant in Sport, the 0-100 km/hr timings reflect the difference in different modes and the same is significant. The 5-speed gearbox offers smooth shifts and the clutch is light too. We can expect a mileage of 13-15 km/l from the petrol Zest.
Driving Dynamics – The Tata Zest is underpinned by the X1 platform which underpins the Vista and Manza. This platform is known for offering a good balance of ride and handling but it’s even better in the Zest. Ride quality is fantastic, the suspension isolating the worst of bumps with ease. Even big bumps don’t unsettle the car by much and that lends it a very mature ride quality which will be appreciated by all passengers (ride quality at the rear is also very good). The Zest doesn’t get bouncy on bad roads and remains glued to the tarmac at high speeds. There is no nervousness felt at all. The car uses the ninth generation Bosch ABS with EBD and braking performance is very good with the car not locking up even under heavy braking. The ABS has ‘Corner Braking Stability’ feature and when you launch the car aggressively, there is very little wheel spin.
Tata Motors has adopted an electric power steering for the Zest (the Manza used a hydraulic unit). Known as EPAS, this steering is similar to the one on the Nano Twist and has been developed by ZFLS. It has an Active Return function which works well to pull the steering back to straight position when you take a u-turn. The steering is speed sensitive, it isn’t too light at low speeds but becomes heavy at high speeds, giving decent feedback but is numb at the straight ahead position. Narain Karthikeyan has tested the car for dynamics and the Zest handles well too, there is some body roll and understeer kicks in quickly when you corner very aggressively. The vehicle runs on Bridgestone tyres which offer good grip.
Safety – The Tata Zest uses a baked hardened steel in its construction. It gets front and side crumple zones along with protection bars for rear passengers. Safety equipment includes dual front airbags, ABS, EBD and Corner Stability Control (CSC). The Zest feels strong, the doors close with a reassuring thud and the thickness of metal is good too. However, the vehicle isn’t tested by Global NCAP yet and we can only comment on the safety of the vehicle after a crash test rating has been given to it. The company has crash tested the Tata Zest at its own facility and it meets Indian regulations.
Verdict – A sub 4-metre Tata sedan has been a long time coming and all that wait seems to be well worth it. Tata Motors has finally cracked it. The Zest is a car which is not only a step up for the company, it’s a step up in multiple ways for the segment in which it is going to be positioned. The car comes with many first in class features which will make competitors sweat and force them to up their game. The Zest is unlike any Tata car, there is no compromise on anything. Right from a state of the art turbo petrol engine to an infotainment system which can put cars five times the price to shame. Then there is the generous equipment list, high attention to detail, fantastic ride quality and the list is almost endless. The Tata Zest is bound to be a sure shot hit in the Indian market, it’s that good a car.
The Tata Zest has been designed with thorough attention to even the minutest of details. The efforts put in by the company clearly shows and reflects in how this car excels at most fronts. The Zest is so good that it has what it takes to dethrone the segment leader.
* First turbocharged petrol engine with drive modes
* Attractive design
* Excellent interiors with plenty of space
* Plethora of features
* Amazing ConnectNext infotainment system
* Fantastic ride quality
What’s Not So Cool
* No rear seat centre arm rest, dead pedal and bottle holders in doors
* Rear seat doesn’t flip forward
2014 Tata Zest Specifications
* Engine: 1193cc, turbocharged, Revotron (Petrol), 1248cc, Quadrajet (Diesel)
* Power: 90 PS @ 5000 RPM (Petrol), 90 PS @ 4000 RPM (Diesel)
* Torque: 140 Nm @ 1750-3500 RPM (Petrol), 200 Nm @ 1750-3000 RPM (Diesel)
* Transmission: 5-speed manual (Petrol, Diesel), 5-speed AMT (Diesel)
* 0-100 km/hr: 13.68, 15.94, 16.62 seconds (Petrol in Sports, City and Eco modes), 15.31 seconds (Diesel)
* Top Speed: 170 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 13 km/l (Petrol), 16 km/l (Diesel)
* Fuel Type: Petrol, Diesel
* Suspension: McPherson Strut (Front), Twist Beam (Rear)
* Tyres: 185/60/15
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Drum (Rear)
* Safety: Dual Airbags, ABS, EBD, Corner Stability Control
2014 Tata Zest Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 3995 mm X 1706 mm X 1570 mm
* Wheelbase: 2470 mm
* Front/Rear Track: 1450/1440 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.1 metres
* Ground clearance: 175 mm
* Boot Space: 390 litres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 44 litres
* Kerb Weight: 1115-1135 kgs (Petrol), 1170 kgs (Diesel)
Further Reading –