Testing the Tata Zest

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Tata Motors is promoting its soon-to-be launched ZEST in a unique way, creating waves through social media.  50 bloggers were invited,via Blogadda.com. to test drive both the automatic and manual versions of this zippy, peppy car over a monsoon weekend in Goa, and I was one of these lucky folk.

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Let me state my credentials upfront.

I am not a car specialist at all, but I am a regular driver, and have been for many years.

I drive – all the time, every day – in Delhi where I live.

I drive myself, so safety and security will always be a consideration in looking at any car.

And obviously, fuel efficiency will always be a consideration.

After master classes and interaction with the designers and technicians from Tata, who were totally and enthusiastically passionate about this car to a woman/man, we were divided into groups of 3 bloggers and allocated 2 cars per group – the diesel automatic transmission Quadrajet 1.3 and the petrol manual transmission 1.2L Revotron 1.2T.

The idea was that we would all drive each car for 1/3 of the time, but as, essentially, the only driver in my test group, I was lucky enough to have the full 2 hour experience, and so got a pretty good feel for these 2 cars.

The impressive array of ZESTs waiting for us all to drive them away :

Our first test drive was the ZEST diesel automatic transmission Quadrajet 1.3, and a very smooth easy drive it was, too.

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The car felt very peppy and handled the roads well. It had rained overnight, there were crowds in most villages, as people poured out of Sunday Mass, but braking and slowing down were seamless and smooth.  Overtaking was easy, and the car always felt firm.  Both versions of the ZEST held the road well, and all the time I felt completely safe in the the car (and that is a compliment to the car, I hasten to add, nothing to do with my driving.)

I had a bit of an issue starting both the cars, in as much as you need to depress the brake to start. There is nothing remotely rocket-science-y about this at all, simply a question of old habits die hard, and I kept forgetting.

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Since I was doing the driving, I let my co-bloggers do all the testing of the sound system, the air conditioning, and all the other features, especially the flagship Connectnext system. Their feedback was largely favourable, though to be brutally honest, we battled with the voice commands. You are supposed to be able to control the infotainment system through voice controls, which is a brilliant concept, but we couldn’t figure out how to get it going, which was a disappointment.  I was so looking forward to issuing orders to an on-board “gofer” but sadly it didn’t happen.  Perhaps it was us, the good folk of group D3 who were at fault, but we just couldn’t get the voice controls to work.

I found the diesel automatic transmission Quadrajet 1.3 to be a restful drive, but perhaps not as zippy as the manual version, and there is, of course, also the diesel vs petrol aspect.

When I switched, an hour later, to the petrol manual transmission 1.2L Revotron 1.2T, there was unquestionably more zip under the bonnet.

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We fairly flew along the pretty lanes and through the colourful villages, and the manual version has the amazing feature of being able to switch modes, while driving, simply by pressing a button. From city to eco to sport, we experimented with transiting these modes, and there was a definite difference.

Starting out in city mode, when I switched to sport, there was a noticeable thrust, and for a fleeting moment, as I barrelled along a gorgeous tree-shaded Goan lane, I felt like Narain Karthikeyan, who had made an exciting guest appearance at our masterclass the previous evening. OK, I exaggerate a tad, but all the same, the car fairly flew down the road.

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When we tested the Eco programme, the car felt a little more sluggish, but what I obviously do not know is the fuel economy involved, but it was no doubt considerable, and I’m sure this feature will be a definite selling point.

Most of the time, though, we drove in city mode, and at the risk of sounding repetitive, the petrol manual transmission 1.2L Revotron 1.2T handled well, felt very smooth, and – well, quite simply, nice and easy to drive.  This is probably not a very “techy” type description, but both cars felt safe and reliable.

Overall, great car, and I had a positive feeing about both versions.

Niggles?

All little ones :

1) The horn in the manual was way harder to depress than in the automatic model.  Sadly, in the current Indian driving context, one needs to use the horn…

2) After one pit stop, my passenger forgot to put his seat belt on, and there was no warning sound/light.

3)  The buttons to change from city->eco->sport are down low, to the left of the steering wheel, and since it is only the driver who will use these controls, I would have preferred them to be at driver-eye-height, not necessitating taking one’s eyes off the road to access them.

Good car.

Looking forward it seeing how this nice-looking car does once it is released.

For more information, check out the ZEST website.

Our first car was fitted with a GoPro camera, which was fun, and (I have to be honest here) we all enjoyed chatting (and perhaps hamming it up a wee bit) for the camera.z13photo 3

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