We test the Tata diesel XMA, the first in its segment.
A few months ago there was a lot of hype surrounding the launch of the Tata Zest. This car was supposed to reiterate Tata's position in the growing and utterly competitive sedan segment and it promised to amaze one and all; the fact that that the diesel version was being launched with an automatic variant grabbed more eyeballs. We drove the Zest petrol prior to its launch in Goa and this time around we decided to test the mettle the Zest Diesel Automatic has. Will it impress in reality the way it does on paper? Let's find out.
Things to look forward to
1. Refinement/ Quality of interiors
2. Space and comfort
3. Fuel efficiency
4. Only diesel automatic in its segment
Things that will make you think twice
1. Turbo lag
2. Off-set steering wheel
Design (3.5/5 rating)
When you first look at the Tata Zest its compact beefy dimensions don't fail to impress you. This car has clean design lines which impart it some sophistication and the projector headlamps along with the foglamps are sure to grab your attention. The matt black plastic grille further enhances the chrome Tata logo making it more noticeable, and this coupled with the mildly flared wheel arches impart a buff look to the zest. Fog lamps impart a sporty look, though these are absent on the base variant. Like most Tata cars the use of chrome on the Zest is also limited with hints seen only on the logo on the grille and the boot, along with the variant name. Door handles and mirrors come in body colour with the latter featuring indicator strips - the Zest feels like a car that a corporate honcho would like to drive. Tata has made good use of the minimalistic design language.
Fog lamps impart a sporty look, though these are absent on the base variant. Like most Tata cars the use of chrome on the Zest is also limited with hints seen only on the logo on the grille and the boot, along with the variant name. Door handles and mirrors come in body colour with the latter featuring indicator strips - the Zest feels like a car that a corporate honcho would like to drive. Tata has made good use of the minimalistic design language.
Interiors (4.5/5 rating)
Once you're seated inside the Zest you feel cocooned in comfort. The dual tone interiors give it a chic feel and the quality of plastics is refined that you may reconfirm it twice that this is a Tata car. The interiors are designed in a way that will make the occupants feel classy, if not luxurious. Packed with technology like climate control, Aux-in, Bluetooth and USB input, the Zest offers features seen in some of the leading sedans in its class.
The Bluetooth function is easy to operate and to pair your phone with, and with the steering mounted controls you don't even need to lift a finger off the wheel to answer calls and manage your music. This is one of the most likeable features of the car. Except for the base variant all other trim lines comes with steering mounted controls and an adjustable steering column.
The infotainment center on the Zest diesel XMA features more of buttons unlike its petrol variant which has a touchscreen infotainment center. All these functions and creature comforts are not present on the base variant, though front power windows are standard on all trim lines.
The speedometer is analog and we wish the digits were a tad bit bigger and more illuminated making it easier to read. Tata has provided a digital trip meter and fuel gauge that indicates the number of kilometers covered, along with letting the driver know how many miles can be extracted from the remaining fuel. One may at times feel that there is too much information on the dash, leaving one confused. The Zest comes with a decent boot space of 390 litres and can accommodate two medium sized suitcases easily.
The seats on the Zest offer good lumbar and thigh support, though we wish the driver's seat would come with height adjust, as short drivers may have a hard time looking ahead. The only variant of the Zest that gets seat height adjustment is the 1.3 quadrajet diesel. This is also the variant that gets automatic climate control.
Legroom in the front and second row is spacious offering plenty of movement. The seats come in grey upholstery that go well with the dual tone beige and brow dashboard. Silver inserts are seen on the steering wheel and the inner door handles. The outer rear view mirrors on the Zest XMA can be electronically adjusted, which is a boon especially during monsoons. The biggest detractor is the off-set steering wheel which is noticeable the moment you start driving the car. The misalignment is to such an extent that during the course of the test it gave me a radiating pain in my left shoulder.
Engine and performance (4/5 rating)
The 1.3-litre quadrajet engine dishes out 88 bhp of power @400rpm along with 200 Nm of torque @1750rpm; though once you get onto pinning the throttle the car immediately won't gallop ahead; the turbo lag is evident and it kills the fun when you want to indulge in some excitement on open roads. Keep the pedal pinned and as the revs cross 3000rpm the turbo comes to life, with some hiccups though. The power delivery is linear and the car is sufficiently quick to reach three figure speeds. We got a 0-100 timing of 17.2 seconds.
Unlike other automatic cars when you put the car in D-mode and step off the brake the car moves ahead, in the Zest one needs to accelerate to set the car in motion. Same is the case when one wants to reverse. The automatic tiptronic transmission gearbox is smooth and allows the driver to engage with the manual transmission giving him the liberty to enjoy the perks of driving a manual car. To put it simply, it offers the best of both the worlds, rather transmissions. The automatic mode on the Zest may make you feel like a high-suited corporate chief, but move to sport mode and it's a different story all together - the car's entire characteristic changes, more like Popeye on Spinach. The responsiveness increases, the revs climb faster, and you feel the torque while the car gallops ahead. The sport mode though can be operated only while using the automatic transmission, not when one switches to manual. Fuel economy of the Zest is surprisingly impressive for an automatic car and we might as well say that we're in love with it. We got a fuel economy of 12.2 kmpl in the city and 15.4 kmpl on the highway.
Though all diesel variants of the Zest get the 1.3 litre engine, the power and torque produced by the base variants differs from all the others. The base version of the diesel Zest produces 74 PS of power and 190 Nm of torque and is devoid of Anti-lock braking system (ABS) which is seen on all the other diesel variants.
Ride and handling (4/5 rating)
The Tata Zest surprised us with its brilliant handling and minimal body roll. The car is well planted at high speeds and corners and the steering input is precise. The suspensions though soft, don't absorb all the undulations from the road and at times tend to give you a bumpy ride. Turning radius on the Zest is short making it easy to maneuver the car around tight bends. Ground clearance of 165mm is sufficient to tackle most pothole laden roads and craters in our country.
Will it make the mark?
The Zest has an impressive list of features that may give complexes to many of its competitors and it's no shy guy when it comes to performance as well. These factors coupled with its impressive fuel economy and competitive pricing of Rs 7 lakh ex-showrrom Delhi, are sure to give the Zest a leap ahead in the sedan race. Is it worth the money? If you're looking at buying a diesel automatic sedan, then the Zest will certainly not fail to impress you.