Being based in Pune, with an office in Mumbai, means frequent trips back and forth, at least a couple of times a month, to wrap up my bit for the magazine. My primary means of covering the 310km round trip for the past few months has been the Tata Zest. I got the car from an ex-colleague who was using it before me, and while it shows 22,353km on the odo as I write this report, I’m responsible for putting only about the last couple of thousand kilometres on it.
It’s been a faithful companion on my Mumbai trips and I really appreciate the fact that it packs the 1.3-litre Quadrajet diesel motor, and that too the 90hp one. It’s got plenty of torque on tap for quick overtakes at highway speeds and when you’re cruising with minimal throttle input, it’s a real slow sipper as well. Out on the Mumbai-Pune expressway, it easily manages 19-20km to the litre, while the overall mileage (which also includes a fair amount of city driving) is just a tad under the 17kpl mark.
Good mileage means it does a fair distance on a tank of diesel.
This XMA variant features the F-Tronic AMT (Automated Manual Transmission) gearbox and I’m impressed at just how fuel efficient the car is. However, I have a fair bit of gripes regarding the way this AMT works. Normally, for any automatic or AMT gearbox, one would assume that the moment you get off the brake after slotting it into ‘D’, the car would start creeping ahead. No such luck here, as the Zest doesn’t budge without throttle input. That’s not a problem if you’re just setting off, but if you’re trying to inch along in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or worse, manoeuvring it in tight parking spaces, you’ll find modulating the power quite tricky. And when driving briskly, though the tiptronic mode is a saving grace to a certain extent, the shifts are just too slow. You get a pronounced head-nod each time the car shifts up and, frankly, it gets annoying really fast. Quite a shame considering that it’s a fairly decent handling machine. Sure, it rolls around a bit, but chucking it around the bends isn’t really a scary affair. And the ride quality is pretty good too.
Speaking of reliability, twice we’ve had the intercooler hose pop off its mounting – once when I was driving and again when my colleague was, before me. Now this isn’t a catastrophic failure, but once that hose pops, you lose turbo pressure and the car goes into ‘limp-home’ mode. It’s an easy fix if you have a pair of pliers to work the hose clip, but you really need to let the engine cool down before you reach for that hose. It’s not an easy reach either. Recently, the car was sent to the company to sort this issue out, and so far, I’ve done three trips to Mumbai and a whole lot of driving around Pune without the problem recurring. Let’s just hope it stays that way. Fingers crossed!