I ’m lucky to have a short daily commute of just 10km to the office and back home, so it’s only fair that the diesel cars in our long-term fleet are best left to my colleagues who rack up more miles than I do. Happy to go petrol without burning too big a hole in my wallet, I plumbed for the Tata Zest in its last stint with us.
Three weeks on, the Zest has hugely impressed me by its ability to tackle roads that vary from bad to very bad on my daily office run. During the monsoons, Mumbai roads crumble by the hour, but that didn’t deter the Zest, which tackled the worst surfaces with aplomb. The long travel suspension and beefy dual path dampers provide an outstanding ride, which cushioned my spine like no other car. It’s not just brilliant suspension, which soaks up the road, but also the light steering and high seating position that took the edge out of tackling Mumbai traffic.
The spacious cabin won fans at home, and the Zest’s large doors and tall stance made getting in and out easy even for elders. Interior quality surprised quite a few of us, with comments like, “I can’t believe this is a Tata car” doing the rounds. The best piece of kit in the Zest is the Harman audio touchscreen system with eight speakers. It’s easy to use, and the acoustic quality is really good.
The last outing for the Zest was as a support car for our Chevy Trailblazer shoot, not far from the company’s Talegaon plant. The roads were terrible – great to test a brute of an SUV with 240mm ground clearance. But how did the Zest manage? Really well, actually. We took it down a muddy track through ruts and ditches, and it coped brilliantly without grounding the underside – the Zest easily wins the ‘Bad Road Baadshah’ title for me.
Weak points? The seats don’t provide a lot of support on long drives. Also, finding an ideal driving position was difficult, as I found the steering a bit too raked for my liking.
I am not a big fan of the 1.2 turbo-petrol Revotron. It doesn’t respond well when you put the hammer down and while it does feel quick when the turbo kicks in, it doesn’t have that spikey power delivery you’d expect from a turbo which I actually like. And it doesn’t sound good either. In traffic, it feels a touch sluggish, but the most irritating part is a slight jerkiness or hesitation at low revs. Most annoying is the Revotron’s tendency to stall just when you engage the clutch, which makes you pile on more revs than usual.
‘Sport’ was the default setting on the multi-drive mode, especially during our 1,700km round trip to Udaipur — the other modes didn’t offer enough grunt for quick overtaking. This resulted in more fuel stops and higher bills which were questioned by the office accountant as the accompanying Xcent petrol consumed 28.5 percent less!
I did end up using Eco mode, but only once, in a bid to stretch a precious few litres in the hunt for a petrol pump. In this mode, the engine feels like it has gone into limp mode, the only consolation being a slight improvement in fuel consumption. For the record, our Zest gave us around 12kpl over the 1,700m it was with us.
I am happy to report that after 7,232km on the clock, the Zest has performed flawlessly. Living with the Tata compact sedan, quality niggles seem a thing of the past. Except for a few squeaks from some of the body panels, there has been nothing to complain about and in its short time with us, the Zest has given me the confidence to drive long distances without a worry. For a Tata, that’s a huge achievement.