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Tata Motors launches Zest sedan to take on Maruti

Priced at Rs 4.64 lakh, the all-new car is the cheapest in its category

BS Reporter  |  Mumbai 

Ranjit Yadav, President, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors and Timothy Leverton, President and Head, Engineering Research Centre, Tata Motors during the launch of the new Zest in Mumbai

Tata Motors on Tuesday ended its four-year product launch drought, launching the Zest, a compact sedan priced at Rs 4.64 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The car, the cheapest in its category, will compete against the Maruti Suzuki Dzire, the Honda Amaze, the Hyundai Xcent and the Tata Motors Indigo CS.

Tata Motors claims the Zest is loaded with 29 “segment-leading” features and will be available in nine variants across petrol and diesel engines. Tata Motors’ first new model launch after the Aria launch in 2010, the Zest sports a new 1.2-litre gasoline engine from the Revotron family. (DRIVING ZEST INTO MARKETS)

The Maruti Suzuki Dzire is the best-selling car in this category, despite the fact that it costs about Rs 20,000 more than the second-bestseller, the Hyundai Xcent. With average sales of about 18,000 units a month, the Dzire is among the two best selling cars in India.

In the past few months, however, sales of the Hyundai Xcent and the Honda Amaze have declined. Against a targeted 10,000 units, Xcent sales now stand at about 7,000 units a month. Sales of the Honda Amaze have fallen from about 7,000 units a month to 4,500 units.

The compact sedan segment enjoys the same excise duty structure as that applicable to hatchbacks such as the Maruti Suzuki Swift or the Hyundai i10. To suit the excise duty structure, automobiles have either cut the length of their regular sedans or stretched their existing hatchbacks. Cars with lengths of less than four metres, with petrol engines less than 1,200 cc or diesel engines less than 1,500 cc, qualify for the eight per cent excise duty structure. If any of these parameters isn’t adhered to, the next slab — 20 per cent — is applicable.

The sub-four metre sedan segment accounts for sales of about 33,000-35,000 units a month. The Zest has paved the way to a comeback for Tata Motors in this segment, which it had created with the launch of the Indigo CS a few years ago. Maruti Suzuki, however, cut the length of the Dzire to sub-four metres, which resulted in lower demand for the Indigo CS. Ranjit Yadav, president (passenger vehicle business unit), Tata Motors, said, “The Zest has been engineered for global customers by global teams across India, the UK, Italy and Korea. With 29 segment-first features it is the first all-new vehicle in the Horizonext journey.”

The Zest allows the driver to choose between three drive modes—Sport, Eco and City— which, according to Tata Motors, is suited to individual driving tastes. For instance, in the Sport mode, the car will have sharpest throttle response and the quickest acceleration; in the Eco mode, these will be reduced to boost fuel efficiency.

The 1.2-litre petrol engine comes with a turbo-charger and has a top speed of 154 km/hour, while the 1.3-litre diesel engine, also seen in the Maruti Suzuki Dzire, is borrowed from its partner Fiat. The diesel model has a claimed top speed of 158 km/hour.

In a first, Tata Motors has introduced the automatic manual transmissions in the Zest, in the lines of Maruti, which launched the Celerio hatchback that had the same technology. For now, only the diesel version of the Zest will have this feature.

To meet the expected demand for the Zest, Tata Motors has completed the revamp of 160 sales outlets and recruited 3,000 people. The company’s showrooms wear a new look and it has revamped its service network, too. Now, car mechanics use tablets to fill the ‘job sheet’, which is later emailed to car owners.

First Published: Wed, August 13 2014. 00:46 IST