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Test Drive: Tata breaks the mould with the new Zica

Tata's new Zica is the first hatchback to make a total departure from the old Indica silhouette, and even debuts the manufacturer’s new pair of engines

"It doesn't look like the Indica at all." These could be your first words when you see the Tata Zica. Although the images released by the company earlier showed that the new hatchback from the house of Tata shared no visual reference with the Indica, it still comes as a surprise when the car is seen in the flesh for the first time. This is the first time since 1998 that a hatchback has rolled out off the Tata assembly line that looks absolutely new and contemporary.

Tata Zica Revotorq and Revotron

Just enough
The front end is sharpish, and at the rear, the stance is such that the car sits in a moderate squat that helps visual appeal. From a distance, the interior looks nice but get closer and those feelings become mixed. The top half of the dashboard, finished with a combination of dark grey and piano black plastic, looks impressive. The bottom half of the dash, however, finished in a light grey plastic, leaves behind the impression that it's been built to a cost. Although the claim of more than 20-odd intelligently placed stowage spaces is over-the-top, there are enough cubbyholes strewn around the spacious cabin, no doubt. A foldable hook that can hold a small bag of groceries to the left of the centre console is a neat touch.

Tata Zica Revotorq and Revotron

The seats, though comfortable, could do with more support, especially for the thighs. Although the vehicle will undoubtedly be sold as a five-seater, fitting three adults at the back will be quite a squeeze. Getting in and out of the car, however, is a fairly easy affair since the seat height isn't too low and the doors open quite wide.

Engine choices
Apart from being an all-new hatch from Tata Motors, the Zica also houses two new engines — a 1.2-litre Revotron petrol engine and a 1.05-litre Revotorq diesel engine. Transmission to the front wheels is via a five-speed manual gearbox in both cases.
For a three-cylinder diesel engine, the new Revotorq doesn't feel unrefined at idling but as you get going and the revs climb beyond 2,500 RPM, the engine note begins to get coarse. The engine, like most turbocharged units of its kind, does suffer from a fairly high degree of lag and you start moving with urgency only past the 2,000-RPM mark.

A new app that allows turn-by-turn navigation using a Bluetooth compatible phone is a nice addition to the equipment list PICS/Sanjay Raikar
A new app that allows turn-by-turn navigation using a Bluetooth compatible phone is a nice addition to the equipment list Pics/Sanjay Raikar

Thankfully, the rather flat torque curve means you can potter around in town without discomfort. If you have to overtake, though, you will need to shift down.

Unlike the Revotron engines we have seen in the Tata Zest and Bolt, the one in the Zica is a three-cylinder naturally aspirated unit. For a three-cylinder petrol engine it sounds quite smooth and even though you can feel some muted vibrations coming in through the firewall and the gear lever, it's not really bothersome. On the go, the Revotron-equipped Zica feels peppier than the Revotorq version. For starters, there's no lag and the power delivery is far more linear. The fact that the petrol has 15 PS more and is 68 kg lighter (Revotron kerb weight is 1,012 kg compared to Revotorq's 1,080 kg) also helps. Like the diesel Revotorq, the new Revotron engine also seems to promise fuel economy. We saw a worst of 11.6 km/l and a best figure of 15.1 km/l.

The dashboard sports a clean design but the light grey plastic is a downer
The dashboard sports a clean design but the light grey plastic is a downer

For those with not too much of a daily run, the Zica petrol is the one that makes more sense. It's the more enjoyable car of the two to drive and the engine is decently fuel-efficient. Not to mention, you will certainly pay less to own it. For now, however, we wait for Tata Motors to announce the price.

The new petrol engine works smoother than the diesel one
The new petrol engine works smoother than the diesel one

Final call
There are bits and bobs in the Zica that work really well. It's loaded with a safety equipment and features. The top-end version we drove had twin airbags, ABS, EBD and even Corner Stability Control. It also had steering-mounted controls, power windows with auto-down function for the driver, electrically adjustable ORVMs, and follow-me-home headlamps. Where the Zica really excels is in the ride quality department. Over broken roads or even railway crossings, the suspension just irons out all the shocks, making it a very comfortable car to be in.

At the same time, there exist areas that need improvement. For starters, on the handling front, we'd say the Zica is average. Better than some of the other products from the Tata portfolio but average still. There are others, including in its segment, that will out-handle the Zica on twists and turns. The quality of plastic on the dash needs to be uniformly good. At the end of the day, however, the Zica will jostle with the Maruti Suzuki Celerio and the Hyundai Grand i10 for space, and, depending on Tata Motors' pricing, should make for an interesting addition to that segment.

Need to know

Tata Zica     Revotorq Revotron
Price (Estimated) Rs 5.5—7.0 lakh    Rs 4.5—6.0 lakh
Engine Type 1,047 cc, three cylinders in-line, 12-valve, DOHC, Diesel    1,199 cc, three cylinders in-line, 12-valve DOHC, Petrol
Maximum Power 170 PS @ 4,000 rpm    5 PS @ 6,000 rpm
Maximum Torque 140 Nm @ 1,800-3,000 rpm 114 Nm @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed Manual 5-speed Manual

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