Sunday, July 27, 2014

Goa Zest Ride - Tata Motors and BlogAdda’s Event

A message from Harish (from BlogAdda) asked me to block my dates for 26-27 and i immedietely said yes (I have a long standing relationship with BlogAdda). But I kept wondering what kind of event they are planning.
Finally the email with details arrived. 2 days in Goa to experience the new car - Zest - by Tata Motors. I looked forward to this with nervousness (i havent really driven a car in 20 years) ... but excited at the same time.  
Jet airways check-in counter executive told me our seats were pre-booked so all of us bloggers were sitting together. A little bit of chat. A lit bit of fun (my neighbor had trouble with her seat belt) andfinally the journey ended with a THUD.

Yeah, a loud thunderous THUD – That's how our flight landed in Goa. Probably, someone asked the pilot to 'drop' the passengers in Goa and he took that literally. After picking our luggage (my bag decided to not engage in rate race on the belt and came in at the fag end when most of the passengers had already left the left (and the airport too).

Outside, the gentlemen at the specially erected Tata Motors Zest counter took our name and marked us as 'Present' and we all were directed to our Bus (actually mini-Bus … it almost felt like full-sized half-bus). The Bus journey was uneventful with bloggers interacting with their neighbours and looking outside their windows. With no neighbor, I was left looking outside the window when it struck me to start off recording the journey and that's when I started writing this. But now, let me get back to enjoy the sights of goa greenery. And, I mean the green variety.

Check-in at the specially erected Tata Zest counter with a bag with T and a metal badge with name given. Lunch and a bit of rest to get ready for the blogger networking at 5 …

Funny that they mentioned there was complimentary wifi for only 1 device in the room. With 2 people sharing a room, between them it is not unthinkable to have at least 4 devices needing wifi – 2 phones + a tablet + a laptop …

At 7 we were back again at the venue (Unicorn) where the main event began with Miss Malini as out host and several speakers from Tata Motors Zest design team who gave us an introduction to the Zest, the thought and effort behind creating a world class car and some of it amazing first-in-class features.

The general feeling indeed was that Tata Motors have taken a giant leap in terms of car design and manufacturing. They have moved from building 'strong and sturdy' cars to a place where they have added design and class to it too.

The star attraction and special chief guest of the event was our very own Indian F1 racer Narain Karthikeyan. It was a delight to have him here. He spoke for a few minutes about Zest and then there were photo ops and visiting the various 'stalls' Tata Motors had put up for explaining the intricacies of design features of Zest.

This was followed by networking dinner and time passed as we interacted with fellow bloggers and before we knew it was already 11. Someone reminded that we had to wake up at 6 in the morning so the crowd began to disperse.

Good Night and sweet dreams.
more about Day 2 ... later ...

Tata Zest – Car Review : Super Awesome

So let me start off with a confession, I haven't driven a car in a very long time – make that decades. And I learnt driving on an Automatic car and drove that only. The only time I drove a clutch-n-gear car is when I joined a driving class for my license; hardly qualifies as a driving experience.

So, when I gathered courage to drive the Automatic Diesel version of Tata Zest, I warned my car-partners about a possible bumpy and rusty ride as I was driving after a loooooooong time.

SURPRISINGLY, it turned out to be a pretty smooth ride. My car-partners did not complain at all (that's credit to them and their supportive nature) but that's not to take the credit away from the super-quite super-smooth super-comfortable drive that the Tata Zest offers. I felt completely at ease driving the car and never felt the touch of nervousness inside me or the heaviness of the car itself. It was light and smooth ride and I can't say enough to stress the comfort levels.

The Goa roads (a 25 km route chalked out for our test drive) were nice a smooth with a mix of wide highway road as well as narrow roads (where you are forced to move to a side and literally stop to allow the another car coming from opposite side to pass)

We had a perfect team of 3 for the test drive, Vidya (@vidyasury) - one who wasn't going to drive, Neha Kapoor (@PWNeha) - who was comfortable driving a clutch-n-gear car and me (@shoooonya) - who was ready to experiment driving the automatic variety. I got to drive the entire circuit of 25 km in the automatic and Neha Kapoor drove the entire 25 in the petrol version (clutch and gear). While Neha was driving, I relegated myself to enjoy the comfort and space of the back seat with our Navigator Rahul.

While my entire focus while driving was on the act of driving (I was nervous too) so I could hardly explore or enjoy the many features of the car. During my back seat ride, I was focused on the comfort of the seating, the interior finish and polish, the feel of richness of textures, the comfort of the air-conditioning and the silence within the car (except for our frequent burst of laughter that is).

I couldn't really use the media center - the Harman Machine Interface – but having read about it and having heard about its feature, I think this is surely going to be a game-changer in some  ways. Voice commands would be a first in this car segment so buyers of Zest are in for a surprise – a car that listens to you and does your bidding. It will switch radio channels and change AC settings for you. It will read out your mobile messages to you and even take or reject calls when you just ask you to do it. Takes 'hands-free' to another level. The interface itself gives a host of touch screen control features where you can control AC, Audio system and other things. And of course, a subtle design engineering applied to give the feel to the 'driver' that the whole central console is 'tilted' towards him … or lets say … facing him/her.

Another small but intelligent feature is that that the volume of the music playing in the car adjusts itself with the speed of the car. You may wonder why? Even though the car is pretty silent, as you increase the speed, the sound levels do increase a little bit. The car audio system actually adjusts and raises/lowers the volume to keep your 'listenability' to same levels. Pretty neat I would say.

There are many such subtle features which make the car interiors and the driving experience a very pleasant one.

From the outside, Tata has made a passionate attempt and used some very bold design concepts which reflect in a different 'face' design of the car as well as the strong sling-shot lines on the side along with a diamond shaped day light opening (shaping the windows). These are designed to give a distinctive look to the car which it certainly does … but there is more to be desired on this front. The design is not really startlingly DIFFERENT. I might miss it if it whizzed past me on the road.

Tata's have created a world-class product by investing in world-class manufacturing (over 400 robots involved in manufacturing of the car) as well as world-class sales and service. They invested lakhs on their dealers – helping them recruit fresh new people, providing tablets for the sales staff, even changing the d├ęcor and upholstery of the car dealership to create a certain up-market sophisticated feel for the customer walking in. Tata Motors are investing in Brand Image upgrade and it is certainly paying off.

They have created the new car around the design pillars of ConnectNext (through the Harman machine interface), DesignNext (car design, interiors, rich feel) and of course DriveNext (super powerful Revotron Engine with a default city mode and additional Sports mode and Eco(nomy) mode).

I could go on and on about the many features – quite a few being first-in-class features – of the car but suffice to say that Tata's are breaking some serious grounds with this car and with the right price, they might help upgrade a large mass of sedan users to a much better and superior car. If they price the car in the higher range, the success might be stinted as they will have competition from established players who are far ahead in the curve. The indicative price of 5.5 to 7.5 Lakhs is not really a clincher but then the name TATA evokes emotions (Trust and Respect) so it might just help sell the car (which would seem over-priced to some since they expect Tata to give them more for less moolah)

On the whole, a fantastic car !!

I have driven it so now my family will begin thinking on the lines of buying this car so that I can drive for a change. I have not driven our clutch-n-gear car which forces my bro and dad to drive and my mom and my wife always complain of me taking the back-seat. Now their complaints will be put to rest and Tata Motors … you already have a buyer in Me !!
Let me close with a picture of Me, Vidya and Neha with the car we drove ...