16 years ago, Tata Motors gave us the Indica – it was considered to be quite a leap forward for the company; their first hatchback, but the passage of time solidified its reputation as a rather lacklustre product – practical to an extend, but far too rough around the edges to be popular as a family hatchback. With the Indica relegated to cab fleets, Tata needed a successor, one that’s been in the pipeline for some time now.

What do we have here?

It’s called the Zica (pronounced Zee-ca) and it too signifies a leap for the car-maker. Sitting squarely between the budget friendly Nano and the bigger Tata Bolt, the Zica aims to compete with cars like the Hyundai i10, Grand i10, Ford Figo etc. It may not have a particularly tough act to follow with the Indica as a predecessor, but if Tata motors intend to make a substantial mark in the mid-sized hatchback market, they’ll need to have a deck full of aces.

First impressions

The Zica is a fresh start for Tata motors – in every conceivable way. There is no genealogical trace, no resemblance to any previous Tata car. It does resemble some of the cars it rivals, but you needn’t dwell on that for too long. What you can clearly observe, is that on the visual front, the Zica is a cheerful looking hatch, with a trendy array of colours and smooth edges which create a contemporary design that’s not likely to age very soon.

The more severe changes appear to have been made on the inside. Unlike the Indica, the Zica has been lavished with attention to detail. The steering design is new, and the dash and its surrounding buttons are all made of high quality plastic, so things feel quite plush for its segment. Along with this the Zica also gets an all-new chassis and two new engines. Tata appears to be moving away from the Fiat powertrains so what we get instead is a refined 1.2 litre Revotron petrol and a 1.0 litre Revotorq diesel (also found in the Zest and the Bolt).

Image 7 ZICA Top shot

What’s it like to drive?

Let’s start with the petrol. The 1.2 litre Revotron is an all-aluminium unit, now in its second generation. It feels reasonably refined, save for the noise that creeps into the cabin. Power delivery is quick enough for city limits, with a sharp 5-speed manual gearbox providing short, quick throws and working rather well with the engine. The slightly heavier, Revotorq diesel being the torquier unit is quicker off the mark and is a bit more fun to drive. In terms of power delivery, both engines do the job quite well – use the gearbox judiciously and both units feel quite crisp. They may not have the urgency of the Grand i10’s diesel, but as far as new units go, Tata have done a pretty decent job. Seat comfort is a tricky thing to calibrate in this segment, but the Zica seems to have gotten it right – they’re not likely to tire you out anytime soon.

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How does it handle?

A lot of Tata’s current crop of small cars tend to have steerings that feel unnecesarily light, but not the Zica. It’s not the most engaging unit out there, but it does contain a pleasant amount of heft at higher speeds. The suspension setup is quite soft, so you do experience some body roll, but the setup works fine in cities and the odd undulations waiting around the corner. The car grips well around the corners, so the overall driveability of the Zica is actually quite good.Image 4

Is it loaded?

On the safety front, there is ABS, and dual front airbags. On the infotainment side, you get an excellent ConnectNext entertainment system from Harmann with voice-guided navigation that informs you of a change in direction at turns. The guidance system is quite intuitive and the overall sound quality of the system is exceptional. Naturally these features are available only in the top-end variants, the prices of which haven’t been disclosed yet.

Image 8 Full Dashboard shot

VERDICT

The Zica is a wholesome hatchback. It’s comfortable, contemporarily styled and spacious. In the mid-level hatchback space, Tata seems to be matching steps with the best in the business. We’ve established that the Zica is a competent car, but it’s the pricing that’ll undoubtedly determine how far its destined to go.