Tata Altroz 1.2 Petrol & 1.5 Diesel in Cartoq’s first drive review

The Altroz has been a familiar word in the car industry for the past few months. Anyone remotely related to automobiles knows a lot about the car in pictures here. This is Tata Motors’ ticket into the world of premium hatchbacks and is based on the 45X concept that was showcased at the 2018 Auto Expo in Feb last year. This also means that from concept stage to reality, the company took less than two years. Impressive!

But what’s even more impressive is the dedication and work that has gone into the product to make sure it stands out in more than just the design department. Talking of which, there is no taking away from the fact that the Altroz is the best looking hatchback in India, not only in the premium domain. The car, in its production version, looks too good to be true. In flesh, I couldn’t help but get a smile on my face each time I looked the car. It is that good! The Altroz will very well holds its own in any international market when Tata takes it global next year.

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In the company of its current rivals in India, it looks from a generation above. It’s not only got to do with its dimensions, being wider than all other premium hatchbacks and taller than most, but the way designers at Tata Motors have retained a lot of design cues from the 45X. There are no LED lamps up front but what makes it different is the black treatment that runs across the width of the face. The same can be on the side profile, highlighting the rising shoulder line.

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Talking of the side profile, I like the way the 16-inch alloys look like – far better than the ones we saw on the scale model last month. These fill up the arches very well and the size is adequate too. While the petrol model gets 195mm wide tyres, the diesel does with 185mm ones – this was to keep the side profile or the aspect ratio taller to compensate for the heavier diesel mill. Next, you notice the absence of a rear door handle. Like the good old Beat and the current Swift, the handle is concealed in the black casing around the C pillar. This looks neat and gives the Altroz a very coupe-ish look.

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At the rear, the black panel again extends across the width – this along with the black effect around the windshield and the black spoiler lend a very sporty touch to the Altroz. I like the bold badge treatment too – Tata indeed is very proud of this brand name.

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Step inside and you are greeted by acres of room – for what is a sub 4m hatchback, the Altroz does offer massive space for five adults. The rear offers best in class legroom and I won’t deny that. Further, given the width on offer and a relatively flat floor, seating three here isn’t an issue. Rear passengers also get vents and a charging outlet. What however is the USP here is the way the doors open up – 90 degrees! I have never seen this in any other car that’s made in India. This in turn makes getting in and out very easy and will be loved by the elderly as well as little kids.

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The same feature greets you up front as well and once seated, you appreciate the clutter free cabin. The design of the fascia isn’t too bling but will go down well with the premium appeal. The floating type touch screen was first seen in the Nexon, looks nice and is functional too. However, the touch reception could have been better. Ditto for the speedometer console wherein the font for the dials felt a touch too dated in my opinion. That said, the driver info display is very informative.

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There are ample good touch-points inside the Altroz. For example, the flat-bottom steering, umbrella holder in the front doors (YES!), cup holders, place ahead of the gear lever, storage under the arm-rest and a cooled glovebox. Further, at night, the mood lights do add a touch of bling appeal. Space is good even for tall adults, the outside mirrors are large and visibility excellent. However, the back-rest of the front seats felt a tad too firm for my liking.

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Open the rear hatch and you will be greeted with a massive (for a hatchback) 350+ litre boot. It is deep enough too but the exposed covers for the rear struts look out of place. There isn’t a 60:40 rear seat split either and the spare wheel is a space saver with a steel rim.

The Altroz comes with a pair of engine options. The 1.2-litre petrol is naturally aspirated and churns out 86 bhp of power and 113 Nm of torque. These figures are more or less like the rivals but one crucial area where the Altroz scores high marks is the way these figures come in – early in the rev range. This in turn means this Tata hatchback is peppy enough and gains momentum at city speeds easily.

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The petrol mill is mated to a 5 speed gearbox that works just fine. No unwanted vibes from it and gearshift action is above average too. However, what could be a bother is the way the engine sounds when you power your way up from lower revs. For example, you are doing say 30 km/h in 3rd and go down hard on the right pedal. As speeds rise north, the engine doesn’t feel too refined and there is a harshness in the way it sounds. Also, the typical 3-pot sound makes itself heart once you race past the 4000rpm mark.

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The diesel motor is my pick here. The 1.5-litre mill is the same one found on the Nexon but ofcourse is in a lower state of tune. 90 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque might not sound impressive but again, its the way these figures come in early in the rev range. For example, all 200 Nm of torque is available from as low as 1250rpm – that just over tick over or the idle rpm! In other words, no matter which gear you are in, there is always ample poke in the diesel motor to push you forward. In slow moving traffic, part throttle response works very well and believe you me, the Altroz diesel will do a fine job in city runs. NVH levels are terrific for a diesel Tata and I couldn’t find any unwanted vibes or jerks from the gear lever. Sound insulation is very good too with only the wind noise filtering into the cabin at triple digit speeds.

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The mid range too is strong but pedal to metal isn’t the engine’s forte. It feels best under 3500rpm and most users will be happy this way. Also, the 5th cog is tall, registering around 90 km/h at 2000rpm. This should in turn help aid economy. At launch, there won’t be an optional automatic or a turbo petrol. However, both these important additions will find their way in later in the year.

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Both the engines get driving modes – ECO and CITY. What’s missing here is the SPORT mode but I feel this one will make a comeback with the 1.2 turbo petrol later this year. Also, fuel economy certification is currently under validation and hence the ARAI certified figures aren’t out yet.

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Another highlight here is the way the Altroz feels on the road. For starters, the steering isn’t on the heavier side and weights up very well as speeds rise. We had a lot of fast flowing curves on the Jaisalmer – Sam stretch and it was a joy pushing the Altorz along these. And some reason for the ‘joy’ also goes to the well tuned suspension. It manages to do both the jobs well – that of absorbing undulations as well as keeping the car flat through curves.

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Both vertical and horizontal movements we well under control and even the petrol model with lower profile tyres (aspect ratio of 55) does a fine job in terms of comfort. The Altroz does feel ‘heavy’ and ‘large’ on the move and this infuses a lot of confidence in the driver. The rear brakes aren’t discs but overall braking is more than satisfactory.

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The Altroz, we believe, will score a 5 star rating in the GNCAP crash tests, thus making it the second made-in-India car to get such a rating.
The only missing piece in the entire puzzle here is the pricing. In the past, we have seen other Tata cars undercutting rivals in terms of pricing and we are sure the Altroz will do this too. In terms of value for money then, the Altroz will not have match. And all this while delivering style, space, comfort and punchy engines. I, for one, am very impressed with this product.