The first big launch of 2020 is going to be the much-anticipated premium hatchback from Tata Motors and we have finally driven it. Here we list out seven things that we liked about the car and three that we did not.
What we like
1. The Altroz looks stunning and is the best-looking car in its class. Just like the Harrier, the Altroz is a fine example of the new-found styling coherence of Tata Motors. It looks low, wide and has the correct stance.
The large headlamps and the lines around the face, along with the rising window line, flow together seamlessly. Blackened elements are used more generously here to good effect and even the rear looks perfect. Put in those gorgeous 16-inch wheels and you have a design in which we cannot find a single bad angle.
2. We looked hard but we did not find any piece of loose trim or cheap plastic in the car. There were no uneven panel gaps and the stitching and overall materials, including the silver finish used in the cabin, look and feel great. The Altroz is massive leap forward for Tata Motors and the uniform quality is indeed much welcome.
3. We had criticised the Harrier for its ‘form over function’ philosophy being used inside, particularly the fiddly handbrake and the downright bizarre location of the USB slot. No such thing here as the Altroz’s cabin has a restrained appeal. The cabin design mimics the exterior to good effect and we love the new-look steering wheel as well. The lay-out of the dashboard is logical and controls are within easy reach (thankfully, the USB slot too!) These are the little things that matter.
4. The Altroz could well be the most feature-packed car in its class and that’s no small feat when its rivals include a Hyundai. It starts with features like the 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto plus with media and navigation mirroring system and LED DRLs with projectors. One also gets auto headlamps, electric tail-gate release, a 4-speaker Harman audio system, a wearable key, rear a/c vents, cruise control, drive modes, fast charging, stop/start system, ambient lighting, height adjustable driver’s seat, auto climate control, rain sensing wiper, cooled glove-box, rear camera and sensors.
Dual airbags are standard and it also has adjustable rear headrests. The AC cooled down the cabin superbly while the rear camera display is now much improved from other Tata cars. We also found the user interface of the infotainment system being quite intuitive along with a superb sounding audio system (a Tata Motors USP).
5. The Altroz also impressed us with its space and comfort. The doors swing open 90 degrees and that is fantastic as it allows easy egress and ingress. The massive, cooled glove-box is a big plus while even the door pockets are commodious. Space at front and rear are excellent with the rear seat having no central tunnel to encroach on the space for the middle passenger. Being a six-footer I tried the rear seat and had no issues with the space or legroom on offer. The seat comfort is better than other cars in its class too!
6. The Tata Altroz diesel impressed us the most amongst all the engine options. First of all, this is a BS6 compliant engine and that for its segment is an USP for sure. While its rivals are shunning diesel, the Altroz proves that there is life yet in the black stuff. The diesel is a 1.5l with 89 bhp and 200Nm plus with a 5-speed manual. It is quite refined but the muscular power deliver courtesy the robust torque is what we liked the most. It is quick and punchy and quite fuel efficient too.
7. The Altroz is again a big leap forward for Tata in the driving dynamics department. Compared to its rivals the ride quality is easily amongst the top tier as it goes over potholes with more authority and the good ground clearance also helps here. The suspension is really good too and the ride is not bouncy — at high speeds the Altroz behaves with a confidence that I have not seen on any Tata car. Overall, when compared against its rivals, I like the Altroz for its high speed manners the most. Even the clutch/gearshift is quite light and easy to use.
What we don’t like
1.The Altroz has to be judged against its peers and here we found its 1.2l petrol a bit underwhelming. While the engine is a BS6 unit, we yearned for more performance and smoothness. This is a three-cylinder motor that makes 86 bhp and 113Nm — respectable figures alright but on the road the motor feels flat when pushed hard. In the city we do say that it has got a decent amount of power to amble along in third gear or so but when driven with any kind of enthusiasm or taken on a highway the petrol engine feels flat. We think the more powerful Nexon engine should have been given as an option. On the other hand, the start/stop system (not available on the diesel) did work well.
2.The other big complaint is the lack of an automatic gearbox. The Altroz is a premium hatchback and an automatic gearbox is very much required from the word ‘go’. But the good news is that the Altroz will not get an AMT and instead it will get a proper DCT. At the moment, however, there is only the manual being offered.
3.The instrument cluster is the only sore point in the car’s cabin. The part digital lay-out with the display is nice, but the speedometer sticks out like a sore thumb. A full digital display would have been better or a different design could have been used.
The Altroz is a fantastic effort by Tata and a worthy rival to the likes of the Baleno and the i20. We love the way it looks and its interior and features are something that we like. The diesel BS6 is also very good and has great driving manners. Overall, this is a well-rounded premium hatchback that does not cut any corners. We just hope an automatic and a more powerful petrol engine is added to the range soon.