Tata Altroz Review: A match for the best premium hatch?

The Altroz looks futuristic, drives well, has fuel-efficient engines, but the petrol engine is underpowered and there is no automatic gearbox option right now.

By:Published: December 23, 2019 7:39:17 AM

It’s a face that can launch a thousand sighs. The new Tata Altroz premium hatchback, which will be launched in January 2020, has such an artistic design that the car might not look out of place even if displayed at an art gallery. However, style without substance is superficial—a customer will pay a few lakh rupees for a car only if it drives well, is fuel-efficient, has ample features, and has an aspirational value attached to it. In these areas, and the design of course, how does the Altroz fare, which is developed on the new ALFA (agile, light, flexible, advanced) architecture? We drive it near Jaisalmer.

What defines its design?

Design, it is often argued, is the biggest purchase decision for car buyers in India. If today’s Tata cars look so futuristic, the credit goes to Pratap Bose and his team, who conceptualise cars that match the sleek and smart features that modern gadgets dictate. The Altroz is no different, and of the current crop of cars in its segment—Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Hyundai Elite i20, Honda Jazz—it looks the classiest. While the overall design is original, between the front fender and the A-pillar of the Altroz there is a design line that goes down and kicks up—it looks overly similar to one in the BMW i3 electric car.

How is the cabin?

It’s well-crafted, and especially the steering wheel is a delight to look at and operate. The doors open a wide 90-degree, so getting in and out is easy. Space inside is good. The rear seating area has a flat floor, so three adults can be comfortable out there. The boot space is 345 litres, and it is quite deep to take enough luggage. Exterior design leads to better visibility from inside the cabin. For example, the above-mentioned design line (similar to that of the i3) ensures certain changes to the body that help you see a lot more of a corner.

Which engines power it?

There will be both petrol (1199cc, 85bhp) and diesel (1497cc, 89bhp) engines, both BS6-compliant. But the Altroz will initially be launched only with a five-speed manual gearbox; an automatic might be launched later.

How does the petrol drive?

It’s a small three-cylinder engine, and as compared to other premium hatchback cars, it’s noisy. The acceleration is also not the best in class—it doesn’t feel peppy. However, it does appear fuel-efficient—on the highway where I predominantly drove the car, at constant 80kph, it returned fuel-efficiency of about 20kpl, which is very impressive. Tata also has a turbocharged petrol engine (in the Nexon SUV, 108bhp), which should have been offered in the Altroz as an option—the suspension of the Altroz is so good that it can take a more powerful engine. This one appears to fizzle out after a point.

How does the diesel drive?

No such ‘underpowered feel’ with the diesel. It’s a turbocharged engine so there is a slight lag, but overall it’s lovely to drive. It’s frugal as well; I got about 22kpl driving at constant 80kph on the highway.

How much will it be priced?

Petrol: Perhaps a reason Tata isn’t offering a more powerful petrol engine in the Altroz is because it wants to keep the price competitive. We expect it will be the most affordable premium hatchback in India, priced at around `5.2 lakh—lower than the Baleno (Rs 5.59 lakh), the Elite i20 (Rs 5.53 lakh) and the overpriced Jazz (Rs 7.45 lakh). Diesel: Again, expect the prices of the Altroz to begin in the range of Rs 6.2 lakh, lower than the Baleno (Rs 6.69 lakh), Elite i20 (Rs 6.91 lakh) and Jazz (Rs 8.16 lakh).
(Prices are ex-showroom.)

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