Tata Altroz Review: One Blunder away from greatness!

We test drive the all new Tata Altroz in the beautiful city of Jaisalmer to see if this new premium hatchback from the homegrown automaker is good enough to beat the mighty Maruti Suzuki Baleno and Hyundai Elite i20 or not.

By:Updated: December 9, 2019 5:23:42 PM

Tata Motors in a way kickstarted the premium hatch segment with the Indica and got good success as well. later, however, Indica became synonymous with mechanical and reliability problems and the car primarily was sold to taxi or fleet operators. Competitors such as Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Ford and Honda made the most of Tata’s loosening grip on the premium hatch segment, which continues to account for over 25% of the overall hatchback segment and continues to grow as well. Tata Motors tried its hands in this segment again with the Indica Vista and the Bolt but they couldn’t do any wonders. Now though, Tata Motors is ready to take on the competition with its newest car, the Altroz. The car has been surrounded by a lot of hype and excitement ever since its concept was shown at the 2018 Auto Expo. We were invited to drive the all new Tata Altroz in the beautiful city of Jaisalmer and we did manage to find out if the car is good enough to beat the mighty Maruti Suzuki Baleno and Hyundai Elite i20 or not.

Tata Altroz Design

First things first, the Tata Altroz is clearly the best looking hatchback in the country right now and not just in its segment. The car has a distinctive style and looks sharp, sporty and premium at the same time. The highlight at the front is the grille, which is seamlessly integrated with the headlamps and protrudes out as well. The LED DRLs have been integrated with the fog lamps in the lower part of the bumper and the abundance of sharp creases and strong lines all around give the Altroz a dynamic stance.

The car when viewed from the side, even when stationary, looks quite kinetic. The other standout in the design is the lowered window line at the front and the way it rises up towards the rear lends a lot of sportiness to the Altroz. The dual coloured rear with the blacked-out top part of the tailgate and sharp tail lamps again adds to the sporty character of the car.

I said this earlier for the Harrier and am going to repeat it for the Altroz as well that this is a car that in terms of its design is something every Indian can be proud of. Tata Motors has come a long way in terms of design and has actually gone ahead of its competition and the Altroz is a clear proof of this.

Tata Altroz Interiors and Features

Like it was with the Harrier, the Altroz also raises your expectations sky high when you look at it but when you step inside the cabin things don’t turn out to be in line with expectations. Now, this doesn’t mean that the cabin isn’t good but it’s just that the exterior design is so stupendously good that having an interior that good looking is quite difficult to deliver. The dashboard design of the Tata Altroz is quite tasteful and with the different colours and textures the visual, as well as touch interaction, results in a feeling of richness and premium appeal.

The floating 7-inch infotainment touchscreen also looks good and is placed in a way that the driver doesn’t need to take off eyes from the road completely to operate it. The touch response is fluid and the user interface is also quite simple. The Harman audio system is also quite impressive and the sound output from the four speakers and two tweeters is better than most cars in this segment. That said, there was one disappointment as the screen in the middle of the drive froze and later blacked out. After a few restarts, it eventually did come back and although Tata officials said it had to something with an inbuilt safety logic to safeguard the system the occurrence of this incident seemed odd as I’ve never seen this happening in any other car in years except the Harrier.

The digi-analogue instrument cluster is all-new and offers a wide host of information for the driver. Apart from the usual readouts even the amount of power and torque being used can be viewed. The flat-bottomed steering wheel feels nice to hold and features audio, phone and cruise control buttons. The seats up front are nice and offer good cushioning and impressive side support. In terms of space, there are multiple cubby holes all around the cabin and the door pockets can easily store a 1litre and a small water bottle. There’s an inbuilt slot for an umbrella also, which will be appreciated by people who live in rainy areas. A notable thing here is the glove box, which offers a segment-best volume of 15 litres and a removable tray as well along with cooling. A sliding armrest in the front is again a segment-first feature and does its job quite well.

At the rear, as one would expect in a Tata Motors car, space is available in abundance. legroom is quite a lot although not as much as in the Honda WR-V and headroom also should not be an issue for most people. There’s rear AC vents as well and this will be appreciated by people living in hot areas. However, the rear seat backrest angle is quite upright and I felt this could be a cause for discomfort over long journeys. The benefit of this upright seat though is that you get a large boot capacity of 345 litres, making the Tata Altroz a good car for weekend getaways with family and friends.

Tata Altroz Engine & Gearbox

The Tata Altroz will go on sale with a 1.2 litre petrol Revotron engine and a 1.5 litre Revotorq diesel unit with power outputs of 86 ps and 90 ps, respectively. The petrol motor is quite refined till speeds of about 100 kmph but things do get a bit noisy after that. The engine has a linear power delivery but lacks the punch required to have fun with the car. Getting from point A to B should be fine but this is not an engine that would appeal to those who want to have fun with the car.

The diesel, on the other hand, is a motor that can put a smile on your face every time you drive it. The engine delivers its power in a strong surge once you get past a bit of lag under about 1700 rpm. This unit too is fairly refined and unless you’re pushing things really hard a fair bit of external sounds are filtered out of the cabin.

 

This brings us to the next point in powertrain – transmissions. Strangely and unfortunately, the Tata Altroz doesn’t come with an automatic gearbox at all. What you get are simple manual gearboxes, which have been paired quite well to the engines and offer good drivability. In the diesel especially you’ll not have to downshift in traffic frequently and the fact that the clutch for both engines is light to operate makes the car a convenient one to drive. However, I just can’t get my head around the absence of an automatic option in today’s age and time.

What is even more surprising is that Tata Motors have the AMT technology and is selling it in the Nexon already but the Altroz was given a miss. For a car that is primarily aimed at urban buyers, the absence of an automatic gearbox is going to keep many potential buyers from buying it. This is undoubtedly a blunder from Tata Motors and it’s hard to understand how the management approved this. This is precisely why I think that the Tata Altroz is one blunder away from becoming a great car in its segment. Tata Motors says there will be an automatic gearbox on offer later but haven’t disclosed the time yet. Considering the Tata Harrier after about a year still hasn’t got an automatic option, I’m not sure where to place my hopes.

Tata Altroz Ride & Handling

The Tata Altroz once again impressed us with its ride quality and that’s pretty much expected from a Tata vehicle. The Altroz rides over broken surfaces and potholes with no problems and manages to keep occupants comfortable in most cases. The balance of ride quality, both at low and high speeds is quite impressive and much better than some of its key competitors. Handling too is good and although there is some body-roll when pushing hard around corners the Altroz doesn’t feel skittish. Grip from the tyres is good and the chassis and suspension setup enables good grip around corners. The steering also weighs up quite nicely and isn’t dead in terms of feedback, unlike some cars in this segment.

 

Tata Altroz Safety

The Tata Altroz comes with dual airbags, ABS with EBD and all the other standard safety features which have been mandated under the new safety regulations. These include rear parking sensors, high-speed alert system along with the driver and front passenger seat belt warning. These safety features are in sync with what the competition offer, but not the best in the segment as the Hyundai Elite i20 scores better with its 6 airbags available in the top-spec trim.

Tata Altroz Price, variants Expectation and Conclusion

The Tata Altroz is a laudable effort from the company a good bet at claiming some share in the premium hatchback segment. The car is undoubtedly stunning to look at and delivers well in terms of cabin design, comfort and features as well. The engine options are balanced and the performance from petrol is acceptable while the diesel is impressive. Safety too is at par with the segment and that is something people have started to associate automatically with Tata Motors vehicles, which is truly appreciable. The big miss though as discussed earlier is the absence of an automatic gearbox in the Tata Altroz lineup.

 

When the car is launched in the end of January 2020, we expect some aggressive pricing from Tata Motors. If the Tata Altroz can undercut the Baleno prices across variants, there is a good chance for the car to start off on a good note and maintain the momentum. However, if Tata Motors decides to go in for competitive pricing then I’m afraid the Altroz could end up like the Harrierm which also had a lot of hype, looked fabulous but couldn’t deliver sustainable sales performance. After all, the experience of a car has to be great when you’re sitting inside it and not just when you’re looking at its exterior.

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