The Tata Altroz is your alternative to the likes of the Hyundai i20 and the Maruti Suzuki Baleno. Based on a new, modular platform called ALFA, which is lighter than what Tata Motors has been producing so far, the Altroz will go on sale in January. And when it does, we expect it to be priced under both the i20 and the Baleno.
The platform, meanwhile, isn’t just lighter but also stiffer and has been built to meet all future crash safety norms in India. Moreover, the ALFA is a modular platform, which means it will also spawn an SUV, a sedan and an MPV, which will share the same electrical architecture and drivetrain combos, ensuring economies of scale. We might see some of the new products based on this platform by as early as late 2020.
Back to the Altroz, and one of the strongest USPs for this new age hatchback has to be its design. Not only are its proportions spot on but it also has a modern face, sporty and puffed up wheelarches, an upswept belt-line, and a rear-end design that seems to have been sculpted than formed. Overall, the Altroz looks sporty, purposeful, and very desirable.
In terms of dimensions, it is wider than most of its competition. But, in terms of length and the wheelbase, it is shorter than both the i20 and the Baleno. However, the not-so-long-hood and the negligible rear overhang mean the Altroz has a large boot and spacious interiors. The boot measures over 340 litres, and inside, with a flat floor and wide shoulder room, seating three abreast should not be an issue.
The first thing that strikes you about the Altroz when you get inside is how wide its doors open. Tata calls them the Wing90 because well, they open almost 90 degrees, and Tata says these look like wings when open. As we see it, yes, these doors do make cabin access easy, but pulling the door close once you are belted, especially at the front, is a challenging affair; unless you have pole vault like arms.
The seats both front and back, are comfy and accommodating. The dash design, meanwhile, is clean, functional, and pleasing to the eye. It has many storage spaces too. There’s some in the central console, a small cubby hole under the front central armrest, , bottle holders all round, a large glovebox that’s also cooled, and an umbrella holder in both front doors.
In terms of equipment, this top-of-the-line XZ trim gets keyless entry and start, electric ORVMs, and cruise control. It also gets a flat-bottom, tilt-adjustable steering with controls for audio and voice commands. The driver’s seat is height adjustable. There’s a single-zone digital climate control system with rear AC vents. And you get a Harman touchscreen multimedia system complete with Bluetooth telephony, USB connectivity, and Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
There’s a full-colour driver information system or DIS as part of the instrumentation as well. The DIS looks good and it gives out decent info too. The speedo, however, looks boring and old school, which doesn’t go with the car’s overall design.
On the road, the diesel feels peppier and more driveable. Unless you rev it to 3,000rpm and beyond, the engine feels refined and quiet as well. Keep it on the boil though, and it gets noisy. And not just the engine, mind you; on our car, we could hear some plastic pieces inside the cabin protesting as well. The throttle response is alert, the power delivery is surprisingly linear, and there’s a good grunt in the mid-range to make both city driving and highway overtakes acceptable.
The petrol, on the other hand, needs to be worked harder. The low-end feels inadequate for hauling around a ton plus car with load. The engine does feel better in the mid-range, but it never feels exciting. Revving it does help extract better performance, but it is more work at the end of the day. Plus, revving the engine also means more engine noise, which honestly isn’t the most pleasant.
On the ride and handling front, you can immediately feel that the Altroz runs a stiffer setup. The low speed ride isn’t plush, but it gets better with speed. And the car feels planted and stable no matter the road or the speed. It handles undulations, camber changes, and the odd pothole we found in Rajasthan quite well.
The steering isn’t great on feel, but it is responsive. And the brakes feel positive and strong too.
The Tata Altroz is a good-looking car. It is spacious and it comes with a fairly good equipment list in the top spec XZ trim. It has sorted dynamics. And in terms of ride, it’s well-judged if not plush. There’s little to complain about the quality either. And the fit and finish is par for the course. However, it will be going up against the Baleno and the i20 when it is launched in January. And both the Japanese and the Korean are strong brands. The only way to find a good footing then, would be to undercut the two in terms of pricing. And not by just Rs 10,000 or 20,000, but by a handsome Rs 50,000 spec for spec. Then, the Altroz has a fighting chance of success.
Pictures by Kapil Angane