Tata Motors has done well to plug its Altroz as a large hatch amidst rivals such as the Hyundai i20 and the Maruti Baleno. This is why you get to see more of them on our roads nowadays. And now, in the company’s endeavour to keep its ‘looker’ sporty, the ‘iTurbo’ has arrived as a variant added to the existing line-up. It uses a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine from the Nexon that makes 109bhp/140Nm of torque with the help of a five-speed manual transmission (auto to be introduced later). So, we’re talking about an extra asking price of about Rs 60,000 to 80,000 over its Revotron petrol sibling, but what exactly do you get? For one, there’s more power and torque- about 24bhp/27Nm, plus it packs in a few more features (both interior and exterior). First, let’s get to the exterior bits, shall we?
We feel that the Altroz is a gorgeous car regardless of the angle you ogle it at. This ought to be the reason why designers didn’t tinker around, because the already sporty stance only needed more oomph under the hood; which it presumably has now, with this ‘iTurbo’.
Nevertheless, this form of the Altroz does sport the ‘i-Turbo’ badge at the rear and a black roof can be seen adorning this hatch on the higher-spec variants. All-in-all, it doesn’t take time to be smitten by the Altroz’s body lines and it’s this appeal that lures the majority of the prospective buyers to it.
What’s new on the inside are the new black and light-grey interiors, and perforated leatherette upholstery on the already comfortable and supportive seats. Even long hours in them won’t give you the aches whatsoever. Also, the large windscreen and door mirrors mean the view outside is nice and clear. Similarly, the almost-90-degree opening doors make ingress and egress comically effortless.
In reality, this cabin is quite practical, thanks to the plenty of storage places all around. However, ergonomics is a mixed bag; especially with the short stalks and the small horn pad that make accessing them on the go, arduous. As for the dashboard, the clean lines and uncluttered layout make for a pleasant experience. But then, quality along with fit and finish, although reasonably fine, aren’t consistent throughout the cabin and the absence of soft-touch materials (apart from the door pads), can be a downer for some.
Likewise, the seven-inch touchscreen feels a tad small, and the instrument console too, looks plain boring. However, both work pretty well to offer loads of intuitive information. At then, it’s at the rear, when you indulge in the ample legroom and seating for three, that the spacious nature of this hatch is truly appreciated. Even the 340-litre boot is generous enough to swallow most shopping bags and even a light trip to the airport.
When it comes to features, the 2021 Altroz gets the new connected car technology; IRA or Intelligent Real-time Assist which understands voice commands in English, Hindi, and Hinglish! Then there’s another new feature ‘Xpress Cool’ which helps the cabin attain comfortable temperatures swiftly by optimally setting the air-con to maximum cooling. Additionally, there are the one-touch power-up windows, auto headlamps and wipers, a seven-inch touch screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and extra tweeters for the iTurbo variants. Others include a customisable infotainment theme where you can set up your wallpaper, navigation in the instrument cluster, cruise control, and many more.
Now, on to what makes this avatar of the Altroz different! Sending power to the front wheels of this Tata hatch is a 109bhp/140Nm 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine with the help of a five-speed manual gearbox (automatic to come later). While the 24bhp/27Nm increment over its 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated sibling is obvious, the new i20 1.0-litre turbo makes an additional 9bhp/32Nm, while the Polo 1.0-litre TSI pumps out an extra 35Nm. So, does the Altroz feel ordinary in the face of its turbocharged competition?
No, we certainly wouldn’t term it like that. Now, we’d have loved a throaty engine note, instead what you get is more of a mechanical thrum. But, if truth be told, this motor responds well to the minutest of throttle inputs. Not only does it get off the mark quickly, but the turbo also helps with a strong midrange that allows the iTurbo Altroz to carry on to build the speed rapidly. We have to say that its driveability is a strong trait, and so is refinement. Besides that, if you want some more zest, the sports mode has that covered as it sharpens the response noticeably.
Sure, Tata’s claim of a 0-100kmph time of sub-12 seconds won’t give you sleepless nights, but for a turbo, it should have been more entertaining. What’s sad in this setup though, is the gear shift quality because it simply doesn’t rhyme with the sporty intent of this turbo motor. The fact that it is rubbery along with a long throw doesn’t make it pleasant to go up and down the gears, especially when you’re in the mood to drive fast. Nevertheless, the surprising bit is Tata’s claim that the iTurbo Altroz can deliver a rather attractive fuel efficiency of 18.13kmpl; a fairly ambitious number I’d say.
Moving on to its ride and handling manners. Like earlier, the Altroz’s ride quality tilts to the stiffer side, and while the small undulation and irregularities aren’t a bother, there’s a tendency for it to crash over the harsher bumps. As for the steering, its heft can incline to be a bother at slower speeds, and it’s hardly feelsome too. On the flip side, the firm ride coupled to the slightly heavy steering means driving around bends is nothing short of entertaining.
With the Altroz iTurbo, Tata Motors expects to reel back those buyers who’d wander off to the Volkswagen Polo or Hyundai’s i20 for their turbo petrol iterations. Although the performance isn’t going to set our roads on fire, this Tata hatch is still an all-rounder that does several things reasonably well. We only felt that it could’ve been stuffed with more extravagant feel-good features, like say a sunroof and others, to attract the millennial masses. Nonetheless, we admit that the Altroz iTurbo is a premium hatchback that will appeal to the tastes of an ever-widening audience.
Pictures by Kapil Angane .