The Altroz isn’t just any premium hatchback with an updated feature list, it’s Tata’s first serious offering in the hotly contested segment and that makes it a really important product for the brand. Additionally, it’s built on Tata’s all-new ALFA ARC platform that is sure to underpin a lot more offerings from the brand, including some of their highly anticipated EVs. Having all that groundwork established, it’s safe to claim there’s a lot riding on the Altroz’s shoulder, isn’t it?
Tata Motors have been delivering handsomely built cars for a few years now, but the Altroz takes it a notch higher with the brand’s Impact 2.0 design language. If you were to ask me, this is the best looking car in its segment and there are a lot of design elements to admire – I really like tip-forward stance on the front face, and then there is that grille with hexagonal mesh inserts finished in black, which also sits flush with the backward swept headlamps. It all appears to be a single cohesive unit, which it isn’t, however it adds to the athletic front end.
The front bumper on the other hand isn’t as sharply sculpted and has a rounded off finish to it. It wears these high-set fog lamps that also houses those distinctive-looking DRLs, and extends those large wheel arches to the side that give it a very muscular look. The design of the 16-inch wheels make the side look desirable yet the Altroz demands larger, more pronounced alloys to add some excitement on the otherwise sharp and angular side profile, which gets the dramatic gloss-black belt-line that running just under the windows.
The rear features some really striking design elements too, the most pronounced being the blacked out tail section that matches the front treatment of the Altroz. Visually though the proportions are spot on and the Altroz certainly grabs attention, be it out driving on the roads or in your societies’ parking I strongly reckon Tata Motors should have used LED lighting to add more opulence to this otherwise good looking hatchback.
The ALFA ARC platform allows you to open all four doors 90 degrees, and that translates to an easy ingress and egress of the cabin. Once inside, you’ll immediately notice the layers and textures of materials used on the dashboard – the Satin finish being the most prominent with the floating seven-inch touchscreen taking centre stage. I also do like the ambient lighting around the infotainment unit – it’s a segment-first feature and adds to that much more opulence. The Altroz happens to be the widest car in the segment and it really shows – there is ample amounts of space between the front seats and there are plentiful of storage spaces. The cooled glovebox needs a special mention; I think Tata Motors could have easily marketed it as a mini-fridge!
Fit and finish has been improved I must say, however it still doesn’t match its rivals in terms of minimising the panel gaps. Yet, there are a few treats for the driver in you – for one, this leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel is excellent to hold and grip, and the controls over here have good feedback to them. Then there is this part digital part analogue instrumentation cluster which is carried forward from the Harrier, and there is adequate information on display at all times without it being too cluttery, unlike the Nexon’s.
Another added advantage of the ALFA ARC platform is the near-flat floor for the rear passengers. Seating three abreast shouldn’t be a challenge for the Altroz, the occupants are also offered AC vents and a 12-Volt socket as well. You sit a little higher up and that allows for good visibility all around, making it quite a comfortable highway cruiser on those intercity travels.
And if you do travel long distances, let me introduce you to the only diesel-powered car in its segment. That’s right, the 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel mil one of its kind in the BS6 era and will remain so until the Hyundai i20 makes a comeback in its 2020 avatar. This unit in the Altroz is also shared with the Nexon however they’re both in a different state of tune. Power delivery is linear, there is a slight hint of turbo lag, just a weee bit, but once you as past that there’s just ample amounts of torque on offer and the Altroz just lunges forward very quickly. You do get two driving modes on offer – Eco and City, and the difference in performance is evident which makes those modes usable.
From behind the wheel, the diesel engine feels refined for most parts. There is that typical diesel clatter as you set off, but it sure fades away immediately as you pick up speed. It’s only when you push it past the 3,000rpm mark that it becomes vocal, however you’ll hardly find yourself revving that high as there is ample amounts of torque available down below. The gearbox doesn’t compliment the engine as much as we would have liked – the gear slots are a little sticky and the throws are quite long. A shorter gear stick would make things more desirable at least for me.
In terms of its driving dynamics – well there isn’t much to complain about is there. This new platform shows its true color out on these twisty windy sections of roads and combined with the steering that weighs in as you gather speed, this actually feels rather pleasant and enjoyable to drive. There is a slight hint of stiffness in the ride quality however the Altroz deals with broken, uneven sections of roads brilliantly. The engine, ride and handling dynamics and the suspension work in unison to offer a very indulging driving experience, traits that are usually not attributed with Tata vehicles but the Altroz does surprise.
Not all praises for the Altroz though – refinement levels could have been better and fit and finish, although is an improvement by Tata standards, isn’t there yet. Lack of an automatic transmission in today’s date and time would disappoint many prospect buyers, however there’s one coming really soon. So should you consider one? Well, there’s a lot going for the Altroz in terms of its safety, solid build quality, ride and handling, space, features and even everyday practicality backed with good fuel efficiency numbers from the diesel mil. Then there are those looks that highlight the Altroz’s boldly sculpted design language. As a package, this ticks quite a few boxes and it sure is a worthy consideration in its segment.
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission
Fuel tank: 37 litres
Boot space: 345 litres
Tyres: 185/60 R16
Prices: Rs 5.44 lakh onwards (Petrol, ex-showroom)