The Tata Altroz is the newest entrant to the premium hatchback space in India. Despite the ongoing crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, this car has shown a strong sales performance.In fact, it's amongst the top three highest-selling cars in this particular segment. That said, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno still tops the sales chart followed by the Hyundai i20. So, let's take a look at the top five reasons why owners appreciated and bought Tata's Altroz and two reasons that might have made them re-think a bit.
1. Stunning looks and solid build quality
The Altroz looks good and there are no two ways about it. It's a beautifully designed car. People still give it a second look and with a smile on their face. That's quite a compliment for Tata Motors. I remember the time when its official design sketches were revealed as the 45X. It looked so good even on paper back then. Besides, it premiered last year at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show. It also went on to be Tata's much talked about unveiling then. Now cut to its production version, it looks even better in flesh.
It’s based on the brand's Impact 2.0 design language that primarily strived at improving overall design and styling of cars. I'd say it has worked very well in the case of the Altroz. Look at the car from any angle, and it just looks stunning! Take for example the front end. The slim grille is flanked by sleek headlamps which house projector headlights. This along with a chunky bumper give it a nice layered yet proportionate look. There's a tri-arrow shaped fog lamp assembly which also houses the bright white LED DRLs. Then, the sculpted bonnet adds to the muscular front.
The aggressive body creases continue all over the body to give it a chiseled look. Talking about the side profile of this hatchback, it gets this strong beltline that runs across the length to merge into the tail lamps. The alloy wheel pattern also looks quite striking. Now, round at the back, the car has a short overhang and an interesting design like its sibling - the Harrier. Besides, the LED tail lights are designed in such a way that along with the floating roofline, the Altroz sports a very unique look.
Also, consider its strong build quality. You get to know it even when you open and close the doors, and that speaks volumes about it. There's this thick sheet metal and, robust underpinnings, all of which hint at it being a solidly built car. And it indeed is. Despite being a big car, the Altroz is light, weighing just about a ton. It has been engineered on the ALFA (Agile Light Flexible Advanced) Architecture. This platform lets it inherit these weight saving measures along with modular and flexible characteristics. In fact, it’s the only car in its segment to have scored a five-star safety rating in the Global NCAP tests. Another major attribute that is making buyers buy the Altroz.
2. Spacious and feature-packed cabin
You can directly step into its cabin without having to crouch much. This is owing to the large access and wide-opening doors. You are welcomed into the roomy interior with good quality materials overall. All-round visibility is good with a comfortable driving position. Despite being a wide car, all controls are easily within reach and with many storage and stowage places. The second row also offers good room for two and even has sufficient space to fit in one more person. Then there's good knee-room, shoulder-room, and headroom to please a person of my size.
This also brings us to the equipment in this car. It's got many practical features and they are quite in a large number to bring it on par with its competition. There is a comprehensive range of features in this top-of-the-line XZ (O) diesel. Starting with the key-less entry, an engine push start button, height-adjustable driver's seat, automatic climate control, rear AC vents, steering-mounted controls with telephony, a digital instrument cluster, cruise control, and so on. There's even a large floating touchscreen infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It comes paired with a Harman six-speaker setup that sounds good.
Even on the safety front, it packs in dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, a rear-view camera with parking sensors, Isofix child seat mounts, speed warnings, and many more features. And as mentioned earlier, apart from the strong five-star safety rating for adult, it also received a three-star rating for child occupant protection. This is the only India-made hatchback to have received such a high safety rating.
3. Good drivability
There’s the default City driving mode and an option for Eco mode at the press of a button. The Altroz doesn’t get a sport mode but this diesel model manages to provide a spirited drive and impressive performance. All thanks to this peppy engine. It's a 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel mill producing 89bhp of power and 200Nm of torque. The motor comes alive post 1,500rpm as the turbo spools up and feels quite energetic at around 2,000rpm. Even before that, it doesn't really struggle to get going and responds to throttle inputs well. It gets quite audible as the tachometer needle heads to point towards 4,000rpm while the car makes quick progress. Still, the mid-range is sufficient enough to get going in traffic and even for making a quick overtake.
The clutch is light and impressive, given most diesel cars have a heavy clutch. But this one's got a short travel, its light on the foot and you won’t have to worry much about driving in traffic for long. There's no ergonomic issue here and you also don't have to stretch your leg. There’s no need to keep shifting gears often as this torquey motor makes it easy to keep up with the pace. There's never a dull moment actually.
4. Confident road manners / Great on-road behaviour
There's enough power in this diesel avatar and you'll like it for its handling as well. This electronic power steering is nicely tuned and feels better than the hydraulic ones we've seen from Tata. It feels light and quick while parking or making a U-turn. All the same, it weighs up well with an increase in speed and shows excellent road stability. Be it a quick turn-in or going flat out on the highway, it always feels planted and is very confidence-inspiring even at triple-digit speeds.
5. A mile-muncher with excellent ride comfort
Some people still ask me, why a diesel in the first place? My instant response to it is in fact the answer to the same cliché question that many ask. 'Kitna deti hai?'And I kid you not, Tata Motors claims a fuel efficiency of 25.11 km to a litre! Yes, that's a mind-boggling number, but certainly, not unbelievable. The instrument cluster showed up a 15-16kmpl figure and that too, in city traffic. This is also when I didn't have a chance to put it in fourth or fifth gear. And when the car actually got a chance over an open wide road, the fuel economy figure shot up to 19kmpl. Now that's quite a promising number and owners are going to love it for being so frugal.
Let's give it up to Tata Motors, especially for having Indian engineers work on these Indian cars for Indian roads and for Indian buyers. I just love the way it deals with our road conditions. And you will love it too, for it will remain rock steady on whatever conditions our roads throw at it. At 165mm, its ground clearance isn't the best-in-segment, but good enough to not scrape anywhere given its compact footprint.
Good fuel efficiency and a sorted ride mean more relaxed time on the road with fewer visits to the fuel pump. Needless to say, taking it out on a long trip will not require a second thought with such an excellent ride comfort and mile-munching capabilities.
1. No automatic trim
When you step up to the premium segment of cars, buyers want to have that luxury, some convenience that an automatic transmission brings in. This is like a missed opportunity to not have an automatic variant. The availability of this trim would have not only meant a wide range of options for buyers to choose from but also tapping in the customers from another segment. In today's day and age, and especially with the increasing traffic day by day, an automatic gearbox reduces the effort of shifting gears and pressing the clutch. It makes it a very hassle-free process for drivers spending hours in traffic. A diesel automatic would have done wonders.
They say the fact that good things come at a price is either a perception or a reality. In this case, with this diesel, it is the latter. Tata Motors has priced the entry-level XE petrol at Rs 5.44 lakh ex-showroom. However, this particular top-spec diesel is priced at Rs 9.09 lakh ex-showroom. That brings it to Rs 10.83 lakh or almost Rs 11 lakh, on-road in Mumbai. That's quite a high premium buyers have to shell out. Sure, there's no other diesel at this moment for prospective buyers, but more considerate pricing surely would have helped Tata rake in more numbers.
Now we’ve taken a look at both the positives and the negatives. However, the Altroz still has one big benefit currently which is of it offering a diesel option. None of the other premium hatchbacks come with that for now, be it the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Hyundai i20, Toyota Glanza, or even the Honda Jazz. That's one more reason that will easily help the carmaker pull some sales numbers for this car. And if you still need some convincing, do take a spin in the Tata Altroz to easily decide for yourself.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi