When it runs it purrs, goes the saying — or does it? Whatever it may be, on the stretch of open road from Jaisalmer to Longewala near India’s western front, Tata Motors’ upcoming premium hatchback, the Altroz, certainly did. The company had lined up a bunch of its upcoming car built on its new Alfa platform in both petrol and diesel versions and they were being given the stick along most of the 120-odd kilometres that separated the two places. But we’ll come back to the drive in a bit.
The Altroz is unmistakably a Tata car. And while the exterior design cues come from current and previous vehicles from the company, at the same time, it’s unlike any of them, or, for that matter, anything else on the road. It’s edgy, very literally so, and with an interplay of sharp lines and convex and concave surfaces.
Overall, it does have that sharp-suited look, particularly with the polished black finish above the front headlamps and grille, across the back and in the window surrounds. And the brushed silver highlights are just right. In many ways, it stays true to the 45X concept and is the first car on the company’s new platform. There’s an option for a black roof, but it might raise the temperature inside the car on hot days.
This is a spacious place to be with lots of shoulder and knee room both front and back. The front seats have good support and are the best places to be in the car. The rear ones have less of contouring and with a nearly flat floor, affords even middle passengers good leg space and comfortable seating. Boot space is quite generous at 345 litres, but the loading lip is a bit high. There are lots of storage spaces in the cabin for all sorts of things, even for umbrellas and calling cards, and the centre arm rests front and back are nice touches. The glove box is cooled and has a light too.
The dash design is pretty neat although I would have preferred it to have a more matte finish. The floating panel is a novel touch. The flat-bottom steering wheel looks sporty and it’s possible to honk the horn while still holding the wheel at the 9-and-3 position — good thinking for an Indian car. There’s leather wrap on the wheel and the gearshift in the top model. The ergonomics are largely good and the seven-inch infotainment screen is at about the same level as the instrument cluster, which makes it easy to read. And 90°-opening doors make ingress and egress easy.
On paper both the engines are what one would expect in terms of capacity and power in a car of this segment, considering the higher levies bigger engines attract. But what is rather nice is the way both of them deliver their power. The low end is quite meaty for both petrol and diesel, but the former is the surprise package since it’s a three-pot unit that’s quite smooth, fun to push hard and doesn’t complain if kept on the boil. The diesel has got long legs and prefers to cruise rather than spin to the redline — it tends to get a little gruff doing so. Holding highway speeds is easy, with the petrol easier to drive in slow traffic. The gear slotting is smooth but could have done with shorter throws.
The new platform is good and the cars handle well and can carry a fair bit of speed even through corners without getting skittish. They could possibly handle some more power. Ride on broken stretches is good and was poised even over the odd speed-breaker that we could not spot in the grey evening light. The petrol seems better balanced and more fun to chuck around and even when driven hard was posting double-digit fuel-efficiency numbers.
The top model we drove came with bagfuls of features like rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps, cruise control, auto start-stop, climate control, reverse parking camera and so on. What is also good is that it will be possible to add certain specific features that are standard in more expensive models to some lower versions of the model as well. This car is good on connectivity, too, and, apart from Apple Car Play and Android Auto, also has the Tata Altroz Voice BoT, an interactive voice experience for the Tata Altroz that uses Google Assistant.
There is no automatic option available as of now. But that apart there’s not much to not like. But this is a tough segment, so pricing will be crucial.
Form: Four-door premium hatchback
LxBxH (mm): 3,990 x 1,755 x 1,523
Engines: 1.2-litre BS6 3-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol (P); 1.5-litre BS6 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel (D)
Max power (ps@rpm): P: 86@6,000;
Max torque (Nm@rpm): P: 113@3,300; D: 200@1,250-3,000
Transmission: P: 5-speed manual; D: 5-speed manual
Boot space (litres): 345; 665 with rear seat folded
Wheels and tyres: Alloys, 195/55 R16 tubeless radial (spare: steel, 165/80 R14)
Kerb weight (kg): P: 1,036; D: 1,150
Expected prices (approx): Rs 5.5 lakh to Rs 9 lakh