You know, when you're least
expecting for things to fall into place, they surprisingly do! That moment is
priceless. So is the moment when a car turns out to be exactly what you had
imagined it to be. For once in my life, I just managed to trash every word
thrown at me, by my friends and colleagues about ‘That Tata Car’, just so that
I could see for myself, whether Tata had actually created a modern,
fun-to-drive, and practical hatchback for us picky Indians.
1.5L Turbo-Diesel (1497cc)
XE 1.5 D Rs 6.99 lakh
Any doubts whether the Tatas could make great cars were put to rest for ever with the Nexon and the Harrier. What about the Altroz? Could it match the products of its Korean and Japanese rivals? It was time to put the Altroz through its paces.
We decided to drive the Altroz from the heart of Pune to the roads that lead to Lavassa. I found this an Ideal setup to test the car, mainly because it lets me take it through traffic, highways, pothole infested roads, uphill and downhill setups and obviously more Rush Hour traffic on the way back. We were driving the BS6 Diesel Altroz in its top trim.
The BS6 upgrade did not come with any exterior upgrades, mainly because it did not need any! The exterior design is so modern and mature with lines stretching from the front, all the way to the rear. What I specifically loved was the somewhat aggressive shark-nose front end and the sporty looking rear end with the smoked taillamps and the black finish on the trunk. Who said Tata Cars cannot be sporty? Because I for one feel this exterior is very appealing. Yes, even when compared to the Hyundai Elite i20 and the Maruti Suzuki Baleno.
The 16-inch dual-color alloy wheels fit perfectly under the slightly puffy wheel arches adding to the striking design and sporty stance of the Altroz. What you would notice is that the grab handle is integrated into the rear door pillar, which in terms of design flows pretty well. However, I feel it could have been a tad bigger.
The doors on the Altroz open 90 degrees for better ingress. Once you’ve settled in, you would notice that the interiors are quite humble as opposed to the sporty exteriors. The flat-bottom steering wheel is what mattered most to me. The layered dash, the shiny silver finish, the placement of all the buttons and the quality of materials used are on point but the panel gaps were a bit inconsistent.
Placed high up in your line of sight is the 7-inch infotainment screen which looks very premium and so is the part digital part analog instrument cluster. There are enough door pockets to stash your belongings, but the armrest could do with much more space inside it. The cabin is spacious, the seats up front are large, comfortable and surprisingly have good thigh support. Even the rear seats are quite comfy, with enough knee room for tall passengers and comfy enough for the middle passenger too. One more downside is the thick A-Pillar which creates a huge blind spot for the driver.
ENGINE & PERFORMANCE
This is what I was most eager to test out, the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel motor that meets BS6 emission norms. Not the most powerful hatch, but makes a decent 88bhp @4000rpm and 200Nm of torque between 1250-3000rpm. It has two driving modes, Eco and City. The motor isn't the noisiest of the diesel lot, but did seem on the edge close to and over 4000rpm. While the grunt below 1300rpm (which is when the Turbo kicks in) was sloppy, the power delivery was linear and the immediate power surge post 1300rpm made up for it.
Another applaud worthy mention is the 5-speed manual that was super slick, reminding me of the Maruti Suzuki Swift. The shifting was precise even during a spirited drive. The motor felt very comfortable cruising on the highway, munching mile after mile and also returning an average of 20kmpl which was commendable considering I had never let go of the throttle. Switch to Eco mode and it manages a few more kms per litre for you. Then again, the Eco Mode does limit the power output. It could do with a Sport mode too, that could possibly reduce turbo lag and let loose from the get go. The clutch was light, but not as much as its petrol counterpart. All-in-all the motor seemed tractable when kept in its comfort zone which takes a while and a bit of rhythm especially when on a spirited drive darting up and down Mulshi.
I did not have to deliberately take the Altroz through a rough patch, because soon enough the rough patch deliberately found me. The ride quality was plush, not too soft, and not too stiff, and managed to soak in bump after bump. No scrapes either, thanks to the 165mm ground clearance. Here comes the weird part. I had the Swift in my mind while testing the handling, because i still feel it’s the benchmark for fun-to-drive hatchbacks and Tata have managed to make this quite a fun car! The steering is precise, point and go when you chuck it into the corners that lead up to Lavassa thanks to the heavier nose of the diesel. I love how the steering feels so connected to the wheels, and much like the Nexon, stiffens up at high speeds. You can also chuck it into corners coming in hot and have a bit of sideways fun. Told ya I loved the steering! The stability at high speeds is commendable even on our unsettling highways. If this was a straight up match, i would, without doubt give this an 8 on 10 in this segment. Maybe even more if the 185 section Goodyear tyres were grippier.
Hell Yes! With prices starting at Rs 5.44 lakh for the Base Petrol variant and Rs 6.99 lakh for the base diesel variant, it is more affordable than its Korean competitor by almost a lakh. The top of the line XZ Urban variant would set you back Rs 9.09 lakh. There is no doubt that the Tata Altroz is an impressive hatchback, Made in India for the Indians and their bitter road conditions. There is no better way to say this, but I am proud that Tata has come a long way, making better cars that can take the fight to its rivals. Not to mention, the Altroz is currently the safest hatchback in India, with a 5-star Global NCAP rating, following in the footsteps of its older sibling, the Nexon which was the first Indian car to bag a 5-star Adult Occupancy Safety rating in India. So, to sum it up, the Altroz is fun-to-drive, can do everything that its competitors can and is affordable as well. Even for enthusiasts, I feel a good set of dampers, a remap and stickier set of tyres would work wonders.
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