Vehicle review of the upcoming Tata Altroz Subcompact Premium Hatchback
Tata Motors’ fresh new product in the subcompact premium hatchback segment – the Altroz – is being pitched as a gold standard, which is why perhaps the media drive for the soon-to-be-launched product was organised in India’s golden city, Jaisalmer. The Altroz is based on the concept the company had showcased at the 2018 Auto Expo in New Delhi as the 45X concept. Several iterations later, the final product is now up for series production, and is likely to go on sale in February 2020.
It must be noted that in March 2017, Tata Motors introduced a next generation, newly engineered vehicle platform that would form the basis of its future products. The Advanced Modular Platform (AMP) was designed to allow the company produce new products with multiple body styles quickly and cost effectively. Part of the advanced modular platform are two new platforms for Passenger Vehicles – the OMEGA-ARCH and ALFA, and one for Commercial Vehicle – the INTRA platform. All three platforms are flexible, modular, scalable and agile.
The Altroz, in fact, is the first vehicle from Tata Motors to be made on the new ALFA architecture. ALFA in this case stands for agile, lightweight, flexible and advanced. The ALFA allows manufacturing of multiple body styles from hatches to UVs. It is also the second vehicle from the Tata Motors stable to be developed under its Impact 2.0 design language. But more on it a little later.
The Altroz cage gets about 20 % advanced high strength steel with critical reinforcements. The energy absorbing body structure provides a controlled crash load path for the impact, and prevents the passenger cabin from deformation with crumple zone and side intrusion beam, claims the company. The flexibility of the ALFA architecture is not just restrained to body styles, as it is also capable of adapting to different wheel sizes, different track widths and multiple powertrains including petrol, diesel as well as hybridisation and full electrification.
The Altroz is the second vehicle to be developed under the company’s Impact 2.0 design language. Tata Motors claims the Altroz exteriors are inspired from the world of Laser Carving. One look at the front, and you would see sharp lines and creases all across the grille and slim projector headlamps. The front fog lamps and LED daytime running lights are integrated seamlessly with the bumper. The same design language flows into the rear with edgy styling on the rear combination lamps and nicely carved out boot.
The side profile, as explained by the company, gets the company’s “Shooting Comet Line” Signature design element, and along with the 16” laser cut alloy wheels looks striking, and well-proportioned. The other notable mention in the side profile is the rear door handles that have been moved to the C-pillar. In totality, the door handles gel well with the overall sports black Contrast Roof on the Altroz.
The highlight of the Altroz design, apart from the sharp touches to the exterior looks, has to be the Wing90 doors, which allows all four doors to open in a 90-degree angle. The Wing90 doors are inspired by the wings of the Albatross – the bird that is claimed to have the longest wingspan extending to up to 11 ft. These feathered giants use their wingspans to ride the ocean winds and are capable of gliding for hours without rest or even a flap of their wings. One look at the Altroz with all doors open, it does give you a sense of a bird in its cruise.
Move inside the vehicle, and you get a good modern and premium feel. Generously spacious – both in the front as well as the rear – the Altroz gets a floating island dashboard layout with good quality materials on the dashboard. However, you open the cooled glovebox, and you wish the quality of plastic used was better. The glovebox space, nonetheless, isn’t something you would complain about with 15 l of usable space. Designers have offered a serene blue ambient light-surround around the centre console, which at night adds to the beauty of the well-laid-out dashboard.
The 7” touchscreen infotainment system by Harman has all the right linkages to information, entertainment and connectivity. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard features. The system also offers voice recognition, SMS read-out & voice alerts for driver assistance, USB, Bluetooth, iPad connectivity and allows owners to customisable infotainment screens.
Also on offer is a 7” TFT coloured digital instrument cluster that also displays turn-by-turn navigation. The company claims there are 24 utility spaces inside the Altroz. While we didn’t go about counting them, there are clearly enough spaces to carry around a lot of items. What adds to the space in the rear is the flat floor that has been designed rather nicely by the Tata Motors design team. 77 % of the car length is packaged for passenger space, claimed the company.
There are two powertrain options on offer in the Altroz. There is a 1.2 l Revotron petrol BS VI naturally aspirated three cylinder inline engine that delivers 86 ps @ 6,000 rpm and 113 Nm of torque @ 3,300 rpm. The diesel engine is a 1.5 l Revotorq turbocharged intercooled BS VI unit with maximum power of 90 ps, which comes at about 4,000 rpm/ and a healthy 200 Nm of torque that is delivered in the band of 1,250-3,000 rpm. Both engines are offered in combination of a 5-speed manual transmission, and we were given to understand that the company is considering other transmission options, including an AMT.
The petrol engine features upgraded aftertreatment and catalytic convertor to meet the upcoming BS VI emission norms. A Mass Balancer Unit (MBU) has been used for Low NVH levels, and the compression ratio has also been improved. The diesel engine, which is the biggest in the category, is an all-aluminium lightweight construction and use drive by wire technology. Some of the other highlights of the engines include maintenance-free timing chain drive, low friction and maintenance free valve train. The Altroz offers owners the option to drive in either a City mode or an Eco mode.
Tata Motors has also offered the Altroz decent safety equipment. Dual Airbags, ABS with EBD is standard. There’s ISOFIX Child Seat Tether Anchorage, Corner Stability Control, Reverse parking camera with dynamic guideways, Anti-Glare IRVM, Perimetric Alarm System and Collapsible Steering Column, among others. Notably, the height adjustable front seatbelt comes with a Crash Locking Tongue, which is essentially a seat belt restraint system locking tongue having a locking member, which moves to a locked position to clamp a webbing inserted in a shoulder-side webbing insertion slot to restrict movement of the webbing. The locking tongue prevents fraying of the webbing and improves the clamping performance in the event of a vehicle crash.
During the media drive, we got opportunities to experience both the petrol and diesel variants. We drove the petrol variant on the highway towards Longewala, a town in the western part of Jaisalmer district, in the Thar Desert, better known for being the location of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
The 1.2 litre petrol unit is not one that would excite you instantly. It is slow off the track, but builds up speed nicely, and once you are at cruising levels, you would have no reasons to complain. We weren’t very impressed with the NVH levels on this engine either, and feel that is one area Tata Motors could certainly work upon.
The next morning, we had the diesel engine variant waiting for us. We started early morning towards the sand dunes, and this engine did not disappoint. It’s energetic, enthusiastic right from the word go, and has the right amount of power to make your drive exhilarating.
The steering felt right, and overall dynamics of the vehicle felt sound. The suspension is well tuned to take on different road conditions, and offer a comfortable ride for passengers inside. Talking of comfort, the Altroz is well endowed with features. There’s Idle Stop Start function (ISS), Cruise Control, Rain sensing wipers, Auto headlamps, a stylish wearable key for passive entry, Follow Me Home & Find Me function, Fully Automatic Climate Control, Rear AC vent with Rear Power Outlet, Front sliding armrest with storage and Rear seat armrest, among others.
The automotive market is undergoing severe stress, and indications aren’t too encouraging for the near term. In such a scenario, the Tata Altroz promises to bring about some excitement to the subcompact premium hatchback segment. It isn’t going to be a cakewalk for the company though, with formidable competition in the forms of the Suzuki Swift as well as the Hyundai i20 or even the Honda Jazz. Pricing obviously will play a key role. If Tata Motors manages to price the Altroz aggressively, there is enough in the product to attract customers – be it the way it looks, the safety and convenience features it offers, or the powertrain options it comes with – the Altroz will be an exciting new addition to the Indian market.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay