I’m just going to start by saying that this is the best-looking Tata car ever made. The Harrier had the crown of the best-looking Tata vehicle, but making a hatch look this good is almost criminal. If I’m being honest, the design of Tata’s hatches have never wowed me, but this one is a complete game-changer. We first got a glimpse at the Altroz while it was still in its 45X concept at the 2018 Auto Expo and seeing it parked in its full-production spec glory against the backdrop of a beautiful palace in Jaisalmer was almost a surreal experience. The stance is confident, and there are several cleverly-placed cuts and sharp creases along with the bonnet and the side of the car that adds to the car’s personality. The swept-back headlights are sleek and sit on either side of a slim, blacked-out grille that looks similar to the Tigor. The fog lamps sit right below the grille with the DRLs embedded within them. I would have preferred them to be on top with the headlights or been sleeker, but I’m just nit-picking. The tapering window-line and 16-inch laser-cut alloy wheels contribute to its strong side-profile. The door handles in the front don’t look bulky or outdated and the rear door handles are quietly tucked near the top of the window. The blackout theme is something that’s been heavily used on the Altroz but in no way has been overdone. Our XZ variant had a blacked-out roof (which is optional) with the black theme making its way to the back as well where half the tailgate is coated in glossy black that almost looks like the mask of Zorro with the LED taillights resembling the eyes poking out of the mask cut-outs. The Altroz is full of well thought out design aspects that help distinguish it from any other Tata car on the road right now.
But do the interiors charm someone as well as the exteriors do? To an extent, yes. The cabin is put together with a variety of textures and subtle colours that all go very well together. The 7.0-inch touchscreen sits on top off the dash and comes equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I did face some lag issues while trying to connect my phone and switching tracks. You do get a first-in-class feature of turquoise ambient lighting with the Altroz. Even though you don’t have the option to change colours, the turquoise is pleasant to look at and is neatly incorporated. What irked me were the screens in the car. The infotainment screen catches a good amount of glare on a sunny day and the instrument cluster, which comes with an analogue speedometer and a digital tachometer, could have been designed a bit better to be more appealing. What we need to talk about is how practical this cabin is. Apart from the convenient charging sockets and spacious cup/bottle holders, the glove box is the real hero here. It is the biggest one you will find in this class and is easily capable of storing your laptop, car papers and can even serve as a tray. The doors of the Altroz open 90 degrees which makes it a lot easier to get in and out but it might force you to stretch out a bit more to close the doors after you’ve entered. The seats are placed high to give you a good view out. The flat floorboard also helps to easily accommodate a middle passenger without any hindrance. The seats are decently comfortable but the fabric used feels below class standards. The Honda Jazz and Hyundai i20 offer better comfort as well as space, but the Altroz does a fairly good job of accommodating adults as well. At the back, you get a 345-litre boot which sits above the Baleno’s 339-litre boot and below the Jazz’s 354-litre boot.
We got to drive both the 1.5-litre turbo diesel and the 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrol. What you do lack from the engine is power. The diesel churns out 90 hp and 200 Nm of torque while the petrol delivers 86 hp and 113 Nm of torque. With the diesel, overtaking and high speeds are still achievable, but the petrol falls behind in this aspect. The drive started off on a straight road with the occasional appearance of cattle which helped me test the handling and manoeuvrability of the vehicle. The highlight of the Altroz is the way it drives. Handling is exceptional. This car goes through sharp corners and turns like no other and of course, cattle as well. This majorly comes through because of Tata’s utilization of its new ALFA (Agile, Light, Flexible, Advanced) platform. According to Tata, the platform is safer, more stable and is versatile enough to accommodate electric motors and support various body types. For a hatch, it also took on bad stretches of roads without any fuss. The 5-speed gearbox is decent and the clutch is fairly light, which helps make city driving less of a nightmare.
The Altroz is a little late to the premium hatch party, but better late than never, right? The competition is extremely fierce, with the Altroz forced to go head-to-head with the heavy hitters of the segment like the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Honda Jazz and Hyundai i20. But Tata doesn’t want to hide in the shadows and is here to prove themselves with their boldest car yet. And you know what they say, fortune always favours the bold.
AT A GLANCE
1.5-litre diesel, 1.2-litre petrol
200 Nm, 113 Nm
90 hp, 86 hp
Rs 5.4 to Rs 8.5 lakh (Expected)
ON THE INSIDE:
ABS with EBD, dual airbags, push-button start, cruise control, start-stop function (only in petrol), reverse parking camera, ambient lighting, 7.0-inch infotainment system, Harman sound system
WHAT WE LIKE:
Handling and exterior design
WHAT WE DON’T:
Quality of materials within the cabin