Last year, the Tata Altroz became the second made-in-India car to achieve a 5-star safety rating for adult occupant protection, from Global NCAP. This is quite commendable, given the fact that the least expensive variant (which currently costs about Rs 5.70 lakh) was tested. The Altroz is now the safest car in its segment in the Indian market and this bodes well for mainstream, mass-market cars in general, since the competition is also likely to adopt much more stringent build quality levels in the near future, with features like airbags and ABS becoming standard fitment across variants.
The safety theme seems to have worked very well for Tata Motors, which has sold more than 50,000 units of the Altroz since the car’s launch in January last year. Tata’s premium hatchback is now rightfully seen as a viable alternative to the likes of the i20, Baleno and Jazz. However, the one area where the Altroz – especially the petrol-powered version – left buyers wanting for more was power delivery. The car’s 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine delivers 85bhp and 113Nm of torque, which can feel a bit underwhelming, especially under certain driving conditions; for example, while going uphill with a full load of passengers. Now, with a turbocharged, more responsive engine, the Altroz iTurbo aims to address the demands of those who want more power.
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With the addition of a turbocharger, the Altroz’s 1.2-litre engine now produces a more palatable 109 horsepower and 140Nm of torque, a fair increase over the normally aspirated engine’s numbers and definitely more suited to the car’s 1,077kg unladen weight. A five-speed manual transmission is the only option for now, and it works well, with gear ratios well-matched to the engine’s power delivery. The engine itself needs to be revved up a bit for the turbo to really get spinning; low-rev overtakes will have you shifting to lower gears, but if you keep the engine on the boil and above around 3,000rpm, rapid progress is not a problem. Two driving modes are available – city and sport – and the latter does provide more urgent throttle response.
The gearbox feels solid and precise and the shift action itself has a nice mechanical feel to it, though shorter throws would have made it feel sportier and more in keeping with the iTurbo’s character. While we hope Tata Motors will also offer an optional dual-clutch automatic sometime soon, that would also certainly be more expensive and the current manual ’box anyway gets the job done – no complaints there. Claimed fuel efficiency is 18kpl, which is not bad though we suspect that those who are given to habitually mashing the throttle to the floor (while keeping the car in ‘sport’ mode always, of course) might do worse. Oh, well, you did buy a turbo-petrol after all, so having fun probably ranks higher than getting good fuel economy on your list of priorities.
We also like the Altroz iTurbo’s driving dynamics. With an independent McPherson strut setup at front and twist beam at the back, the iTurbo offers very good ride quality, dismissing speed bumps and potholes with elan, isolating the car’s occupants from the worst that our roads can dish out. Also, the car handles quite well; during high-speed cornering, the iTurbo mostly stays flat and doesn’t weave or wallow like some of its competition. With disc brakes at the front and drums at the back, braking performance is strong and even sudden movements of the steering wheel, under hard braking from high speeds, do not upset the car’s composure. We’re not saying this is a sports car, of course. It’s just as long as you remember that the ‘turbo’ badge notwithstanding, this is still very much a family hatchback and deserves to be driven with some degree of restraint, the Altroz iTurbo can be fun to drive.
In terms of safety, the iTurbo gets anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) as standard, along with cornering stability control, dual front airbags, and ISOFIX anchorage for child seats. There’s also a reverse parking camera on board, which makes the driver’s life easier during tricky parking manoeuvres.
The regular Altroz was appreciated for its swoopy, curvy styling when the car was first launched and the iTurbo looks even better with its new marine blue (with black roof) paint job. The test car we had was fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, shod with meaty 195/55 rubber, which look good and lend a sporty stance to the car. Inside, the cabin feels large and spacious, with generally high levels of build quality. The leatherette upholstery used on the seats, high-grade plastics on the dashboard and elsewhere, centrally-mounted 7-inch Harman colour touchscreen (with 8-speaker sound system) for infotainment, digital instrument cluster and a chunky multi-function steering wheel all come together nicely and make the cabin feel properly premium.
The iTurbo responds to voice commands (more than 70 of those, as per Tata Motors) and you can speak to it in English, Hindi or a mix of both. There’s also full smartphone compatibility, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, web connectivity and even a dedicated app that offers more than a dozen useful features, including remote vehicle immobilisation, stolen vehicle tracking, intrusion alert, roadside assistance and more.
With prices starting at Rs 7.73 lakh and going up to Rs 8.85 lakh, the Altroz iTurbo is a strong contender in its segment. With a 5-star safety rating from Global NCAP, standout styling, strong turbo-petrol engine, ample cabin space, plush interiors and entertaining performance, the iTurbo is very good value for money and gets a thumbs up from us.
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