That’s a rhetorical question, you’d think. How bad can it be? Why would Tata launch it if it wasn’t good enough? And more importantly, why would Tata go out of the way, almost as if against the flow to make a point — that their newly developed dual-clutch gearbox is better suited than other options on the market? These just kept loitering in my head until I got to drive the all-new Tata Altroz DCA.

Tata Altroz DCA Automatic

So, what is it?

The Altroz is Tata’s product for those who want a modern car that’s practical, spacious, and easy to use but don’t want a compact SUV. It rivals cars like the Hyundai i20, Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Toyota Glanza, Honda Jazz, etc. The model here is the newly launched Tata Altroz DCA, which gets a petrol engine with a newly developed automatic gearbox. Tata calls this the gold standard of automatics. Which is a big claim indeed.

Tata Altroz DCA Automatic

There are four trims to choose from, for the Altroz DCA, and it’s packed with features. The most important of which include connectivity/infotainment and safety. Although available with only two frontal airbags, the Altroz proudly boasts a five-star Global NCAP rating. Plus with the automatic variants, Tata has ensured that regardless of the trim, you’d get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, reverse parking sensors, a 7-inch infotainment system, keyless entry, etc. The top-spec versions also get rear AC vents, part-digital instrument console, seat belt height adjuster, etc. Powering the Altroz DCA is a naturally aspirated three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine which makes 86 PS and 113 Nm.

Tata Altroz DCA Automatic

What’s new?

In terms of features and overall engine specs, not much has changed, but the reason we’re talking about the car isn’t either of the aforementioned. It is the new automatic gearbox that Tata has included in the Altroz lineup to make the car’s appeal wider. The Opera Blue paint is also new to the Altroz’s colour palette, and it does look great. Pretty much like the recently launched new Maruti Suzuki Baleno, which also got a new dark blue shade.

Tata Altroz DCA Automatic

Tata Motors is banking heavily on the new gearbox, but not without reason. It’s a dual-clutch transmission with planetary gears, which Tata claims to be the first of its kind. It also gets some intelligent bits to enhance ease of use, longevity, reliability, etc. This means, if everything turns out to be as Tata promises, the Altroz DCA won’t attract big repair bills or failures in the long run, while being hassle-free to live with. A detailed road test in the future will help us understand how it performs in a variety of conditions and more importantly, how it adapts to driving styles.

Tata Altroz DCA Automatic

How’s it to drive?

From the brief first-drive experience, a few things became clear: the Altroz DCA is smooth on the move, the ride quality is very good, although the engine does feel gutless, and unsurprisingly, it’s not the most exciting thing to drive. Which is a shame because the Altroz looks quite rapid even when not in motion.

The Altroz is unlike any other Tata car from the past; it sits on a brand-new platform. This is reflected in the way it drives; it feels more refined and in line with what its rivals offer. The engine and gearbox combination might not be the most exciting, but it works well. The shifts, although not super-quick, are jerk-free and for everyday commutes, the Altroz DCA is unlikely to disappoint. For when you want to take control of changing gears, there’s a ‘manual’ mode, too, but it doesn’t turn the Altroz into a Polo GT TSI rival, though.

Tata Altroz DCA Automatic

Some positives of the Tata Altroz DCA:

As a package, nearly everything is good, if you’re looking at it as an effortless mode of commuting. It is comfortable, the inclusion of the automatic gearbox makes it more useable in urban conditions, and it has a lot of space inside. The AC chills the cabin quicker than you’d expect, and that’s even without using the express cooling function. There’s not much to complain about the seats, either, and the overall design (both outside and inside) is pretty impressive too.

And some negatives:

Apart from the fact that it’s not made for performance-hungry users, the Altroz DCA doesn’t feel like the most connected thing to drive. There’s nothing wrong with its control weights but it didn’t feel like a drive that I’d look forward to. But one must not forget that it’s stable at highway speeds; just not the sharpest. The interior quality also doesn’t feel anywhere close to the best. It’s not bad by any means and is certainly miles ahead of Tatas of the past.

Tata Altroz DCA Automatic

An ideal Tata Altroz DCA would be:

…one that’s slightly more powerful, at least. The Altroz automatic does have a price advantage right now in comparison to other premium hatchbacks. But the Baleno AGS, which involves a relatively rudimentary automated manual transmission, inarguably offers more bang for your buck. The other two Altroz versions, the i-Turbo and the Altroz Diesel, will definitely benefit more from this gearbox if Tata Motors makes it available on them. And as a result, the Altroz automatic will become a more complete product than what it currently is.

Final thoughts

The Tata Altroz DCA is a good car, no doubt. Crossover SUVs might have been on almost everyone’s wish list, but it’s great to have decent products like the Altroz proving that there’s still a lot of life in hatchbacks. With the Altroz DCA, Tata has made an automatic-gearbox-equipped premium hatchback available to a wider demographic. Plus it looks great, has a wide list of features, and most importantly, it is one of the safest cars on sale currently. But in its current state, Tata Motors’ claim that the new Altroz DCA is the gold standard of automatics looks a bit far-fetched.

Tata Altroz DCA Automatic

Prices for the Tata Altroz DCA start at Rs 8.1 lakh, ex-showroom.