From the sedate Indica to the futuristic Altroz, Tata has come a long way
Words and Photography: Team Just Urbane

What comes to your mind when you think of a premium hatchback? Endless features list, optimum safety checklist, blue-eyed boy design philosophy, and most importantly, when you talk about premium hatchbacks in India, it has to carry a foreign manufacturer badge. Not anymore. Tata Motors has single-handedly dug its roots deep in the Indian passenger cars segment and every new product is an attempt of sincere efforts to challenge and supersede whatever the best is available in the market. Altroz is one such offering and Tata’s first attempt in the premium hatchback segment. I feel extremely proud to say that I have driven every Tata car yet and the joy to see an Indian carmaker grow with such alacrity is contentment on its own. We drove this premium Tata hatch across highways, ghats, broken road sections, no road sections, and here is what we feel about the car.

Striking, futuristic, engaging and modern! I love the way Tata engineers have designed the Altroz and the minute attention to details is something Tata deserves a pat on their back for. Beginning with what strikes the eyes first, the Altroz gets a big grill with swept-back headlamps, and the fog lamps are also positioned higher on the face. There is a sober chrome strip that runs from one end of the headlamp to the other just below the grill which adds a good amount of character to the car without looking flashy. Overall the car looks aggressive and purpose-built in its face. The vertical side profile indicators, low slung front door panels studded with black stripes on the doors, window-mounted door handle for the rear doors, four-spoke trendy diamond-cut alloy wheels, tail lamps nestled in the all-black panel and a small spoiler neatly incorporated above the rear window gives the car an extremely distinctive profile.

Step inside the cabin and you will realize how futuristic the car is inside the flesh too. The driving position is spot on and you can actually sit low in this car. Detailing on the dashboard is great, fit and finish is improved a lot compared to the previous standards and there is a grownup sense of premiumness inside the cabin. The colour combination of plastic panels along with the lighting looks purposeful and lively while lending the car an extremely sophisticated feel. The Instrumental cluster is easy to read and is a mix of analogue & digital. What’s even more engaging is that the flat-bottom steering wheel has been loaded with controls to keep your hands in place while driving. Seats are big enough and the cushions have been designed to provide comfort for long hours. The horn control extends to the steering wheel grip and this is the handiest horn I have ever come across in a budget car.    

The diesel Altroz that we drove is powered by a 1.5 litre turbocharged engine that develops 90bhp at 4000rpm and a peak torque of 200Nm at 1250-3000rpm mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. This engine is way behind what premium hatchbacks in this segment offer in terms of fun quotient. But, even though the car lacks outright performance, it feels extremely responsive to all your inputs. The gearbox is cleverly mated to the engine power and not once did I feel the engine was running out of breath on whatever conditions it was asked to deliver.

Ride and handling
Tata handcrafts cars for Indian roads, period! The amount of R&D that has gone to make the cars Indian road-friendly is worth admiring. High ground clearance, supple and soaking nature of suspensions along with finely engineered and incorporated steering and suspension setup makes the car completely at home on any kind of road you drive it over. Suspension geometry is surely set towards the firmer side to minimize body roll, but it soaks everything you throw at it. It does transfer a lot of noise and drama inside the cabin while at it though. Focusing on the enthusiastic part, the Altroz feels planted and the steering is very well weighted, driver inputs feel precisely reflected in the wheels which imbibe a good amount of confidence in the driver to go fast behind the wheel. Overall the car holds on really well on highways as well as country roads without breaking into a sweat and rattling its bones either.

Fuel efficiency
Over the near 500km drive that we conducted which was a mix of all the road conditions our country has to offer, the Altroz returned 20.1kmpl of enthusiastic driving. Not bad, yeh?
You name it and Tata has got it incorporated in the Altroz. Mood lighting, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps, voice control media and climate control, high-speed alert system, dual horn, Harman infotainment system, 90-degree opening doors for easy ingress and egress, idle start-stop system, multiple driving modes, cruise control, and a hoard of other creature comfort features.

Tata Altroz is the only car to have bagged the crown of being the safest car in the Indian premium hatchback segment. The Altroz secured 5 stars in the Global NCAP rating for adult occupants and 3 stars for child occupants. Clearly a moment of pride for how far Tata Motors have come in terms of quality and safety in global standards.

All good?

Not really! Though Tata has come a long way, there is still some road untraveled. The A-pillar is super wide which creates a big intrusion in the view while looking for objects over the front section of the outside mirrors, and, even though Tata has put small cutouts to the A-pillar with small windows, the area of sight is still something that gets used to. There is a lot of noise that creeps inside the cabin from outside and Tata really needs to work on the NVH levels to enhance a calmer long distance driving experience.For a car that is positioned in the premium hatchback segment, I expect it to come with a sunroof, as an option for the top-end model at the least. Over the bad stretches, even though the car soaks and keeps moving ahead like a tank, it begins to squeak and the sound gets irritating over time. It does disappear on getting back to plain tarmac though. Another thing holding this gem back is the lack of an auto gearbox.

There are no two ways you can put this magnificent feat of achievement Tata has managed to bag in such a short time span with the kind of product they have offered with the Altroz. The hatch has got everything you usually ask for from a premium hatchback and to put down in a perspective, it does offer everything undercutting almost a lakh or two compared to its rivals and this is where it wins hearts. If you are looking for a premium hatchback that has a laid back driving demeanor and can live with the little knick-knacks that I have mentioned above, the Altroz is a compelling offer to go for. It comes in striking colours and has the distinction of being the safest hatchback in the country right now.