I began an earlier article about a different car by saying this, but it bears repeating, so I’ll say it again. The Tata Altroz has a 5-star Global-NCAP crash test rating, and that fact alone should put it on your wish list if you want to buy a hatchback, turbo petrol or no turbo petrol.
I cannot overstate the importance of buying the safest possible car, given the abysmal state of some of our roads and the even more shocking lack of road safety awareness among the vast majority of road users in our country. Believe me, I take this issue very seriously. I lost a very good friend to a car accident a while ago, and if he’d bought a car with ABS, he’d probably still be alive today.
Apologies for the grim start to this review, but I’ll move along now. The Altroz is of course no newcomer to the hatchback scene here, having been around for a year and having sold in healthy numbers during that time.
Let’s Talk Performance
The vast majority of the units sold have been the petrol version, powered by a 1.2-litre naturally aspirated engine putting out 86 bhp, and this engine is … underwhelming, compared to segment benchmarks – it feels underpowered and gruff. What it sorely needed was a shot of adrenaline, and Tata has now provided just that by bolting a turbocharger onto it, which bumps the power and torque figures to 108 bhp and 140 Nm respectively.
Tata had, of course, flirted with the hot hatch segment with its JTP division, but that was sadly shortlived, so this version of the Altroz will have to do now – and for those of you saying ‘Hey, the same engine makes more power and torque in the Nexon’, well, Tata had to make their hot-selling compact SUV stand out somehow, right?
I expected this car to be a bit of a hell-for-leather machine, but it’s not – which is not entirely a bad thing. In most conditions, the extra power and torque are definitely welcome and the Altroz doesn't feel like it’s out of breath any more. However, if you want to flog it and act like a bit of a hooligan (which is what hot hatches are all about), it will underwhelm; it doesn't have the rasping performance characteristics of other turbo petrols on the market.
For the best results, keep the car in Sport mode at all times (the other mode is City, which is a bit plodding), although your fuel consumption may go up by a smidgeon. The bump in torque and the turbocharger mean that you don't have to rev the engine to kingdom come; there’s enough grunt through the rev range to not have to constantly work the gearbox.
The engine can be a bit gruff when you floor the accelerator, and some road noise does come into the cabin. Sound insulation could have been better.
The Altroz has always been a sprightly handler, and some tweaks have been made to this car’s suspension and steering, which give it very pleasing dynamics and very good ride quality. The steering starts off light and loads up well at speed and overall, this is a fun car to drive.
Let’s Talk Looks
Externally, the car looks the same, except for a new shade of paint called Harbour Blue. It’s available in the three highest specced variants in the lineup, and the range-topping XZ+ gives it Tata’s connected car tech (iRA), which has the usual features associated with it – remote lock/unlock, engine/AC start, geofencing, vehicle tracking and so forth, with the system being able to understand some commands in Hinglish.
Its navigation system is interesting – it’s called What Three Words, which essentially divides the earth’s surface into 3x3 square meters and assigns three random but unique words to each one. As a result, you can set the navigation to take you to a very specific spot. You also get leatherette seats, a lighter coloured interior and two more tweeters in the Harman Kardon audio system.
This is a car I’m happy to highly recommend, to sum up. It’s safe, looks very good, has lots of features and comes with an engine that's a clear improvement over the naturally aspirated one, even if it’s not in boy racer territory.
If you must have an automatic gearbox (right now there’s only a 5-speed manual), you’ll have to wait until later in the year for a DCT variant; either way, you’ll have scored a solid performer.