Tata Altroz Premium Hatchback First Drive Review: Better Than Maruti Suzuki Baleno?

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Before we start talking about the car, I have to say that Tata Motors is making some of the prettiest cars in the Indian market right now. This started with the Tiago, a hatchback, and their latest offering is a hatchback too. It is called the Tata Altroz and it is Tata’s competitor in the premium hatchback segment in India. It is expected to be launched in January 2020 and it has managed to create a hype around itself. We got to drive it for a couple of days in the beautiful city of Jaisalmer and we found out whether the hype is worth it.

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We have to start with what is going to be the biggest attraction for the Altroz which is the way it looks, and while yes looks are a subjective matter, to me it looks brilliant and there are a few reasons for that.

First and foremost is the stance that this car gets which is thanks to the new Alfa Arc platform which we will get to in a bit. There’s also the fact that how almost every single design detail works towards accentuating this stance. The nose, for example, has a tipped-forward position that is complemented by the chiselled hood and accentuated even further by the chrome highlight on the bottom of the grille and the blacked-out elements like the projector headlamps, grille, and the eyebrows on top. The vents on the front bumper are blacked out too and the Altroz gets neatly placed fog lamps that also integrate the LED daytime running lights.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

But when you come to the sides, it is when you will see the most recognizable design element of the Altroz, which is the blacked-out bezel around the window line. This too works towards the car having a tipped forward stance making it look sporty and at the same time, makes the Altroz look like its sits wider and lower. This also integrates the rear door handles which are neatly placed inside the C-pillar.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

And with that, we come to the back which is perhaps the best side of the Altroz and that’s because of the blacked-out section that extends from the rear glass panel and goes around the tail lamps, which themselves have a bit of a 3D effect going on as they protrude outwards. All in all, the Altroz plays well with the lights and shadows to make it stand out and the design gives it its own unique identity. However, there is a downside to all these blacked-out elements as given our dusty driving conditions, keeping them clean will be a bit of a task.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

But this impressive design story continues towards the inside as well but before you get there, you will notice that the doors open to full 90-degrees which is incredible and is all thanks to the new platform. This feature makes coming in and out of the car the easiest in its segment.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

But when you do get inside the Altroz, one of the first things you will notice is the interior design. Tata Motors has used a lot of shades and colours like they usually do, but somehow they’ve been getting away with it and making it work. And the story is no different in the Altroz as well. But one of the first things that you will also notice is that the quality of materials used inside the cabin has gone up substantially as well.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

There are enough compartment spaces on offer too, with enough space to keep your knick-knacks and Tata has also given umbrella holders in the front doors. But it’s not all perfect, as while there has been a massive improvement in the ergonomics department giving the driver a commanding driving position, the knee room is still a bit less especially for taller drivers. And unfortunately, there are still issues with the fitting of the panels but given that these were pre-production models that we drove, we expect this to be sorted out by the time the car reaches the market.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

But what the Altroz surely impresses with is the features that are on offer. For starters, the car offers ambient lighting and there is a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that also supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The touch response is good and there is no lag whatsoever, which is a big improvement in this department by Tata Motors.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

The glovebox is huge and also has a parcel tray, is illuminated and cooled as well.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

There is a new steering wheel on offer which has a flat bottom design and is very, very good to hold. There are a host of buttons on it too which feel premium and tactile.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

And there’s also the part-digital instrument cluster which is 7-inches in size and shows pretty much everything there is to know. Next to it, you have the analogue speedometer which has a very weird shape going on, as if it is falling to the right to make space for the screen!

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

Nevertheless, the cabin has overall has a premium feel and is out there taking the fight to the competition.

Coming to the back of the Tata Altroz, after setting the driver seat according to my height (5 foot 10 inches), I still had a great amount of knee room on offer. There was also decent legroom, shoulder room and headroom on offer as well. Overall, it’s a nice airy, spacious cabin to be in. Although, what it more than makes up with for the not-so-good under-thigh support, is that it gets a flat floor, which means, if you put the armrest up, you can have three people sitting abreast with ease.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

And if we talk about the driving experience, well, let’s start with the petrol engine. This is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit that is BS-VI emission norm compliant and makes 86 PS of power and 113 Nm of torque. This gets an auto start-stop feature and loves to be driven around at lower RPMs and a higher gear. But in the case of a quick overtake, you will need to downshift a gear as otherwise, the car just leaves you wanting for more. And the 5-speed gearbox that it comes with, is also not the slickest one out there.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

The 1.5-litre diesel engine, on the other hand, gets itself a turbocharger which makes things a lot better. This does not feel gasping for breath when you put the throttle down as instead, it surges ahead with ease. This engine too is BS-VI emission norm compliant and it makes 90 PS of power and an impressive 200 Nm of torque. In terms of refinement, since this is not a three-cylinder unit like the petrol engine and is a 4-cylinder engine instead, there is minimal clatter. Tata has also improved the NVH levels inside the car so not a lot of it makes its way through inside the cabin.

But remember the Alfa Arc platform that we spoke about at the beginning? Well, that is the new generation platform made by Tata and it offers beautiful driving dynamics. The ride quality is pliant even at high speeds and the Altroz feels planted during corners. And at low speeds, it swallows potholes and broken roads with ease. And this, the driving quality, is the strongest point of the Altroz and the one you will remember it for.

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(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

So to sum up my thoughts about the Tata Altroz, well, it is a really good car that drives well but there are a few things that it could have used. Like, an automatic gearbox which is a glaring omission right now. Tata Motors says that it is on its way but we will have to wait to see how long does it take. Also, we don’t know what the price of the car is going to be. But if the recent Tata strategy is anything to go by, then the Altroz is going to be aggressively priced and it might very well undercut the other offerings in this segment as well. If that is the case, then this will be a really good value for money car.