The premium hatchback segment is of great importance to any car manufacturer in India. A segment started by the Maruti Suzuki Swift, now dominated by its sibling, the Baleno and Hyundai's Elite i20.
While these two cars were battling each other with their individual strong points, Tata motors did their first attempt to enter this competition using the Bolt hatchback, a thoroughly reengineered version of the Vista. While the Bolt was extremely comfortable and also offered segment first features such as Harman audio and multi drive modes, it never really caught the fancy of the people. Despite the thorough refresh inside out, the side profile still looked like the Vista and not so premium. Ultimately the Bolt was made available for the taxi segment a few years before discontinuing in 2019.
Tata Motors were silently working on their new premium hatchback. The stunning 45X concept surprised everyone at the 2018 Auto Expo with the new sleek and stylish Impact design 2.0 language. A near production version was showcased at the 2019 Geneva auto expo, further increasing the interest.
Finally in 2020, Tata motors launched their new Altroz premium hatchback in India, claiming segment best features and dynamics. However it wasn't going to be an easy job for the Altroz to grab buyers from the Baleno and i20.
Tata motors have done their homework and provided the Altroz with a good number of strong points which are as mentioned below:
- The looks: The Tata Altroz is easily one among the best looking cars in this price point, with clean proportions and some striking design elements. Of course, design is subjective but the Altroz is a car which you can't ignore on the streets.
- Interior quality and design: The feel and quality of the interior is one among the best in its segment and significantly better than the best selling Baleno. The design, although reminding you of the Nexon and the Harrier, is very ergonomic, thoughtful and easy to live with on a daily basis.
- Features: The Altroz XZ is well loaded in terms of features, including Projector headlamps, LED DRLs, cornering fog lamps, 16” alloy wheels, leather wrap steering and gear knob, 7” touchscreen system with 6 Harman speakers, a 7” TFT color instrument cluster, Auto climate control, rear AC vents, Auto Headlamps and wipers, Ambient mood lighting, smart key with push button start, driver seat height adjust, front and rear armrests and Cruise control.
- Space and comfort: The Altroz may not be as spacious as the Jazz but it’s definitely comfortable enough. The width of the cabin and seat comfort is good for 5 passengers, thanks to the almost flat floor. Segment best features like center armrests and AC vents are available on the XZ variant and Height adjustment for the driver seat is available only on the XZ and XZ(o) variants.
- Practicality: With 345 litres of extendable boot space and more than enough storage spaces inside the cabin including a big chiller glove-box, umbrella holders in the front doors and cup-holders, the Altroz is a very practical premium hatchback for a family.
- Safety and Build quality: The Altroz is the second safest car made in India and has scored 5 stars at the Global NCAP crash tests. Dual airbags, ABS, EBD with Corner Stability Control are standard across all variants. The solid build quality also makes the Altroz tough enough to withstand the daily abuse and safer than the Baleno or i20.
- Ride quality and stability: This is an area where the Altroz shines brightly with great composure and ride quality. The Altroz is built on the new ALFA Arc modular platform developed by Tata Motors which gives the Altroz incredible stability and agility. While the entry level variants come with 14 inch Steel wheels, 16-inch wheels are available on the XT and XZ variants. However, only the XZ variant gets 16” dual tone alloys. The Corner Stability Control feature really aids cornering confidence and handling.
- Infotainment experience: The Altroz’s audio system has been and still is easily the best sounding stock unit in its class. The XT and XZ get a 7-inch touchscreen unit with 6 speakers; the XM gets a monochrome audio system with 2 speakers. Both types of systems and all the speakers are from Harman and they sound fantastic. The 6 speaker unit is the best though. All Variants get reverse parking assist sensors as standard while the XM, XT and XZ get various car related controls.(Central locking, follow-me-home settings) The 7 inch touch-screen on the XT & XZ gets Android auto and Apple Car-play connectivity though. A reverse Camera is available on both the variants.
- Ease of daily usage: The Electronic Power Steering on the Altroz is really a joy to use. Even though being light and smooth in city, it provides decent feedback on highways, improving driver confidence. This EPS on the Altroz has 95% auto-return function which seriously reduces driver fatigue in city driving.
- Engines: Since the success of Tiago and the Revotron engine, people are ready to accept the Altroz with the Petrol engine. The Altroz’s BS6 compliant Revotron 3-cyl Aluminum petrol engine produces 86PS of power and 113NM of torque which are at par with its rivals. Tata also boasts of a linear torque on their range of Revotron engines. There's also the very torquey 1.5L Revotorq 4 cyl Diesel engine carried over from the Nexon which could be the ideal pick for long distance cruising. On the Altroz this engine has been detuned to produce 90PS power and 200NM torque through a 5 speed manual gearbox.
- Economy: Despite the decent specs of the Revotron engine, the Altroz is claimed to provide an economy figure of 19.05KMPL. In real world, the Petrol could deliver 13kmpl in the city and upto 20kmpl on highways. The Diesel Altroz is claimed to be one among the most efficient cars in India with a figure of 25.11kmpl! However it is safe to expect around 16kmpl for city usage and around 22kmpl at highway speeds. (In CITY drive mode) While both the engines get Economy and City drive modes, only the XT and XZ petrol variants get the new Engine Start Stop system.
- Toughness: The Altroz has got some solid underpinnings and mechanicals which according to Tata motors and even the owners can easily withstand abuse which no other car in this price can.
- Service and warranty: The Altroz has a service interval of 15000kms or 6 months, for which the average cost per service is around 4000 Rupees. You can even opt for an AMC package for around 5000 rupees which makes it one of the cheapest cars to maintain and use. Standard warranty is for 2 years or 75000kms, which can be extendable for another year or a full 1 lakh Kms.
- Factory fit custom packs: The Tata Altroz is the only car under Rs30L in India to provide factory fit custom feature packs for all variants.
The Rhythm pack for the XE variant adds a 2 DIN Harman audio system with 4 speakers, Flip remote key and dual tone horn. For the XM variant, this pack adds a 7” touchscreen system similar to the XT Variant along with 4 additional speakers.
The Style pack for the XM Variant adds Front & rear fog lamps, LED DRLs, Contrast black roof and 16” Wheels with wheel covers.
The Luxe pack for the XT Variant adds leather wrap steering and gear knob, driver seat height adjust, rear seat armrest, rear fog lamp, metal finish inner door handles and black contrast roof.
There's also the Urban pack for the XZ Variant which brings body color coordinated interior trim and contrast black roof.
These optional packs are more or less in the same price range as aftermarket accessories. That's what makes these packs a good value for money choice.
- Price and Value: With the Altroz Petrol XE variant starting from around Rs5.29L and the top-end XZ dual tone petrol retailing at Rs7.69L, the Petrol range offers a whole lot of equipment, comfort and quality for the price. The Diesel range starts from Rs6.9L for the XE and goes upto Rs9.29L for the XZ dual tone. While the diesel may seem a bit expensive, the prices are still at par with older rivals. The prices of the petrol range really make the Altroz the best value for money premium hatchback.
While the Altroz has it’s long list of Positives, it also has a few negatives, just like any other car.
- The Altroz is not the most spacious premium Hatchback. It is a bit less spacious than the Honda Jazz. The reason being preference of Form over function. But it is nevertheless good in space and comfort.
- The Revotron petrol engine, though adequate for daily usage, still isn't as impressive as it’s rivals in overall performance or refinement. The Altroz needs a turbocharged, more refined petrol option to satisfy driving enthusiasts and premium buyers.
- The touch-screen Infotainment system although sounding fantastic, isn’t the best in response and has some glitches while being overloaded with commands. The non touch-screen unit used to hang sometimes while operating or switching the car on and off. No in-built GPS navigation feature available. You have to rely on either the Android auto/ Apple carplay features or the NaviMaps feature on the XT, XZ and XZ (o).
- Quality of the interiors, though really impressive for most part, isn’t very consistent on the lower parts when you start noticing in minor details.
- There are a few features missing even on the top spec XZ Variant. Features such as 60:40 split folding rear seats, a shark fin antenna, Auto dimming IRVM, 8 speaker system could have reinforced the premium tag of the Altroz over rivals. All lower variants except for the top spec XZ and XZ (o) get a rather ugly looking yellow cabin light on the Altroz, whereas even the Tiago's entry level XE variant provides a premium LED white cabin light.
- Lastly, the service part. Like any brand, Tata Motors also have their fair share of good customer-friendly dealers and not-so-good ones. But being a company which already didn’t have a good history in terms of overall service experience, we expect Tata to really pull up their socks and tighten up their sleeves when it comes to service.
Tata Motors as of now is one among the most rapidly developing automotive brand names in India and the Altroz is a major representative of their improvements in quality and design. The Tiago was the car which started this successful lineage of desirable quality cars from Tata Motors, and the Altroz now takes the legacy further into the premium hatchback category. When it comes to service, you can see more than a few dealerships improving drastically with stricter norms, but on the whole, especially in the North, Tata needs to work harder to improve the customer experience. Find a good dealer with good customer reviews and experienced personnel and you will be happy for years. As for the Altroz, it is easily the best all rounder premium hatchback in the current Indian market.