Tata Altroz iTurbo First Drive: The enthusiast's choice?
When we put together four of the most premium hatchbacks in the country a few months ago, the Tata Altroz came out on top, thanks to its blend of practicality, features and safety. Yes, that test didn’t feature the new Hyundai i20, but that’s missing the point. The Altroz is a really good package and now it gets a turbo-petrol engine, lifted from the Nexon, along with a few updates. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
What is the Altroz ‘iTurbo’?
Well, iTurbo is the name Tata has given to the 1.2-litre turbo-petrol engine under the hood of the Altroz, which is (rather confusingly) named the Revotron in the Nexon. Nevertheless, the ‘i’ stands for intelligent, since this engine has been re-calibrated for its duty in the Altroz. It makes 108bhp and 140Nm of torque, 10bhp and 30Nm of torque less than the Nexon and the torque is spread out more evenly across the rev range, between 1500-5500rpm, to reduce turbo lag at low rpms.
How does this engine feel?
In a word? Smooth. Tata Motors’ engineers have done a great job of disguising the turbo in this turbo-petrol engine, which has its benefits. For starters, there is enough pulling power in second gear to get you up to speed from a crawl. And it also urges you to rev it harder and pulls cleanly to the redline, without a significant loss in power at the top-end. There is also a downside to making the engine this linear — it robs the engine of a punchy turbo kick. While this may sound counter-intuitive, but the right amount of lag can make the turbocharged engine a lot more rewarding to cane. A more narrow, peaky torque band would have meant a more cumbersome experience in traffic, but a much more pleasurable experience when you let the turbo blow its whistle.
The engine is refined, making itself audible only past the 2500-3000rpm mark. However, even when the slightly husky exhaust note creeps in, it sounds rather nice and is met with a proportionate turn of speed, which adds to the driving experience. There is a Sport mode on the Altroz iTurbo, sharpens up the throttle response and makes the engine more eager, tugging on the leash to make you drive it harder.This 1.2-litre engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox which is fairly slick. It isn’t as buttery smooth as some Japanese ’boxes, the Altroz’s has some tactility to it, but I personally prefer that. There is still no news on the automatic.
Interesting! Does the chassis do the engine justice?
The added oomph helps you have a little more fun in the Altroz, but when pushed into corners, there is a fair bit of understeer. This is partly due to the economy-favouring tyres fitted onto this Altroz iTurbo, and partly down to its soft suspension setup. The comfort-biased suspension does give it exceptional ride quality, though and helps the Altroz munch miles and tackle bad roads better than most cars in the segment.
The Altroz’s steering is quite light and doesn’t have too much feedback through it, not adding too much weight at speed either. This, coupled with the understeer, mean that the Altroz iTurbo isn’t going to be setting any lap records. It is quite predictable on the limit and doesn’t intimidate you when driving it hard. The light steering and the light clutch, also make it a breeze around town.
What else is new?
There are a number of changes on the Altroz iTurbo, starting with this shimmery Harbour Blue paint job. It looks great in person, especially under the sun. That, aside from the iTurbo badge at the rear, is the only other change on the outside.
On the inside, the seats are now covered in a leatherette upholstery, as is the armrest and both these changes do help make the cabin feel more upmarket. There’s also a lighter colour on the plastics andan Xpress Cool mode for the AC that lowers the driver window to let hot air out and blasts cool air from the vents to chill the cabin faster. There’s also connected car tech, via the iRA suite. It adds the usual remote lock/unlock, geofencing, immobilisation and other features we’ve seen on the Nexon too. The app did have some bugs when we used it, but those could just be teething issues.
On the Altroz, there is also support for Hinglish voice commands, something which we saw on the MG Hector 2021, but the AI is slow to respond and the commands are fairly limited. Exclusive to this iTurbo variant are the two additional tweeters in the Harman sound system and the Sport mode mentioned earlier.
Is it better than its rivals?
To answer this, let’s first consider its rivals — the Volkswagen Polo and the Hyundai i20, with their turbo-petrol engines. In regards to the former, our comparison test of the Altroz iTurbo and the Polo TSI is live now on our YouTube channel, but I will give you a spoiler — the Altroz iTurbo doesn’t drive as well as the Polo TSI. And as far as the i20 is concerned, the Altroz lacks its sheer sophistication and build quality. It does however get a full five-star safety rating, which makes it the safest hatchback in India and that should definitely be something to consider when buying any new car.
Prices for the Altroz iTurbo will be revealed on January 22, so stay tuned to our social media handles for the update, but we expect the iTurbo to be priced around Rs 9 lakh for this top spec turbo-petrol, which would put it on par with the equivalent diesel variant.
The Altroz iTurbo is one of the most complete packages in the segment. Yes, it may not have the most thrilling powertrain or the biggest feature list, but it isn’t too far off of both of those claims and that makes it a solid choice for anyone in the market for a practical, fun-to-drive hatchback. And let’s not forget, it is also the safest hatchback in the country!