Tata Altroz iTurbo - 1.2L Turbocharged Petrol: First Drive Review
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There is a lot riding on the turbocharged petrol engine of the Altroz. Not only does it have to be sporty but also an effortless drive in the city. Can it deliver?
While the Tata Altroz received a 5-star safety rating, it could never score a perfect 5 in our books. The primary shortfall being its underwhelming engine options. And having announced the turbo-petrol-DCT powertrain in the first drive itself, the year-long wait feels a bit stretched, considering only half the hand has been dealt till now.
Nevertheless, the turbocharged-manual is finally here and is called the Altroz iTurbo. It borrows the Nexon engine in a de-tuned state, promising an engaging drive and a better commute experience. We decided to run a performance test to find out how much the improvement is. The answer will surprise you.
Before we get into the driving bits, let's look at all that is new in this iteration of the Altroz. We will only be factoring in the more essential changes. For other details, please read the first drive review here.
Gets a new eye-catching Harbour Blue paint.
The new top variant ZX+ gets the dual-tone black roof.
The iTurbo badge on the boot is the only way you can tell a turbo from a non-turbo variant.
We wish the front had a small highlight to mark the turbo variants.
Several new features have been added to the cabin.
Leatherette upholstery on the seats feels premium and is perforated for better ventilation. PS: Not to be confused with ventilated seats, which the Altroz does not get.
The updated infotainment system now gets Hinglish voice commands for climate control, music modes, and more. Voice recognition is accurate and quick.
Connected cars features are now part of the package. Remote lock/unlock, anti-theft alerts, geo-fencing, and live vehicle tracking are now possible. You cannot remotely start the car for climate control.
Xpress cool feature starts the AC in full blast and opens the window by the driver's side to let the hot air out. Tata claims it can cool the cabin up to 70 percent faster.
The turbo variants' drive modes are City and Sport. In the regular variants, they are City and Eco.
The Altroz now comes with a wearable key band that you can use as a key to unlock/lock the car.
Engine and performance
One look at the brochure and it's evident that the Turbo Altroz will be quicker than the naturally aspirated one. After all, a jump of 24PS and 27Nm will make a difference. But the naturally aspirated petrol engine was anyway a slowpoke, so the turbo-petrol had to roll up its sleeves to make a considerable difference. And it does! But that's not the only impressive bit.
The Altroz ALFA ARC platform's capability is more evident, and the package feels all the more impressive. Let's get into some detail.
Compared to the naturally-aspirated petrol, engine refinement has improved here and is now at acceptable standards. However, there is still a drastic difference between the Altroz and the competitors' (read Hyundai and Volkswagen) engine refinement. The turbo engine doesn't feel crude but becomes audible past 3000 rpm. Thankfully, it is accompanied by power acceleration, so you won't mind it as much. Although, cabin insulation, especially for the road and tyre noise, is still underwhelming.
Inside the city, this engine offers better driveability than the naturally-aspirated petrol. And the difference is significant. Despite packing a turbocharged engine, the Altroz doesn't feel slow or sluggish under 2000rpm. It starts building momentum even with gentle throttle inputs, and that really improves ease of driving.
And finally, Tata has gotten rid of the throttle delay from the old Altroz, making the experience more enjoyable. The driveability is further aided by its tractability. Turbo Altroz can do entire commutes in second-third gear, with the third gear feeling the most at home. It is only when you go for a quick overtake that you need the second. This means lesser gearshifts and fatigue. Also, the gearbox feels better with clear slotting shifts. This factor comes in handy as there is still no option of an automatic in the entire lineup. That is, of course, until the DCT is launched later this year.
Get on the highway, and the Altroz no longer feels out of breath. It pulls cleanly till 120kmph with horses in reserve for overtakes. You can cruise comfortably at triple-digit speeds, but it's just the engine that remains audible. Although Tata claims switching to Sport mode would give you nearly 25% more torque for that extra punch, the difference isn’t remarkable. The power delivery has also become cleaner, and now there is a leaner-ish pull towards the redline. The sweet spot is just below 5000 rpm where it feels like performance has been unlocked. However, this rush is short-lived as the redline cuts in soon after that. Tata claims that the Altroz will do 0-100kmph in 11.9 seconds. We strapped a VBox to the car and decided to put this claim to the test. The result - 11.92 seconds. Commendable.
While this performance improvement is impressive, it still remains the slowest turbocharged hatchback in the country. Let's take a look at its competition -- Hyundai i20 with the DCT transmission makes the sprint in 10.88seconds, the Polo with the manual does it in 9.66seconds (the automatic takes 10.79 seconds), and the Hyundai Grand i10 Nios manual takes 9.88seconds. These are all tested figures. Moreover, the engine can sometimes feel a little crude. However, you wouldn't care about these as soon as you...
Ride And Handling
...find a corner. Handling has always been Altroz's strength. But you could never exploit its potential given the limitation of the petrol engine. The hatchback remains stable in corners, and the mechanical grip is impressive. It feels like the Altroz, when pushed hard, digs into the tarmac to find you more grip. And this feeling will let you enjoy every bit of the performance. The steering also feels just the right kind of responsive to let you know your limits.
And when it comes to the ride, the Altroz’s suspension does a fantastic job of smoothing out bad roads. The cabin remains flat, the suspension silent, and the passengers inside comfortable. Just the way you’d want it in a family car. The harshness doesn't ever get inside the cabin, even over potholes and speed breakers. All in all, the Altroz's ride and handling balance is undoubtedly the best in the segment.
Tata Altroz has been a competent car ever since it was first launched last year. The only thing holding it back was its petrol engine. However, that crease has been ironed out with the iTurbo. The turbocharged engine is more than capable of taking on everyday commute duties and is powerful enough to let you (finally, sigh) play around with the capabilities of that chassis. Yes, it is not the most refined, nor the quickest to 100kmph. And yes, the option of an automatic is still absent. But the combination of the powertrain, handling, and the ride delivers a rewarding experience. That is precisely what makes the Turbo Altroz a worthy contender in the segment.
At the moment, the Altroz retails from Rs 5.44 lakh to Rs 7.75 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the petrol variants. The Altroz iTurbo will be available in three variants - XT, XZ, and the new XZ+. If Tata can keep the premium for the turbo engine under Rs 1 lakh, this would mean that the top XZ+ iTurbo could cost close to Rs 9 lakh, which is a lucrative proposition. Given the driveability advantage, it would be advisable to shell out this premium and go for the iTurbo over the standard engine. And all of this while still undercutting the Polo and I20’s turbo petrol variants.