Tata Altroz iTurbo review, road test
Rating 7 7

Tata Altroz iTurbo review, road test

21st Mar 2021 7:00 am

Is the new turbo-petrol the engine the Altroz always deserved?

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  • Make : Tata
  • Model : Altroz
We Like
Ride and handling balance
Space and practicality
We Don't Like
Engine performance
Refinement

In a little over a year of its existence in India, the Tata Altroz has successfully managed to grab a sizeable slice from the Maruti Baleno’s and Hyundai i20’s pie. This premium hatchback attracted buyers with its gorgeous styling, sensible packaging and aggressive pricing. Now, in its quest to boost sales by an additional ten percent, Tata has introduced the Altroz iTurbo, a new turbocharged petrol offering that’s squarely aimed at those who enjoy driving. This turbo version of the Altroz commands a premium of Rs 60,000 over the comparable 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrol, which is sold alongside, and it promises to offer a better drive experience in return. We put it through our exhaustive tests to find out whether the Altroz iTurbo deserves that premium. 

Shared with the Tata Nexon, the Altroz iTurbo is powered by a three-cylinder, 1,199cc turbocharged petrol engine (codename: 1.2 NGTC) that uses indirect or port injection. In this hatchback, the engine produces 110hp and 140Nm of torque, and comes mated to a five-speed manual transmission. So why did Tata simply not opt for the Nexon’s 120hp, 170Nm tune and pair it with the six-speed manual instead? Sources from the development team cite packaging challenges which led to this move. It was discovered that in the Altroz, the six-speed manual gearbox’s casing fouled with the air cleaner ducting, and addressing this challenge warranted a significant re-engineering exercise. As a result, the development team opted for a more viable solution – pairing the iTurbo with the TA65 five-speed manual instead, and because this unit has a low torque rating, detuning the engine became imperative.

This three-cylinder engine has a rather shaky start-up, and mild vibrations transmit through the cabin at idle, although these smoothen out on the move. Right off the bat, this engine feels sprightlier and more potent compared to its naturally aspirated petrol counterpart. Its performance is concentrated at low revs, hence the iTurbo feels at ease while ambling around town. And adding to its responsiveness further is its short gearing, which negates turbo lag to a great extent.

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Engine doesn’t enjoy being revved, has a modest 5,500rpm redline.

Spin this motor beyond 2,500rpm, however, and the Altroz steps outside its comfort zone. The on-boost mid-range punch feels quite meek, and it builds speed in a lazy manner. Just like in the Nexon, power delivery is quite inconsistent across the rev range, and it doesn’t enjoy being spun hard either, with revs maxing out at 5,500rpm. The thrum from the three cylinders gets quite vocal as the revs climb, and at higher revs the engine feels strained, coaxing you to adopt a sedate driving style. Quick overtakes on the highway aren’t as effortless as its rivals, and these require some planning and a fair bit of rowing through the gears to execute the manoeuvre. Its five-speed manual isn’t particularly enjoyable or smooth to operate either, often needing firm shoves to slot into gates.

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Gearbox requires an extra bit of shove to slot into gates.

Unlike the normal Altroz which gets a City and an Eco mode, the iTurbo features a Sport and a City mode. The difference in terms of performance between these two modes is significant; as an example, the sprint from 0-100kph takes 12.82 seconds in Sport and a rather lethargic 15.83 seconds in City mode. Even rolling acceleration through the gears reveals a similar result, with a greater, more prominent difference in the higher gears between the modes. Performance aside, the on- and off-throttle behavior in City mode can get very jerky, although these smoothen out to an extent in Sport mode, hence the latter is the mode of our choice.

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Sport mode livens up performance significantly.

View its performance in the light of its competitors and in a sprint from 0-100kph, the Altroz iTurbo (12.82 seconds) trails the Hyundai i20 Turbo (11.21 seconds) and the Volkswagen Polo TSI (9.97 seconds) by a fair margin. Even in a rolling race from 40-100kph in fourth gear, the iTurbo is considerably slower than its direct injection rivals, taking 17.30 seconds; the i20 on the other hand clocks 12.39 seconds, almost 5 seconds less, whereas the Polo completes the run in 14.73 seconds, which is around 2.5 seconds quicker than the Tata.

Like most Tatas, the Altroz’s suspension feels tough and solid over bad and broken roads. Although a bit stiff-kneed, it takes all but the sharpest of road shocks in its stride, and passengers feel no unnecessary movements inside the cabin. Its composure and surefootedness at cruising speeds is also praiseworthy. What’s nice is, unlike cars like the Nexon or Harrier, the Altroz’s steering has a certain degree of slack at the dead-centre position, so it doesn’t feel overtly sharp or edgy at the slightest of inputs. And the good news is, not only does it weigh up consistently, it feels sharp and nicely connects with the driver once the wheel is turned a few degrees, making it very easy to angle the front wheels into a corner. Its taut body structure and strong mechanical grip, further add to its dynamic prowess. And even though it uses the same brake setup as the NA petrol version, braking performance feels strong, confidence-inspiring, and the pedal feel is easy to get accustomed with.

The Altroz iTurbo gets an automatic engine stop/start feature that turns off the engine while it is idling in order to save fuel. What’s nice is that this system is pretty quick to respond, and brings the engine back to life as soon as the clutch is depressed. Despite leaving this feature on, in the City mode, the turbo Altroz returned merely 8.9kpl in the city. Its efficiency on the highway isn’t anything to write home about either, returning a figure of 14.9kpl. Interestingly, despite missing a sixth gear, the engine spins at a rather lazy 2,500rpm in top gear at 100kph, but the extra overdrive gear would certainly improve efficiency while cruising on an open road.

The Altroz has been awarded five stars in Global NCAP crash tests for its sound structure. However, it still lacks safety kit such as ESP and side and curtain airbags. On offer are corner brake control, 16-inch alloys, projector headlamps with LED DRLs, a part-digital instrument cluster, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, ambient lighting and cruise control, among the notable features. The Harman speakers set a new benchmark in the segment when it comes to sound quality. What’s new here is the e-SIM-based connected car features which offer remote lock/unlock, geofencing, vehicle tracking and more via a smartphone application. Kit such as wireless charging, an air purifier, LED headlamps and a sunroof still don’t make it to the equipment list, though.

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Neat design and pleasant textures, but quality is inconsistent.

 

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Certainly the better petrol engine in the Altroz range but still isn’t exciting enough.

The Tata Altroz is arguably the most stunning-looking hatchback on sale in India, and there’s a lot more to like underneath its skin. It is spacious and practical, it’s fairly well-equipped, and the real ace up its sleeve is its fantastic ride and handling balance. What’s more, the Altroz has proven its mettle in terms of crash safety, securing five stars in Global NCAP tests. Its new turbo-petrol engine is a much improved, zingier alternative to the naturally aspirated petrol. But it isn’t perfect and the iTurbo falls short on counts such as smoothness, refinement, performance, as well as fuel efficiency, especially when viewed in the light of its competition. Having a not-so-smooth manual gearbox and the absence of an automatic option don’t help its case either. But consider the turbo strictly for what it is – the better petrol Altroz, and you will see value in this proposition, and it is certainly worth the premium it commands over the naturally aspirated version.

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 8.86 lakh (ex-showroom, India)
Warranty 2 years/75,000km
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Fuel Type / Propulsion Petrol
Engine Installation Front, transverse
Type 3cyl, turbocharged
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1199cc
Bore/Stroke (mm) 77/85.8mm
Compression Ratio 9.5:1
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 110hp at 5500rpm
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 140Nm at 1500-5500rpm
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 102.3hp per ton
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 130.2Nm per ton
Specific Output (hp/litre) 91.7hp per litre
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Drive Layout Front wheel drive
Gearbox Type Manual
No of Gears 5
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 3.83/7.29
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 2.105/13.27
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.27/22.00
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.88/31.75
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.714/39.13
Final Drive Ratio 4.06
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 24.75m, 2.44s
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
City (kpl) 8.9kpl
Highway (kpl) 14.9kpl
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.58s (Sport)/ 0.51s (City)
0 - 20 kph (sec) 1.15s (Sport)/ 1.08s (City)
0 - 30 kph (sec) 1.98 (Sport)/ 1.99s (City)
0 - 40 kph (sec) 3.18 (Sport)/ 3.12s (City)
0 - 50 kph (sec) 4.31(Sport)/ 4.51s (City)
0 - 60 kph (sec) 5.51 (Sport)/ 6.07s (City)
0 - 70 kph (sec) 6.77(Sport)/ 7.94s (City)
0 - 80 kph (sec) 8.67 (Sport)/ 10.50s (City)
0 - 90 kph (sec) 10.68 (Sport)/ 13.14s (City)
0 - 100 kph (sec) 12.82 (Sport)/ 15.83s (City)
0 - 110 kph (sec) 15.01(Sport)/ -
0 - 120 kph (sec) 17.56 (Sport)/ -
0 - 130 kph (sec) 22.26(Sport)/ -
0 - 140 kph (sec) 26.86 (Sport)/ -
1/4 mile (sec) 18.19 (Sport)/ 19.34 (City)
20-80kph (sec) 11.52 (Sport) /13.57s (City)
40-100kph (sec) 17.30 (Sport)/21.61s (City)
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
1st (kph @rpm) 40kph at 5500rpm
2nd (kph @rpm) 77kph at 5700rpm
3rd (kph @rpm) 121kph at 5500rpm
4th (kph @rpm) 164kph at 5100rpm
5th (kph @rpm) 164kph at 4200rpm
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Idle (dB) 45.2dB
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 58.1dB
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 69dB
50 kph AC off (dB) 65dB
80 kph AC off (dB) 71dB
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Construction Five door hatchback, monocoque
Weight (kg) 1075kg
Front Tyre 195/55 R16
Rear Tyre 195/55 R16
Spare Tyre 165/80 R14
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs
Rear Non-independent, Twist beam, coil springs
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 10m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Disc
Rear Drum
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Length 3990mm
Width (mm) 1755mm
Height 1523mm
Wheel base 2501mm
Front Track (mm) 1510mm
Rear Track (mm) 1510mm
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1350mm
Ground Clearance (mm) 165mm
Boot Capacity (Lts) 345 litres
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