Cars that look good do not always go fast, but there are always some exceptions. Since most of them are far away from the reach of an average Indian consumer, carmakers have now started to offer a performance-spec trim of their premium hatchbacks. In this space, the Tata Altroz manages to stand out with its fabulous styling. But it missed out on a peppy petrol motor when it went on sale initially. Its rivals, however, are offered with the option of a turbo-petrol motor, which it earlier missed out on. With critics, enthusiasts, and potential consumers, all asking for a peppier petrol engine in the Altroz, Tata Motors has finally answered their call. The carmaker has introduced a new iTurbo trim of the Altroz that comes with a 1.2L turbo-petrol motor. But is this the Altroz that we all want to buy and drive around? Let’s find out the answer in this first drive review of Tata Altroz iTurbo.
2021 Tata Altroz iTurbo First Drive Review – Exterior
Tata Motors is setting up new benchmarks in the design department. The IMPACT 2.0 design language, which first debuted on the Harrier, was followed on the Altroz. As a result, it looked splendid. The Altroz iTurbo too follows the suit. Tata Motors has not changed anything on the outside, except for two changes. First is the new Harbour Blue paint scheme, and second is the iTurbo badge that sits on the boot lid. Apart from these subtle changes, the Altroz continues to look the same.
Yes, Tata Motors could have used this opportunity to add some more bling and drama to the Altroz’s exterior with sportier skirtings, roof spoiler, and bumpers. Well, it seems like they have used the best engineering mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And it has worked well on the Atroz. The wedge-shaped silhouette of the car still looks appealing, and so is the case with its overall styling. A new design for the alloy wheel, however, would’ve been a welcome change. Also, the Dark Edition would’ve been made thing even spicier.
The smart-looking front end of the Altroz is good at grabbing a lot of attention, and so is its dynamic side profile. The rear-end’s squat stance lends the Altroz with a hunkered-down pose. Thus, we think it’s a wise move from the Tata Motors’ side to preserve the big changes for a mid-cycle update.
2021 Tata Altroz iTurbo First Drive Review – Interior
The Altroz boast of a spacious interior that offers a premium ambience. However, Tata Motors used a lot of light colours for the plastics used here. Well, the colour scheme is not changed this time as well. But, the seats are now upholstered in black leatherette finish. Thankfully, the new upholstery has made the cabin look a shade darker now. And it is an impressive change.
To make this update an exciting one, Tata Motors has beefed up the feature list of the Altroz. It now gets the IRA connected car features which were first seen on the Nexon EV. It offers 27 connected car features that include remote vehicle monitoring, lock/unlock assistance, intrusion alert, remote immobilization, valet mode, GPS tracking, geo-fencing and more. The users will also be able to check the car’s health via their mobile phone itself. Also, it now accepts voice commands in Hinglish, which we found interesting.
Other additions include two extra tweeters on the top-spec trim and the Xpress Cool function. The latter is designed to make the cabin cool faster than before. Once activated, it makes the AC compressor work at its full potential by maxing out the blower speed and rolling down the windows to let the hot-air flow out. While the introduction of the Altroz iTurbo is all about the new engine, these updates surely redefine the Altroz as a better package. However, the addition of a sunroof and a wireless phone charger would’ve made it the perfect one.
2021 Tata Altroz iTurbo First Drive Review – Engine & Gearbox
The ‘i’ in the iTurbo stands for intelligent. Tata Motors claim that the turbocharger fixed on the 1.2L 3-cylinder turbo-petrol motor is designed to work in conjunction with the driver’s input. Talking of its power and torque outputs, this motor churns our 110 PS of peak power and 140 Nm of max torque. These figures aren’t groundbreaking, as the most cars in the segment dish out bigger numbers. The gearbox here is a 5-speed manual unit, and there’s no option of an automatic gearbox for now.
While the specifications on the paper can mellow down the expectations, the Altroz iTurbo feels much better on the road. The engine offers a strong mid-range. Thus, gaining speeds is not a task. The top-end is not its best forte, and the low-end is not exciting either. But that’s where the intelligence of this motor comes into play. The turbo spools up from just 1,500 revs, and it continues to do its job throughout the rev range. As a result, the motor feels like a naturally-aspirated one for the most part.
In terms of NVH levels, we liked this new turbo-petrol motor. It is a vibe-free affair even at idle, and no vibrations intrude the cabin space when the motor starts to build the revs. The 3-cylinder thrum is apparent, but without being annoying at any point. Hence Tata Motors deserves appreciation here.
The 5-speed MT available with the Altroz iTurbo is not the smoothest of the gearboxes that we’ve come across. On the flip side, the gear ratios are well-tuned. The enthusiasts will find this engine-gearbox combination unexciting. However, with the Sport mode activated, the throttle response gets crispier. We feel that Tata Motors should’ve used the Nexon’s full-blown map here which puts out 120 PS and 170 Nm of peak outputs. Also, a 6-speed MT and a 7-speed DCT is the need of the hour. The carmaker has confirmed that it will be introducing the option of a DCT soon, but it remained tight-lip about bumping up the power output.
2021 Tata Altroz iTurbo First Drive Review – Ride & Handling
Tata Altroz was perceived as a nice handling car that offered a comfy and composed ride quality. These attributes stay the same in the iTurbo trim as well. The reason for this consistency is the same formula that Tata Motors has used for Altroz iTurbo’s design – ‘Why fix something, that ain’t broken.”
Yes! The carmaker has not made any changes to the Altroz’s suspension in its iTurbo avatar. However, some extra weight at the front has surely made it a more corner-friendly car. The steering wheel feels heavy at low speeds but is manageable. On the brighter side, it has a lot of feel and feedback on offer. It isn’t super-direct but is the best that is available in this segment.
With McPherson struts on the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, the Altroz stays pliant for the most part. At triple-digit cruising speeds or in fast sweeping bends, it manages to induce confidence in the driver. Moreover, the suspension is tuned with enough travel and adequate rebound. As a result, the ride quality is comfy. However, a thud is quite prominent when going through an expansion joint or a pothole at high speeds.
The Altroz is underpinned by the capable AlfaArc platform. While it manages to provide a lot of strength to the Altroz, it also packs in a lot of balance and stability. Talking of the brakes, they are quite good too. The initial bite is strong, and the progression is noticeable. Making an emergency braking manoeuvre on the Altroz isn’t a scary affair either.
2021 Tata Altroz iTurbo First Drive Review – Verdict
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The 2021 Tata Altroz iTurbo is offered in a total of three trim options – XT, XZ, and XZ+. The XT trim is priced at Rs. 7.74 lakh. It is certainly cheaper than the entry point to the Hyundai i20 and VW Polo’s turbo-petrol trim. The case remains the same with the top-spec variant as well. However, Tata Motors could’ve priced it a couple of grands cheaper. Moreover, the Altroz iTurbo should’ve come packed with 118 horses like the Nexon as its chassis has the potential to deal with more power. With no automatic transmission available as an option, it won’t be wrong to say that Tata Motors has missed a great opportunity this time. While the Altroz iTurbo misses out on a lot, it manages to score big numbers for its VFM quotient, frugality, refinement, improved drivability, and passenger safety. So if you are looking to buy a peppy car with a 5-star crash test rating, the Altroz makes for a perfect choice. Also, if you always wanted to buy the Altroz but were keeping away from it due to the lifeless naturally aspirated petrol motor, now is the time to consider this great-looking Indian made premium hatchback.