Tushar BurmanJan 29, 2021 09:37:58 IST
When we drove the Tata Altroz for the first time in December 2019, it was a refreshing change from the Tata Motors products we had seen previously, and felt like a deliberate start of something new. It was a competent, practical, good-looking car that checked the boxes and exceeded expectations. Back then, Tata was still making hotter JTP-branded Tiagos and Tigors, and we hoped that they’d put the turbocharged engines from the Nexon into the Altroz eventually, and make a JTP version.
A year on, JTP is gone, relegated to history as an interesting but short experiment. However, Tata Motors has finally put a turbocharged engine into the Altroz, and called it the iTurbo.
We did a cool 360-degree video review of the original Altroz (click here) if you want the basics. Essentially, the Altroz remains a premium hatch with a refreshing design language. One year down, the design still holds up, and Tata is offering it in a striking blue colour that enhances the visage. My sense is that this design will age well.
The interior remains functionally identical, but Tata Motors listened to feedback and tweaked the interior a bit. With the new colour scheme, the dash looks much less bland than it did in the original car. Also new is Tata Motors’ new ‘IRA’ connected car system which allows for limited control and monitoring of your Altroz via a mobile app.
The turbo in ‘iTurbo’ is by way of the turbocharged 1.2l petrol motor that the hatch is now offered with. The numbers are modest – 110PS, 140Nm, but better than the outgoing car’s 87PS and 113Nm. There are a couple of new drive modes to go with the new motor – City and Sport, which do make a perceptible difference to the way the car behaves.
A word on tech
We didn’t have any connected features in the original Altroz, but the market has changed quite a bit since. Almost every new model in recent memory comes with some form of connected or app comparability, and the iTurbo hasn’t been left behind. Thankfully, Tata Motors have been conservative in their approach. The ‘IRA’ app works on iOS and Android devices, and doesn’t try to do too much. There’s no remote start/AC pre-cooling. There’s mostly some geofencing, security features, and remote lock/horn/lights and diagnostics. The app is reasonably clean and worked as advertised in urban areas. How it will behave when the mobile network doesn’t cooperate (as it often doesn’t), remains to be seen.
Navigation is enhanced by a clever system called ‘What3Words’, which essentially assigns three random (but easy to remember) words to specific locations, and allows you to set them for places. This makes navigation – particularly voice-activated navigation – rather easy to engage. What3Words is a service available in other vehicles and other apps and contexts as well, and is an interesting, practical innovation that we hope becomes standard for hands-free navigation.
The infotainment system remains the same as we’ve seen on recent Tatas such as the Nexon. The touchscreen is responsive and did not glitch on us during our time with the car. Unfortunately, the carmaker hasn’t quite figured out how to create an elegant-looking UI. Tell-tale icons tend to be tiny and inconspicuous, leaving me to wonder whether a specific mode was ‘on’ or ‘off’ until I found the obscure icon hidden on the screen somewhere. Menus are fine, but Tata needs to work on the passive info displays they’ve been putting in their recent cars.
There’s no big story here, but the dark/light tone of the interior with the new leatherette seats is a positive change. Back in 2019, we complained about the incongruous expanse of dull plastic on the dash that really let down the premium vibe of the rest of the vehicle. Thankfully, that is not the case with the iTurbo, and things look quite nice now. The rear accommodations continue to be comfortable, even for tall passengers, and the floorpan is nearly flat in case there are three abreast. The doors open nearly to 90 degrees, making ingress and egress easy.
One niggle that seemed to jump out this year is that the Altroz doesn’t have the best storage spaces in the centre console. Things just feel a little cramped if you need to put stuff down. The doors have plenty of room, however.
On the go
The turbocharged motor does liven things up compared to the old naturally-aspirated petrol motor. This is expected, though unfortunately, Tata Motors will find themselves victims of their own benchmarks. The original Altroz set the bar fairly high, and the iTurbo does not deliver the performance that I think most testers were expecting. It’s a reasonably light car for its 5-star NCAP rating, but the 140Nm of torque doesn’t really get it places very quickly.
‘Sport’ mode is the way to go if you want to feel that turbo earning its keep, but I find this motor to be a bit jerky on/off throttle, even in the Nexon. ‘City’ mode dulls this a little and is fine around town, but ‘Sport’ is where you may crack a slight smile. Turbo lag is minimal, but this car does not have point-and-squirt sort of torque that allows rapid overtakes and squeezing into every gap in traffic. The power is there, and triple-digit cruising speeds are achieved without drama, or the hairy feeling you get with a lesser motor that’s working very hard. While the three-cylinder motor is smooth, the refinement and noise levels remain a bugbear from the original car.
While suspension feels sophisticated, I did notice a rumble on uneven surfaces that I did not encounter in the old car – a distinctly German car feeling that I’m not a fan of. It’s not a deal-breaker, but a magic carpet, it is not.
To this, we say, “why not?”. The “Harbour Blue” colour makes the already arresting Altroz all the more striking. The iTurbo starts at Rs 7.74 lac ex-showroom, which is in the ballpark of rivals. Unfortunately, the performance isn’t. It’s a perfectly good premium hatch, and arguably one of the best-looking on sale, but I wouldn’t make too much of the ‘turbo’ in the badge. It’s a better Altroz, and that is still an achievement.
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