We put the Tata Altroz iTurbo to some rigorous real-world tests to find out if it is a hot hatch by any chance
Words And Photography: Neeraj Padmakumar
A year past its official market debut, Tata Motors has given the Altroz two significant updates- a new top-of-the-line XZ+ variant and an all-new turbocharged petrol engine. Dubbed the iTurbo, the turbo-petrol Altroz is claimed to be Tata’s new hot hatch, pitted against the Hyundai i20 t-GDi and VW Polo GT TSI. But is it really a worthy competitor? We are gonna answer this in a while. But the engine is not the only thing that has changed on the Altroz. Let’s sample these from our Altroz iTurbo XZ+ test car.
What’s New ?
The key changes on the Altroz iTurbo are on its equipment array. Tata Motors has added a bunch of modern-day gizmos to the car. There have, however, been no design updates as such. The overall design cues remain unchanged. There is now a new Harbour Blue paint scheme on offer though, which is no short of eye-candy in person. The only other new design element would be the iTurbo badging on the boot.
The cabin experience has been enhanced quite a bit on the new car. The top of the line XZ+ trim now gets a lot of features and equipment you’d have always wished to see on the Altroz. The car now gets a wearable key, something that we had first seen on the first-gen Tata Nexon. The seats now come wrapped in premium-looking leatherette. The plastics too are finished in lighter colour now. The Xpress Cool function for the air conditioning proves to be of great significance in the Indian scenario, as it provides for faster and more efficient cooling by rolling down the window and running the blower at full speed.
The most important addition to the Altroz turbo, however, is that of Tata’s connected car system called the iRA suite. We had first had our taste of the iRA back at the time when Tata had launched their BS6 lineup and the Nexon facelift in India. On the Altroz, the iRA gets 27 connected car features that the Indians would love, including remote commands, location-based services and the like. It also gets a smart voice recognition system that supports over 70 voice commands in Hindi, English, and Hinglish. Much like the all new Nexon, the Altroz XZ+ gets the What3Words technology as well.
The overall interface and response of the touchscreen unit seem to have been improved. The voice commands work quite okay-ish most of the time, but cannot be called completely flawless. The Altroz i-Turbo gets an eight-speaker audio system from Harman, which now proves to be more effective with the two additional speakers and tweeters.
Turbocharged Petrol Engine- The BIGGEST Change!
The 1.2 turbocharged petrol engine is the biggest change on the Altroz iTurbo (or should I call it the ‘biggest party trick’?) Even though Tata Motors calls it the ‘i-Turbo’, where ‘i’ stands for intelligent for reasons which we will come to in a while, this engine is quite similar to the Nexon’s 1.2 Revotron, however, in an entirely different state of tune. On the Altroz, this turbo-petrol is tuned to put out a good 110hp (108bhp to be razor-sharp) and 140Nm, unlike the Nexon’s 120hp and 170Nm. At this point, one could also draw comparisons to the 1.2 turbo petrol of the discontinued Tiago JTP, which would not hold valid once you actually get to drive this car.
The 5-speed manual transmission from the NA petrol and diesel Altroz finds a place on the i-Turbo as well. Though Tata is rumored to give its premium hatchback a Schaeffler sourced wet-clutch DCT, there has been no official word yet as to when.
Actual Performance : Hot Or Not ?
The iTurbo engine does sound reassuring on paper. But the moment you put it to rigorous performance tests, you would stop drawing comparos with the Tiago JTP’s heart.
The Altroz iTurbo feels quite tamed and civilized for a turbo-petrol. The turbocharger gets to life just above 1800 rotations, and with absolutely zero turbo kick! The power build-up is absolutely linear. Do not expect an abrupt punch or head-nods for the mid-range either. You could, by the way, rev this engine all the way to the redline as there is minimal loss of power in the top end.
In terms of refinement, the i-Turbo feels quite upmarket. The engine feels refined while idling. However, you do get to feel some vibes post-2800 rpms. Also, it deserves praise for its overall NVH levels, taking into consideration its three-pot structure.
The 1.2L Turbo petrol used to have much more vigour on the Tiago JTP (and was obviously more thirsty as well) The JTP had pronounced turbo kicks and a very strong mid-range as well. The engine feels quite restrained and held back on the Altroz. Tata Motors could have gone for such serious detuning to meet the new emission norms or to be on the safer side in terms of fuel efficiency.
Tata Motors claims the Altroz Turbo to do the 0-100 km/h run in under 12 seconds. However, even after numerous speed runs, the best we could manage to clock on our test car (with the VBox of course) was 12.8 seconds. This is definitely sub par to today’s turbo-petrol standards.
The next thing to talk about is the transmission. The 5MT on the Altroz iTurbo feels quite tactile and the least enthu-friendly and could be one reason for the sub-par speed run figures. The car badly needs a DCT.
The Altroz iTurbo gets two driving modes, viz- City and Sport. The City further clips the performance, while Sport provides for more aggressive throttle responses.
While all these could be turn-offs for the enthusiasts, the common man does have a reason to rejoice at! Most turbo petrols today are infamous for their jerky bumper-to-bumper rides, due to the turbo lag- kick-in combinations. This has been taken care of well on the Altroz iTurbo. An absolutely linear power delivery provides for breezy city runs and decent highway cruises. Think of this car as a beginner’s ticket to the turbo petrol territory.
Ride And Handling
The ride and handling is something we have always loved about the Altroz. The same remains untouched on the iTurbo too. The ALFA architecture does wonders around corners and in high-speed lane-changing maneuvers. The steering feels light at low speeds and weighs up decently (though not remarkably) with speed. Though not perfect, it feels quite predictable at most times.
There is some amount of understeer many a time. You could blame these on the budget-tires or the soft springs. Getting a set of tires with better grip should solve this issue. The Altroz’s suspension offers supreme ride quality in most road scenarios. I feel the Altroz iTurbo to be among the most comfortable cars of its segment.
Quick thought: I found the diesel Altroz to be more planted around the corners and speed-friendly, most probably due to its 100 odd kilograms of added weight.
The car gets drums at the rear and disc brakes at the front. All the four brakes provide ample stopping power and decent bites to match the mightier engine.
And here’s our answer to the question in the title. The Altroz iTurbo is nowhere inside the ‘turbo petrol hot hatch’ territory, by today’s standards, but is indeed a sporty hatchback to drive. To be more precise, it stands a notch ahead of the performance mark where the NA petrol Altroz should have stood.
Reiterating my previous remark, the Altroz iTurbo is no enthu-cutlet, but a beginner’s ticket to the turbo petrol hatchback space. It is a pocket-friendly turbo petrol that would give you as much as 14-15kmpl in most scenarios. For the pricing, check this out