Tata Altroz Racer Review: Fast But Not Furious

The Altroz Racer undercuts the Hyundai i20 N Line by up to ₹80,00, packing a serious punch with more features.

Tata Altroz Racer Review: Fast But Not Furious

Cars with sporty intentions and compact shape, often termed as hot hatchbacks, are a rare breed in India. Fiat Punto and Volkswagen Polo charmed their owners but failed miserably to make a business case for the brands. The only existing hot hatch out there is the Hyundai i20 N Line, which to many is dynamic and practical. If you are one such customer, Tata Motors has a product that seeks your attention. Meet the Altroz Racer. 

Tata Altroz Racer also coined as iTurbo+, is basically the Altroz running on the more powerful 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine borrowed from Nexon. It makes 120 horsepower, which is 10 units more than the Altroz iTurbo, and 170 Nm. The torque delivery linearly grows up to 2,000 rpm and post turbo spool, offers usable grunt all the way to 5,500 rpm. The power delivery, on the other hand, is progressive throughout the rev range. 

In simpler words, there is no shortage of punch. Overtaking in city traffic is effortless, and the flat torque curve means dab the accelerator in any gear, and Altroz Racer takes off with urgency. Triple-digit speeds are attained without breaking a sweat, and given a chance, Racer wouldn't mind cruising at an excess of 120 kmph. 

Racer gets a 6-speed manual gearbox which channels the power to the front wheels. No automatic at launch, especially with the dual-clutch available with the Altroz range, is a bummer. The second gear, in particular, is short, which calls for quick changes in traffic. The third and gears thereafter are significantly tall, and the driver can choose to sit on any of the gears to pull clear of the traffic. The gear throws are rubbery and take a bit of time to get used to. The hydraulic clutch, which engineers say, has been worked on has a decently long journey, which may tire you out in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The three-cylinder vibrations on the pedals are evident, and certainly, not welcomed. So, in a word, is it fast? Definitely, yes. Exciting? Not yet.

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What works in favour of the Altroz is the supremely confident ride quality. The ability to absorb bad and broken roads, and pass on very little undulations to the passengers, is remarkable in Altroz. The springs and dampers, alongside the ALFA architecture, can flatten out almost everything thrown at it. The Racer is no different. It feels planted at high speeds while being supple over the bumps at low speeds. Engineers say the dampers and spring rates have been tweaked to go with Racer's sporty intentions, and our opinion is undivided. It's the beautifully-tuned suspension which allowed us to unleash the Altroz Racer at Coastt, Coimbatore and have a blast. 

The front disc and rear drum brakes are carried over from the Altroz. While we expected all disc set-up, the Racer showed enough stopping bite in the current configuration. Tata Motors has opted for MRFs and Goodyear as tyre partners for Altroz racers. Surprisingly enough, having experienced both the rubbers which are of identical speck, the Goodyears felt far superior, sticking like glue against the tarmac. While the MRFs are supposed to have a longer life and be more mileage-oriented, it will be interesting to see whether customers get a chance to choose between the two or not. The steering is said to be returned for quick response. It weighs up nicely as you drive faster. Quick lane changes will be a breeze. It surely does appear more engaging than the regular Altroz but fails to feel as direct as the i20 N Line. Especially, the slight vagueness at the dead centre ruins the mood more often than not.

So, by now, you know Altroz Racer is fast, rides over almost every surface confidently and is a decent handler. But Tata Motors' attempt to lure you doesn't end here. The Altroz Racer is a handsomely packaged hatchback, with a few features over the higher-priced Hyundai i20 N Line. A top-spec Tata Altroz Racer (R3) gets a sunroof, ventilated front seats, an air purifier, a fully digital instrument console, a 360-degree camera, automatic climate control, cruise control, wireless charging and more. During our test run, none of the technological gizmos faced an outage or malfunction, which look promising for customers. It's an all-black cabin with orange and white stripes on the leatherette seats and floor mats. 

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If vibrant orange suits your colour palette, the dashboard will come across as no surprise. The bezel around the AC vents and the area between the front seats have generous use of orange plastic, something I found loud and distracting. The gloss black panel on the dashboard flows in nicely with the black cabin, however, is bound to attract dust, fingerprint and grease in daily commute. The plastic quality, panel gaps and finish levels require serious attention. Soft touch on door panels and uneven gaps are easily fixable areas that Tata Motors shouldn't overlook. Lastly, the 10.2-inch, freestanding display is packed with crisp detailing and gets wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Visibility of the screen in daylight is not an issue, and the IRa-based connectivity suite unlocks a host of remote commands and real-time vehicle diagnostics. 

The safety of Altroz is more robust than other premium hatchbacks is no new fact. The 5-star crash test-rated Altroz gets 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, 3-point seat belts for all passengers, automatic headlights and wipers as standard in Racer avatar reinforcing Tata Motor's safety promise. As far as the design goes, Racer looks and measures identical to that of regular Altroz. It's a set of new dual-tone shades of colours, graphics, racer badges, black-out alloys and a side skirt which make the Racer look distinct. 

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R1: ₹9.49 lakh (ex-showroom)
R2: ₹10.49 lakh (ex-showroom)
R3: ₹10.99 lakh (ex-showroom)

The Altroz Racer undercuts the Hyundai i20 N Line by up to ₹80,00, packing a serious punch with more features. That said, the i20 N Line feels a little more engaging and direct. For Tata Motors, Altroz Racer will attract a handful of customers who appreciate sporty drive without compromising on safety and conveniences, and like to stand out in the crowd.