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Tata Altroz Racer : Our observations after a day of driving

On the highway, the Altroz Racer handles broken roads decently and dismisses smaller potholes with aplomb. Most of the time, the suspension goes about its job silently and isn't clunky or loud.

Driving the Tata Altroz Racer 1.2L Turbo-Petrol 6-speed MT

1.2-litre 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol puts out 118 BHP @ 5,500 rpm and 170 Nm @ 1,750-4,000 rpm. It’s mated to a 6-speed manual transmission:

The Altroz Racer gets the same 1.2L turbocharged petrol engine as the Nexon. It produces identical power and torque figures and is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. What's not cool is that this is the only transmission available with this engine. This puts the Altroz Racer at a disadvantage against its main rival - the Hyundai i20 N Line, which is available with an MT as well as a DCT automatic.

Press the clutch and hit the engine start/stop button to crank the engine. The clutch is light to operate, but the pedal's travel range is on the longer side. One also needs to get used to releasing the clutch. Finding the point at which the clutch disengages is tricky. The action is rather sudden and not linear. This results in a jerk as you set off. Till you get accustomed to the clutch, what you can do for a smoother start is release the clutch slowly without any throttle input. The car moves off smoothly from a standstill. 

In the city, the Racer has very good driveability. You won’t need to use the gearbox much. In 3rd gear, it pulls from as low as 15 km/h without much of an effort. There is very little turbo lag and one can easily close a gap to the vehicle in front. However, there is one problem. The Racer gets only one drive mode - Sport. This makes the throttle response sharp, which in turn, makes the drive jerky in traffic. I can understand that this is supposed to be a hot hatch and an "Eco" mode would look out of place. But at least a "City" mode should have been provided. It would make the throttle response duller and the drive less jerky. This along with the tricky hydraulic clutch and a notchy gearshift make the Altroz Racer not such a good car for city driving. 

On the open road, the Altroz is not quite the outright performer that its name suggests. The claimed 0-100 km/h time of the Racer is 11.3 seconds, which is far from some hot hatches of yesteryears like the Fiat Punto Abarth. It is not slow by any means though and is quite an enjoyable car to drive. The engine has a strong mid-range and highway overtakes don't require frequent downshifting. Power is available from as low as ~1,750 rpm. The engine won't rev beyond 5,500 rpm. We feel this is a rather low rev limit for a petrol engine.

The Altroz Racer is a fast and effortless long-distance cruiser. The engine does 100 km/h in 6th gear at ~2,000 rpm and 120 km/h at ~2,500 rpm. The engine feels relaxed while cruising and you can do triple-digit speeds all day long.

Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)

Tata has done a commendable job in the NVH department. There is no body shake on startup and despite being a 3-cylinder engine, there are no vibrations felt anywhere in the cabin at idle. The engine is quiet enough at idle, but Tata has given a sporty exhaust note to the Altroz Racer. That can be heard. On the move, you can clearly hear the engine inside the cabin. Go beyond 4,000 rpm and the sound gets loud. Along with the sporty exhaust, the driver will enjoy the experience, but passengers might get tired of it after a while.

Mileage & Fuel Economy

Tata hasn’t revealed the fuel economy figures for the Altroz Racer. We are already aware that a turbo-petrol engine’s fuel efficiency is very much dependent on the driving style. We will wait for Team-BHP ownership reviews for a more realistic figure.

Suspension

Ride Comfort

Like the regular Altroz, the Racer is equipped with an independent McPherson strut dual-path front suspension and a twist beam rear. The suspension has been stiffened up slightly to cope with the weight of the engine.

The suspension has a mature tune and is kind of European car-like in nature. At low speeds, the ride has a slightly firm edge to it. While it's not soft & plush, it's still compliant. Big potholes will be felt inside though. Another contributor is the 16" wheel size. The firm setup has its upsides too. As speeds increase, that mature suspension results in very good ride quality. On the expressway, there is no bounciness - the car rides quite flat. Firmer suspension tunes also recover well from road undulations. On the highway, the Altroz Racer handles broken roads decently and dismisses smaller potholes with aplomb. Most of the time, the suspension goes about its job silently and isn't clunky or loud.

Handling & Dynamics

Straight-line stability is exceptional and the Altroz drives like a "big car" on the expressway. There is no floatiness or nervousness at all. The car is well-planted with superb high-speed manners.

Through sweeping curves and corners, the Altroz Racer holds onto its line well and doesn't understeer easily. Body roll is well controlled and the car never gets unnerving. The 185/60 R16 MRF Ecotread tyres provide fair grip levels. We pushed the car on a track (CoASTT , Tamil Nadu) pretty hard and the tyres though squealing continuously, never lost grip. I had a couple of laps with Naren Karthikeyan and it was only when he really wanted to have some fun that he got the car to dance a little. An average Joe will find these tyres more than adequate.

Overall, the dynamics of the Altroz Racer are impressive.

Steering

The electric power steering is one of the nicer units around. It's very convenient for urban commuting & manoeuvrability. The steering is one-finger light at parking parking speeds and sufficiently light at city speeds. It weighs up nicely as the speedometer needle climbs. The EPS isn't lifeless and does give you some feel of what the front wheels are up to. At higher speeds, the steering inspires confidence.

Braking

The Tata Altroz Racer comes with the ubiquitous front disc & rear drum braking hardware. The brakes are equipped with ABS + EBD. We felt that they were progressive and did the job as expected. From high speeds, the car stops in a straight line sans any drama.

Niggles & Problems

During our test drive, we did not face any issue with the car - mechanical or electronic. This is a bit of a pleasant surprise since just about every Tata test car that I have driven has had one issue or the other. Still, we recommend that you do a thorough PDI and make sure that your car is free of any niggles or issues while taking delivery. Also as always, we recommend that you get the extended warranty over the standard warranty of 3 years or 1,00,000 km.

Continue reading the discussion on the 2024 Tata Altroz Racer on our forum.

 
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