The last 20 years for the automotive industry has witnessed a vast evolution across segments with products from various manufacturers. But hatchbacks have remained a popular choice for a long time now, thanks to these cars being a great value proposition. And customers are now willing to fork out a premium for styling, quality interiors and a long list of features. Tata very recently re-entered this segment with its all-new Altroz. We pit against one of India’s best selling cars – the Maruti Suzuki Baleno.

Design

The Altroz has very sharp looks, with its shark-nose front end design and all the gloss black elements around. It boasts of a lot of sharp lines, flared wheel arches and an up-sweeping window line. It also has a wide stance, thanks to the ALFA platform. We love the angular headlights, the smoked-out tail lamps, those well integrated fog lights and big 16-inch wheels.

With the Baleno, Maruti got the styling spot-on, making it among one the nicest looking hatchbacks around. The sloping bonnet and swept-back headlamps look good with projectors integrated along with LEDs. The facelifted Baleno gets a new grille and an aggressive bumper design. It also gets a lot of chrome inserts. The overall design is tidy with the right amount of muscle in the right places. The Baleno sure does have good presence, thanks to its large dimensions.

Inside the cabin

The cabin of the Altroz looks equally stylish and functional. The layout is clutter-free, and with not too many buttons and controls, it makes viewing rather easy on the eye. It features a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. And we loved the sound quality from the Harman system.

The Baleno is a spacious car with plenty of legroom at the rear. Even the front seats are comfortable and offer good support. However, the rear seat squab is too flat and lacks sufficient cushioning. Boot space, at 339 litres, is really good, but the Altroz’s is better at 345 litres. The Baleno also comes with a good ground clearance of 170mm.
Performance & Handling

The Altroz impresses with its ride quality as it soaks in all bumps without a fuss. The car comes equipped with a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine and a 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder diesel engine. Both these engines are mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. But the petrol engine is a bit too vocal. The petrol engine produces 85bhp and 113Nm of torque which feels decent for urban use. The 1.5-litre diesel engine is more responsive and there’s ample torque at your disposal. Throttle response is instant, making it fun to drive. The diesel is definitely the pick of the two, but it gets quite vocal as well. The Altroz handles well and stays planted at high speeds. The steering is also responsive and loves turning into corners.

We drove the Maruti Suzuki cars with its 1.3-litre diesel engine that seems to have improved in terms of refinement. The 74bhp motor feels eager but turbo lag is felt and results in frequent gear changes. On highways, it runs out of breath. But it is quick, thanks to the light monocoque platform. The 5-speed gearbox works well and responds immediately, but in a linear manner.

Features

The Altroz comes with a host of features like 16-inch dual-tone alloy wheels, projector headlamps, climate control, ambient lighting, auto headlamps, rear AC vents, rain sensing wipers, wearable key, steering-mounted controls, front and rear armrest, 7.0-inch floating touchscreen infotainment by Harman, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, push button start, cruise control, rear camera display, idle start-stop, LED daytime running lights and a 7.0-inch TFT digital instrument cluster.

The Baleno gets equipment like LED projector headlamps with LED DRLs, premium LED rear combination lamps, puddle lamps, UV cut glass, leather-wrapped steering wheel, voice commands, remote control via smartphone app, follow-me-home lamps, rear parking camera, automatic headlamps, alloy wheels, colour MID, new SmartPlay infotainment system, navigation via smartphone, remote control through SmartPlay studio app, height adjustable driver’s seat, telescopic adjustment for steering wheel, front centre armrest, push button start/stop, front fog lamps, auto-dimming interior mirror and chrome garnish.

Opinion

The Altroz comes across as a competitive product with its sorted dynamics, excellent safety and good ride quality. However, we would’ve liked a powerful petrol engine. The refinement needs to be looked into as well. And the absence of an automatic transmission at the moment will turn away buyers. The Baleno too, is a premium product alright and ever since its launch, it has caused quite a stir. But if you want to stand out in the crowd, we’d recommend the Tata cars.