Home / Home / Tata Altroz iCNG First Drive – A Natural Alternative

 

The Altroz iCNG from Tata Motors features innovative twin-cylinder CNG technology. We take a close look to see how it performs.


Story: Kurt Morris
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Tata Motors, one of the leading automobile manufacturers in India, have ambitious plans for the CNG marketplace. The company has already launched a number of CNG-powered vehicles and it plans to introduce even more in the coming years. Tata Motors are also investing in research and development to improve the performance and efficiency of their CNG vehicles. They believe that CNG is a viable alternative to petrol and diesel and are committed to making CNG-powered vehicles more accessible to Indian customers.

The CNG market has been expanding at a rapid pace; it has increased by 35 per cent over the past three years. Tata Motors could not pass up this opportunity. Additionally, the CNG variants of the Tigor and Tiago account for 40 per cent of their respective model’s sales.

Manufacturers have begun offering vehicles equipped with factory-installed CNG kits, which are significantly safer than after-market kits and thus help increase the popularity of CNG vehicles. Despite the many advantages of CNG, there is one glaring drawback, though, and that is the lack of boot room that results from a huge CNG tank occupying all the space. There is now a CNG car with a usable boot thanks to Tata, who have managed to address the problem by employing two smaller tanks.

The appearance of the Altroz iCNG is streamlined and attractive. It has an aggressive bumper, sweptback headlamps, and an acutely angular front grille. The car’s prominent wheel-arches and sloping roof-line give it a distinctive side aspect. At the rear, there is a sizeable tail-gate, fashionable tail-lights, and a diffuser-like component.

Opera Blue, Downtown Red, Arcade Grey, and Avenue White are a few of the colours that the Altroz iCNG is offered in. It is equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Goodyear tyres. Tata call the paint job on the review unit Opera Blue and it looks stunning. An “iCNG” badge has been placed on the boot-lid to distinguish this car from other models. A badge proclaiming Tata Motors’ achievement of producing 50 lakh automobiles adorns the rear door.

The interior has not changed as compared to the regular Altroz, though. There is the floating seven-inch Harman infotainment system with JBL speakers and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new four-inch LCD digital instrument cluster was derived from the Tiago and Tigor iCNG models. It has two fuel indicators, one for petrol and another for compressed natural gas, and it has been designed to be more user-friendly. The two-tone colours used throughout the rest of the cabin give it a premium appearance. We just wish the Altroz iCNG had also inherited the larger infotainment screen from the new Nexon EV.

Tata have equipped the Altroz with a sunroof that is voice-activated, although we preferred the switch on the roof panel. A wireless smartphone charger, automatic headlights, wipers, climate control, a cooled glove-box, six speakers, iTPMS, rear a-c vents, and an air-purifier are further amenities.

Let us get to the main part of the Altroz iCNG, which is the iCNG system. It has a number of features that prevent accidents, such as a micro-switch that turns off the car during refuelling and a leak detection system. The iCNG system is also very environment-friendly. There is lesser emission than petrol or diesel cars. One of the unique features of the iCNG system is that it uses two small CNG cylinders instead of a large one. This allows the Altroz iCNG to retain its boot space, which is a major selling point for the car. The two CNG cylinders are located under the floor of the boot. They are made of high-strength steel and are welded together to ensure safety.

Tata have always accorded importance to safety and the Altroz iCNG does not skimp on any safeguards. It is protected with leak detection, six-point mounts, thermal incident protection, and reinforced rear construction. The car boasts of the largest baggage space for a CNG car in this segment because of the spare tyre’s ingenious location beneath the boot, similar to what you might see in some large SUVs. Now, you have to give it to the engineers at Tata Motors for coming up with this nifty packaging solution for the big CNG cylinder problem that people have faced in the past.

The Tata Altroz iCNG is powered by a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, Revotron engine that runs on a combination of petrol and CNG. The engine produces 77 hp of power and 95 Nm of torque. You feel as if you are driving a regular petrol car at moderate speeds owing to a decent level of power. It is smooth and it performs well enough to be used as a city runabout. However, you do feel the Altroz iCNG could have a little more power on the highway. Lastly, you do not feel the usual power drop normally associated with CNG cars.

The iCNG system has two cylinders that store CNG while the third one is used for petrol. When we drove this car, Tata Motors were still awaiting the Altroz iCNG’s official fuel efficiency figures from the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI). While driving around in Goa, we saw an indicated 19 km/l in the petrol mode and an approximate 31 km/kg while running the car on just CNG.

The Tata Altroz iCNG is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. It is a good choice for this car, for it offers a good balance of performance and fuel efficiency. The transmission is also easy to operate, making it a good choice for both urban and highway driving.

The Altroz iCNG’s ability to start in the CNG mode right away, as opposed to its competitors which require one to manually toggle between CNG and petrol modes, is another factor that sets it apart from the competition. Furthermore, the transition from CNG to fuel feels seamless as compared to other CNG vehicles.

As for driving and handling, the Altroz suspension was always set up a little on the firmer side. With little body-roll, it negotiates sweeping turns with good control. The driving experience is also made livelier by the steering wheel. Although light to start with, it begins to weigh up once the car gains momentum. The overall ride quality is good.

The Altroz iCNG is available in four trims—XE, XM+, XZ+, and XZ+ (O)—with the price starting at Rs 7.55 lakh (ex-showroom). It promises to be the safest hatchback in its class because of its platform’s five-star Global NCAP rating. It includes two airbags in addition to its tough and solid frame.

This is a most comprehensive and useful car because it hasn’t sacrificed features or boot space and is competitively priced. It is a good option for those looking for a fuel-efficient and affordable hatchback.

 

About the author: Kurt Morris

 

 

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