Altroz DCA: Tata brings high-tech auto to fill a gap
The i-Turbo 1.2-liter petrol engine has become popular, providing much-needed entertainment in this segment. The design of the Altroz is not even old and it is still one of the best hatches available.
Missed the automatic gearbox that can provide refined performance similar to the rest of the package delivered by Altroz.
Last month, Tata Motors set that right by launching the Altroz DCA – its version with a dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The company’s choice to launch the DCA for a lower-powered version of the 1.2-liter Revotron petrol engine than the I-Turbo is a bit far-fetched, but my guess is that this pair should be in the corner as well.
But, this time, Tata Motors has chosen to launch one of the most technologically advanced dual-clutch transmissions developed domestically.
Furthermore, it was developed specifically to handle Indian operating conditions. It is one of the most available dual-clutch gearboxes out there.
Dual-clutch automatic transmissions must have one clutch for the odd number of gears and another clutch for the even number of gears. So, if one is engaged, the other will be on standby and this will help to improve the speed at which the gear shifts are executed.
Also, dual-clutch transmissions are sportier, more refined and capable of handling high loads. Typically, these automatics are paired with peppy engines. Many are provided with steering-mounted paddles to suit their sporty driving image.
However, in the Altroz, DCA is not currently provided with paddle-shifters or is currently paired with the Pipier engine. Before we get into the performance aspect, here is some information about the DCA gearbox.
Tata Motors said the DCA was built differently compared to other dual-clutch transmissions and was specially tuned to handle different weather and ambient driving conditions.
Towards that end it has a wet-clutch with an active cooling configuration to help it run cold compared to a dry-clutch.
The system monitors the oil temperature 100 times per second to ensure optimal operating temperatures. Tata also claims that it has a built-in self-healing mechanism that protects the dust from entering by using vibrations to expel any dust or debris that enters the transmission beyond the standard filtration process.
The new DCA gearbox, which is based on the planetary gear system, is said to have received 45 new patents for its technology and is said to have the third lowest movable component to provide more reliable performance from a smaller package.
An integrated machine learning algorithm is one of the new tech features that will help drivers to better experience the gearbox character during their ownership tenure.
Altroz is said to be able to measure and learn driving behavior to better adapt to DCA transmission performance. The drive-by-wire is not new in the tech hatchback segment either, but it’s worth getting the Altroz DCA ‘shift-by-wire’, which may be an inevitable addition to ensure a quick dual-clutch. Electronic shifting allows gear shifts to be faster than 250 milliseconds.
All the technologies loaded in the gearbox help to deliver the transmission uniquely in terms of its refinement and shifting character.
Unfortunately, the engine did not fit well into this gearbox. The test mule I ran for two days had a 1.2-liter Revotron petrol engine.
This 1,199cc, 3-cylinder mill does not get boost from the turbocharger and delivers nominal maximum power of 86PS and 113Nm of maximum torque. The engine does not display the normal gruffness expected of a three-pot mill, but it is not as peppy and fast as the i-Turbo.
Maximum power is delivered at a high 6,000rpm and enough torque also comes up to 3,000rpm, at a maximum of 3,300rpm. So, if someone tries to block the throttle in an attempt to get some thrusts from the Altroz DCA, the engine seems to filter easily.
Driving relatively quietly with the building gradually to highway speeds is not a problem and this is where the gearbox shines cleanly.
Gear shifts are not visible and there is a case where kickdowns also reduce gears when I have to overtake. However it is still required when the engine is in the mid-rpm range.
With city speed, the response from the engine is poor and it is difficult to try to overcome quickly. This can be overcome if there are paddles on the steering.
There is also no sports mode to choose from, but manual gear selection with +/- inputs is possible at the DCA gearstick, but even there the engine output does not provide a quick spike in the performance I expected.
The gearbox works up and down the ratios with efficiency bias. Therefore, with a view to providing 18.18 kmpl mileage with an ARAI rating, gradually, measured throttle inputs will be rewarded with a tendency for the transmission to be maximized.
While losing the start-stop feature that other petrol variants get, the 6-speed dual-clutch can definitely provide savings.
Design and features
The exterior design of the Tata Altroz DCA is similar to the manual transmission variants. Of course, some design elements are different depending on the trim variant chosen.
Altroz is still a beautiful looking hatch with squat, wide stance and chisel, sharp design character. The Tata design signature shark-nose, capturing the smiling fascia with the Humanity line in Chrome, is still a staple on the front of the Altroz DCA.
Large daylight openings (DLO), door mirrors on the piano block and gradually increasing belt line side bits. The rear end is very interesting in the Altroz design with 3D, split tail-lamps. Contrast roof color and black out elements in the lamps added more color to the Altroz design. The DCA badge is located at the bottom right of the tailgate.
By the time the Altroz was launched, its cabin was well-designed. It still remains despite some hard plastic stains in the cabin.
The dashboard layout is clean and it also gets ambient lighting which nicely highlights some elements including the unique center stock. The only dated bit in the cabin is the small infotainment screen, which looks like a pop-up.
The seats are nicely raised and have sewn upholstery. The 3-spoke, flat-bottom steering wheel with multi-function keys is also great to hold and use. The cabin feels really spacious and the boot also offers 345-liters of storage space.
The DCA gearbox is offered in four trim variants; With actually the same 1.2-liter Revotron engine. XMA + DCA is the base trim variant and XZA + DCA is the top trim.
While some features, such as the connected car tech, are not provided for the lower trim variants, the top trim gets the appropriate level of equipment and features. Safety features include two airbags, an auto park function and other standard safety kits. Altroz is the only Indian hatch with a 5-star global NCAP safety rating.
The following line
Automatics are fast becoming the choice of a large segment of car buyers.
Of all the models, no model today has lost an automatic transmission. Altroz fills in the blanks for the DCA model-line.
Dual-clutch transmissions are particularly attractive in terms of performance and refinement, and DCA provides an overview of exactly what is possible.
It fits the Altroz perfectly, but I would argue that the better engine for this gearbox is the i-Turbo, with a more luxurious 110PS output.
Until then, buyers who are not focused on sporty performance who want an auto with their Altroz can opt for DCA.
Altroz manual petrol prices start at Rs 6 lakh ex-showroom. However, the base variant of DCA is XMA +, which is almost Rs 1 lakh more with ₹ 8.1 lakh compared to the manual transmission XM + variant. The top trim XZA + variant is priced at ₹ 9.6 lakh, which is somewhat similar to the manual gearbox variant.
April 15, 2022