The Tata Altroz has been in the market for about two years. It has carved a niche for itself, offering customers in the B+ Hatchback segment an attractive alternative.

The i-Turbo 1.2-litre petrol engine has been popular, injecting some much-needed element of fun into this segment. The Altroz's design too hasn't aged, and it is still one of the best-looking hatches available currently.

What it missed was an automatic gearbox that could deliver the same level of refined performance as the rest of the package that Altroz delivered.

Last month, Tata Motors set that right by launching the Altroz DCA - its version of a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

It is a little odd that the company has chosen to launch the DCA for the lower powered version of the 1.2-litre Revotron petrol engine rather than the i-Turbo, but my guess is that this pairing should also be right around the corner.

But, in the meantime, Tata Motors has chosen to launch one of the most technologically advanced dual-clutch transmissions that has ever been developed indigenously.

Further, it is said to have been developed specifically to handle Indian operating conditions. This would also be one of the most accessible dual-clutch gearboxes out there.

Dual-clutch automatic transmissions essentially feature one clutch for odd number gears and another for even number gears. So, while one is engaged, the other is on standby, and this helps improve the speed at which gear shifts can be executed.

As such, dual-clutch transmissions tend to be sportier, more refined, and capable of handling a higher load. Typically, these automatics are paired with peppy engines. Many are offered with steering-mounted paddles to match their sporty driving image.

But, in the Altroz, the DCA is currently not offered with paddle-shifters, nor is it currently paired with the peppier engine. Before we get into the performance aspect, here's a bit about the DCA gearbox itself.

Inside intel

Tata Motors says that the DCA is built different compared to other dual-clutch transmissions and is specifically tuned to handle diverse weather and ambient driving conditions.

To that end it features a wet-clutch with active cooling configuration to help it run cooler compared to a dry-clutch.

The system is said to monitor oil temperature a 100 times per second to ensure optimum operating temperatures. There is also an in-built self-healing mechanism, which Tata claims protects against dust ingress by using vibrations to eject any dust or debris that may enter the transmission past the standard filtration process.

The new DCA gearbox based on a planetary gear system is said to have been awarded 45 new patents for its tech and is said to have a third fewer moving parts delivering a more reliable performance from a smaller package.

One of the new tech features that will help drivers better experience the gearbox character over their ownership tenure is the machine learning algorithm that has been incorporated.

The Altroz DCA is said to be capable of measuring and learning driving behaviour to better adapt transmission performance. Drive-by-wire tech is not new even in the hatchback segment, but it is good to see that the Altroz DCA gets 'shift-by-wire', may be an inevitable addition for ensuring a quick-shifting dual-clutch. Electronic shifting ensures that gear shifts are as quick as 250 milliseconds.

Performance

All that tech loaded on to the gearbox sure helps deliver a transmission that stands out in terms of its refinement and shifting character.

Unfortunately, the engine isn't a good match for this gearbox. The test mule that I drove around for a couple of days sported the 1.2-litre Revotron petrol engine.

This 1,199cc, 3-cylinder mill doesn't get the boost from a turbocharger and so delivers a nominal 86PS of peak power and a peak torque of 113Nm. The engine doesn't display the typical gruffness that one might expect from a three-pot mill, but it is not peppy and quick like the i-Turbo.

Peak power is delivered at a high 6,000rpm and adequate torque too comes in by about 3,000rpm, peaking at 3,300rpm. So, the engine sounds strained easily, if one tries to stomp the throttle in an attempt at getting some shove from the Altroz DCA.

Relatively sedate driving with a gradual building up to highway speeds isn't a problem and that is where the gearbox's refinement shines through.

Gear shifts are imperceptible and there is occasion for kickdowns to lower gears too when I need to execute an overtake. But that still needs be when the engine is in the mid-rpm range.

At city speeds, the response from the engine is poor and attempting a quick overtake is difficult. This could've been gotten over if the steering had paddles.

There is also no sports mode to choose, but manual gear selection is possible with +/- inputs at the DCA gear stick, but even there the engine's output just doesn't deliver the quick spike in performance I expected.

The gearbox works up and down the ratios with an efficiency bias. So, gradual, measured throttle inputs will be rewarded with a tendency for the transmission to upshift optimally, with the intent being to deliver that ARAI rated mileage of 18.18 kmpl.

The 6-speed dual-clutch certainly manages to deliver frugality despite missing out on the start-stop feature which the other petrol variants get.

Design and features

The Tata Altroz DCA's exterior design is identical to the manual transmission variants. Of course, some of the design elements will be different depending on the trim variant chosen.

The Altroz is still a good-looking hatch with a squat, wide stance and a chiseled, sharp design character. The Tata design signature shark-nose at the front with the humanity line in chrome capturing a smiling fascia is still the dominant feature at the front of the Altroz DCA.

The large daylight opening (DLO), the stalked door mirrors in piano black, and the gradually rising belt line are the eye-catching bits from the side. The rear is the most interesting bit of design for the Altroz with the 3D, split tail-lamps sitting right at the edge of the haunches, creating a layered look. Contrast roof colour and blacked out elements in the lamps add more colour to the Altroz's design. The DCA badge sits at the bottom right of the tailgate.

At the time that the Altroz was launched, its cabin was one of the best put together. It continues to be so, even though there are a few hard plastic spots in the cabin.

The dashboard layout is clean, and it even gets ambient lighting that nicely highlights some of the elements, including the unique centre stack. The only dated bit in the cabin is the small infotainment screen, that looks more like a pop-up.

The seats are nicely bolstered and feature stitched upholstery. The 3-spoke, flat-bottomed steering wheel with multi-function keys is also great to hold and use. The cabin genuinely feels spacious, and the boot also offers 345-litres of storage space.

The DCA gearbox is offered with four trim variants; all of course with the same 1.2-litre Revotron engine. The XMA+ DCA is the base trim variant and the XZA+ DCA is the top trim.

The top trim gets decent levels of equipment and features, though some of the features like connected car tech is not offered for any of the lower trim variants. Safety features include two airbags, auto park function and a bunch of other standard safety kit. The Altroz, of course, is the only Indian hatch with a 5-star Global NCAP safety rating.

Bottom Line

Automatics are fast becoming the choice amongst a large section of car buyers.

Across segments, no model today can afford to miss an automatic transmission. The Altroz DCA will fill a key gap for the model-line.

Dual-clutch transmissions have a certain appeal in terms of performance and refinement and the DCA sure manages to offer glimpses of what is possible.

It is the right fit for the Altroz, though I'd argue that the better engine for this gearbox would be the i-Turbo with it's more sumptuous 110PS output.

Until that arrives, buyers who are not focused on sporty performance but want an auto with their Altroz can choose the DCA.

Prices for the Altroz manual petrol start at ₹6 lakh, ex-showroom. However, the base variant of the DCA is the XMA+ which is about one lakh rupees more at ₹8.1 lakh compared to the manual transmission XM+ variant. Top trim XZA+ variant is priced at ₹9.6 lakh with a somewhat similar price differential to the equivalent manual gearbox variant.

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