The sub-four metre segment accounts for over 75% of the Indian automotive market. We have everything from small hatchbacks to sub-compact sedans and SUVs. Despite all of that, Tata Motors has come up with the new Punch that is said to be a micro SUV. The latest offering from the Indian carmaker and it’s claimed to have the agility of a hatchback and the DNA of an SUV. So has it got the punch to befit its name? We have got you covered with the 2021 Tata Punch First Drive Review.
Tata Punch First Drive Review - Exterior Design
The Tata Punch showcases the perfect amalgamation of the Harrier and the Nexon. While most of the Tata cars are striking from the get-go, the Punch is a bit subtle and impresses with its design elements. Tata has attained a great balance of ruggedness and modernity despite having a small footprint. On the front, we get the signature Humanity line that is highlighted with a prominent chrome border, covering the width of the front profile. The LED DRLs are mounted atop whereas the main headlights are placed lower on the bumper.
In the blue shade, one could even mistake it for an electric vehicle. The culprit being the flat grille that gets small tri-arrow inlets, not for the intake system, but for the horn. The placement of the horn is visible clearly and somehow robs away the otherwise premium-looking front end. One more quirk of the front profile is the air ducts mounted aside the headlights, to feed cool air to the braking system. Tata hasn’t skimped on its signature tri-arrow design and you would get them in abundance on the lower part of the bumper.
Coming to the side profile, the Punch retains its SUV characteristics. The prominent wheel arches and side cladding lend it a menacing look whereas the R16 machine-cut alloy wheels look modern. Despite the bigger alloy size, Tata has sensibly picked the tyre profile that is 195/60/R16 Apollo Alnac 4G. Unlike the Nexon, the roofline of the Tata Punch stays flat and is masked well with the dual-tone treatment. Some may also mistake the Punch to be a three-door as the rear door handles are neatly integrated within the D-pillar, a quirk started with the Chevy Beat. The 90-degree opening for the doors is a boon for the elderly in the house as they make the ingress and egress way too easier. The taillights of the Punch, even tough circular in nature, sneaks to the side profile, lending it a wraparound effect.
Coming to the rear profile of the Punch, you will appreciate the unique design. However, a pair of trained eyes will notice the resemblance from the Kwid, from the way the rear bulge has been carved out. Nonetheless, the Punch looks the best from the rear and much better in person than in the pictures. The circular LED taillights have the tri-arrow LED design whereas the reflectors have been placed lower on the bumper. Some may not appreciate the extensive use of black cladding on the rear but that masks the visual bulk along with boasting a robust stance. In terms of the overall design, the Punch will attract every kind of buyer with its handsome looks that are very much inspired by bigger SUVs.
Shedding some light on the dimensions, the Punch measures 3,827mm in length, 1,742mm in width and 1,615mm in height. Surprisingly, the Punch is 9mm taller than the Nexon that has a height of 1,606mm. Even the wheelbase of the Punch, which is 2,445mm, is just 53mm short of that of the Nexon. In comparison to the Maruti Suzuki Ignis, the Punch is bigger and better in every dimension. With the exteriors set aside, how well does the Punch feel on the inside? Let’s cut to the chase and hop inside.
Tata Punch First Drive Review - Interiors and Features
We have already mentioned the inspiration behind the design of the Punch, however, that also carries on the inside. The interiors of the Tata Punch resembles a lot of the Altroz. From the placement of the touchscreen to the semi-digital instrument cluster, multiple elements are common between both cars. The moment you slide yourself inside, you will notice the high commanding position. The seats are high set, the driver seat also gets height adjustment. Even at the lowest setting, the side defining creases of the hood are visible. The overall visibility on the inside is stupendous, complimented with a big glass area. Tata has used multiple layers of plastics to make the dashboard appealing. The centre bolster gets the tri-arrow pattern, but seems a bit bland, due to the lack of buttons. Tata should have added shortcut keys on the dash to utilise the space better.
The Harman touchscreen unit is the same we get with the Altroz and it comes mated with 4 speakers and 4 tweeters. While the sound output is astonishing, the fluidity of the system could have been better as it lags every now and then. The brighter side being the availability of Apple Car Play and Android Auto, however, we would have appreciated wireless functionality for the same. Tata Punch also gets iRA connect with which you can remotely lock/unlock your car along with geo-fencing and vehicle diagnosing. Other features include cruise control, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, drives modes, that are segment-first.
Talking about space management, we get enough cubby spaces inside the car. The centre tunnel has some deep storage space for your phone and wallet, whereas all the door pockets could easily fit two 500ml bottles. We also get twin cup holders in the middle and the glove box is illuminated and cooled. Full marks to Tata for offering multiple practical spaces, however, the lack of a centre armrest remains the fly in the ointment. On the back and you will be surprised with the space on offer. It can accommodate 6 footers with ease while offering great headroom. Three abreast at the back could be an issue but the flat floor is welcoming. Tata has also offered adjustable headrests, ISOFIX anchorages and rear seat armrest. However, cupholders and rear AC vents for rear passengers are sorely missed.
Tata Punch First Drive Review - Safety Features and Rating
Tata cars are known to offer best-in-segment safety backed with standard safety features and the Punch is not going to be an exception. Tata Punch offers 2 airbags, ABS with EBD, CBC, seatbelt pre-tensioners, speed sensing alarm and reverses parking sensors as standard. Tata Punch is based on the ALFA-ARC platform that also underpins the Tata Altroz. Tata Altroz is the safest hatchback to be very crashed tested by Global NCAP with a 5-star rating. The Punch being underpinned by the same platform is expected to score great marks in the safety department. Sources suggest that Global NCAP has already crash-tested the Punch and the ratings will be out soon.
Tata Punch First Drive Review - Engine, Gearbox and Performance
Tata Punch is offered with a sole 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine. It is the same 3-cylinder powerplant we get with the Tiago and produces the identical 86Hp and 113 Nm of torque. However, Tata has added Dyna-pro tech for the Punch that feeds more RAM air to the engine that helps to produce better low-end torque. The engine performs adequately but never feels sporty. The same unit on the Tiago feels much livelier. The mid-range is strong and as you climb up the revs, there is more noise than progress. The gap between the Eco and City modes isn’t far stretched and it’s better to stick with the City mode. Talking about the NVH levels, the engine has the typical three-cylinder rumble and it starts to feel gruff once you start reaching the redline.
The rivals, like the Maruti Suzuki Ignis, feels a lot faster in terms of acceleration and also offer better refinement. Tata should have seriously considered a turbocharged powerplant for the Punch, given it’s already lying in the arsenal. The turbocharged motor would have appealed to the young buyers who need spriting performance in a well-rounded package. It is worth mentioning that the ALFA-ARC platform is not only modular but also electrification-friendly that opens up space for the Punch EV in future.
We test drove both the 5-speed manual and AMT drivetrains but let’s start with the manual first. The 5-speed manual is the same TA65 gearbox we have seen with earlier Tata cars. Inside the city, the engine has enough poke to potter around with ease. You won’t find yourself fiddling with the gearbox more often thanks to the great tractability of the engine. However, at instances when you have to change the gears, you will encounter notchy shifts. The gates are well defined and the throws are also short, but the feel and precision are still better with the Japanese rivals. The clutch on the manual is very progressive and a boon inside the city. That is further complimented with low travel and light operation. You will be content with the clutch operation, except in some instances when it snaps you with some jerks.
Now jumping on the AMT and it’s a pleasant experience. The low end of the engine comes in handy and it feels even more driveable inside city conditions. The auto creep function works great and the acceleration is also linear. Tata doesn’t offer any dedicated sports mode with the Punch but you do get the option to take manual control over the cogs. The shift times could have been definitely improved whereas the head nod is more pronounced when you climb up the revs. For city use, I will definitely recommend you to go with the AMT, thanks to the better low end and convenience.
Tata Punch First Drive Review - Ride, Handling and Braking
No matter which Tata car you pick, you will never complain about ride quality. Tata Motors is known to offer a compliant suspension for Indian roads and the Punch drives that forward. The ride quality of the Punch is one of its USPs and also the best in its segment. Despite riding on 16-inch wheels, it gobbles up potholes for breakfast. Poor roads to no roads, you won’t think twice to move ahead with the Punch. Its suspension feels very robust and you can actually carry more speeds on bad roads. There is an underlining firmness though that is more evident at slow speeds, however, the comfort levels on the inside are astonishing.
Talking of the handling, the Punch doesn’t fail to impress. Well of course you can’t hit corners with the Punch without noticing body roll, but it’s the composure and the confidence that shines. Chuck it on some winding roads and it feels surefooted. The steering is really lite and easy to twirl in city limits and actually weighs up well at high speeds. The overall feel & feedback is much better than that of the Ignis. But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, the brakes have some considerable scope of improvement. Firstly, the biting point of the brakes is tough to judge and you will struggle to have confidence while braking hard. In addition to that, the spongy feel of the pedal isn’t very confidence-inspiring either.
Tata Punch First Drive Review - Offroad Credentials
Tata Motors has left no stones unturned to make the customers believe that the Punch is indeed an SUV. It’s not just with marketing, but Tata has actually put some thoughts and come up with something called Traction Pro to suffice the tag. The Traction Pro is only offered with the AMT variants and makes use of ABS and wheel speed indicators to help the Punch in tricky situations. In short and simpler terms, it applies brakes to the free-spinning wheel and channels adequate power to both of the front wheels to deal with muddy situations. It actually works and Tata also demonstrated its working on ice packs stuffed inside the ditches.
In addition to that, Tata Motors also organised an off-road experience trail to showcase the fantastic approach, ramp over and departure angles of the Punch. Not only that, but we also got to test the wheel articulation along with steep inclines and declines. It was truly a remarkable experience and full marks goes to Tata for showcasing the true potential of the Tata Punch.
Tata Punch First Drive Review - Verdict
Tata Motors is tapping on the urban buyers with the Punch. Its compact dimensions along with the rugged stance work in its favour and appeal to the masses. The Punch is a handsome looking micro SUV and has been positioned between the Tiago NRG and Nexon. Tata will announce the prices of the Punch on October 20th and that is when the complete story will unfold. Tata Punch showcases a great value proposition, that is let down by its engine. Having a turbocharged petrol engine had solved the issue. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a car well under 10 lakhs, mainly for city use, the Tata Punch turns out to be a capable vehicle with its comfortable ride and soft roading capabilities.
If you found this review informative, make sure to check out other interesting stories on the Carorbis Blog and also read Car Suspension – Working and Different Types Explained