Home / Reviews / First Drive / Tata Punch First Drive Review – What is the Punchline?

 

Tata take a swing at a new but lucrative segment with the Punch. We drove it to see if they have hit the spot or missed the mark.

Tata Punch

Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Some say that fortune favours the bold. The Tata Punch could become a great example of that. What began as the HBX concept car has become the Punch SUV. No, mini SUV… no, micro SUV.

Let me clear that up. The Punch is a sub-four-metre (3.8-metre) car and it is placed in a segment below the Nexon. This little SUV has driven itself into a space where it has no direct rivals. So, when the competition does arrive, they will be sizing up their cars to handle the swing and reach of the Punch. To check out the car’s potential, we drove it primarily in an urban environment with some highway time and a stint off the road as well.

Head on, the Tata Punch retains all the familiar elements of the Tata SUV family. To be precise, it has all the characteristics of an SUV without looking overly functional. The upper half of the car can be interpreted as a contemporary design for an urban runabout while the lower half (especially the generous amount of cladding and square wheel-aches) flexes the car’s off-road potential. My favourite bit about the Tata Punch’s design is how its lines and curves are in proportion to the rest of the bodywork. It has a confident stance and similar road presence which is amplified by a tail section that cannot be confused for anything else on sale in India today.

Tata Punch

All the doors open out at 90 degrees to the chassis, making for easy ingress and egress. This welcome with wide open arms, I mean doors, is met by a cabin that is clearly built to be more functional than opulent. There is no fancy material here to make you feel special, but I am glad to report that none of it felt low-quality either. While the cabin does not use a lot of soft plastic, the finish is good and it hints at robustness and longevity.

Tata Punch

We got to drive the top-spec Creative variant and it came loaded with infotainment features, including a seven-inch Harman touchscreen system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. What impressed me more than the long list of features was the space inside the cabin. For a small car, there is generous room in both rows, even for a six-foot tall person and the boot is cavernous (366 litres) — quite alright for a small family, I must say. A nice, airy cabin, contemporary upholstery, and ample options for entertainment without a dearth of space make this a nice place to be in.

Tata PunchTata PunchTata Punch

Was there noise in the cabin and were there irksome vibrations? Not really. Tata have managed to keep the NVH levels quite low and very little road noise creeps into the cabin (and that too only at high speed).

Tata Punch

Under the hood is a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder Revotron engine and it develops 86 hp and a peak torque of 113 Nm. Tata are offering the Punch with both AMT and manual transmissions. The latter is the one to buy for enthusiastic driving, hands down. The light-action clutch and well-spaced gear ratios are complemented by a slick gearbox that lets you enjoy the drive, but if you are inclined to leave the left foot idle, pick the AMT. The benefit of having an automated manual transmission is that it is comfortable to drive in the city (easier for a beginner driver) and by letting off the throttle just before a gear-change, you can get quite a smooth ride, but the shifts are not fast enough to support spirited driving.

Around fast corners and while cruising on the highway at triple-digit speeds and even when changing lanes, the Punch was planted and within its comfort zone, but I felt that a little more feedback from the steering wheel would have further improved the experience in those situations. Furthermore, body-roll was acceptable for a car in this segment and, as expected, the Punch played its cards right in the busiest of urban environments. Its dimensions and large glass area make it a breeze to drive around. It is easy to manoeuvre and well-equipped to handle boredom when stuck behind miles of traffic. If you live in a busy metro, you are probably one among those who check if a restaurant has enough parking space before looking for a Zomato rating. A small car like this could solve that problem for you by squeezing into tight parking spots.

Tata Punch

The Punch surprised me the most in an area where I least expected it to — off road. On a purpose-built obstacle course, the little car did everything that was asked of it, including banked ramps, water wading, and a stellar exhibition of the “Traction Pro” mode (available only in the AMT variant). Having planted one wheel on a slippery block of ice and the other on a firm patch of ground, I tried to throttle my way out but, predictably, the wheel on ice spun without traction. This caused a prompt on the touchscreen asking if I would like to engage Traction Pro mode. Once engaged, you need to place your left foot on the brake pedal and press the accelerator gently with the right foot. The car smartly sends the torque to the wheel that has traction while keeping the other one stationary and it slowly pulled away to firmer ground. That is impressive for a front-wheel-drive micro-SUV.

Tata Punch

Overall, the Tata Punch is a pioneer in a segment that it has created for itself, its closest rival being the Maruti Suzuki Ignis. After spending a morning behind its wheel, I do not see anything that warrants complaint or any red flags that need to be sorted out. The Tata Punch has everything that a first-time car-buyer needs. Moreover, with a five-star (for adult and four for child) Global NCAP rating, it does score full marks in the safety department.

The starting price of Rs 5.49 lakh (ex-showroom) should appeal to many, but the car that you see on these pages goes up to Rs 9.39 lakh (ex-showroom), which, to be frank, seems overpriced. I mean, is it still a small, accessible car if it depletes your bank account to the tune of a seven-digit figure?

Watch the video of the first drive review here:

Also Read: Maserati MC20 Cielo Unveiled

 

About the author: Joshua Varghese

 

Would gape at fast cars. Still does but now has a chance to drive some of them. Hates driving in traffic but makes up for with a spot of off-roading or the occasional track outing. Insta: @motoknight

 

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