What an important product for Tata Motors, but even more so for the Indian car market. And that’s because in many ways the Tata Punch opens up a whole new segment. Sure, you can argue that it has ready rivals in the form of the Maruti Suzuki S-Presso, Renault Kwid, Maruti Suzuki Ignis, but it will really take on the likes of the Hyundai Grand i10 and Maruti Swift. The Tata Punch will likely go after that hatchback buyer – and yes perhaps even the upcoming Citroën C3 and Hyundai Casper too. But if successful, the Tata Punch will spark off a new craze – the micro-SUV.
The Punch is definitely shaped like an SUV, and positioned as one. Yet it is only 3827 mm long, 1945 mm wide (with mirrors), and 1615 mm tall. To put that into perspective, those numbers make it a fair bit bigger than the Kwid, and only a few mm bigger than a Hyundai Grand i10 Nios (though the Hyundai has a mere 5 mm lead on wheelbase – at 2450 mm). The cars I and my colleagues have tested were both top spec with the dual-tone roof. The manual is the one in Meteor Bronze with a black roof, while the AMT is dressed in Tornado Blue with a white roof – that blue and red are only reserved for the top trim variants.
|Ground Clearance||187 mm|
Also Read: Tata Punch Micro SUV Launch Date Revealed
Hook? Jab? or Knockout? What ‘Punch’ does @TataMotors‘ latest micro SUV deliver? We got behind the wheel of the manual and AMT to give you the most detailed review!#TataPunch @TataMotors_Cars https://t.co/rmm6sepAB2 pic.twitter.com/lTPyXeO4yF
— carandbike (@carandbike) October 9, 2021
What I love most about the way the car looks, is how true the Tata Punch stays to last year’s HBX concept car. Like that concept, the design is bloody good looking. It is muscular, modern and altogether desirable. And definitely very SUV, as I said. The Punch looks like a sibling to the Safari, Harrier and Nexon at first glance, but still has enough to have its own identity.
The design of the Punch stays true to the HBX concept showcased at the 2020 Auto Expo
The piano black grille cover with its tri-arrow pattern punched out on the left of the Tata logo, the taillights, the bumpers and stance – are all unique. The humanity line as Tata calls it, is the only chrome element that runs below the grille and ‘smiles’ its way into the headlamp cluster. The headlamp is split with the actual light sitting below in the bumper, and a slim DRL or daytime running light up top. The LED DRL is only on the top-spec, the rest get an indicator there. And then there is that tri-arrow pattern all through the plastic cladding and bumper upfront. The bumper is plasticky but works for this segment. Cladding all around, and very squarish wheel arches, plus the 16-inch alloy wheels complete the SUV look. For more convincing, there is the 187 mm ground clearance, and this is definitely no crosshatch!
Baby Rhino – yes chunky and muscular – and tough looking. Well, I said Rhino, because there is a small Rhinoceros icon hidden into the rear windscreen edging! Another easter egg is the Tata name logo concealed in the red element of the taillight that extends over the rear fenders. I had the chance to speak with Martin Uhlarik – who took us around the car in an exclusive walkabout. He said the intent was to convey toughness and SUV character very overtly – and make the car appear wider than it is. The tailgate with the car’s name in spaced out alphabets definitely enhances that.
Also Read: Tata Punch Micro SUV Unveiled
That way of badging the car is very much the trend these days across manufacturers globally. And yes, I am glad they did not end up calling this one Hornbill! The rear door handle is concealed into the black plastic element that doubles up where the quarter glass would be, and so is concealed – a la Altroz and Swift – and yes, it’s nicely finished. Overall, the Punch has a perceived sense of quality in terms of the shut lines, the paint job, everything looking really glossy and modern. And add in the very contemporary and gorgeous design too.
The Punch comes in 4 personas – Pure which gets dual airbags, Isofix, central locking, a tilt steering, 90-degree opening on the doors, chrome on the front grille and headlamp housing and power windows up front, 15″ steel wheels and a few more things. Next it is the Adventure line which moves up to 16″ steel rims, gives you a 4-inch infotainment screen, steering mounted controls, electrically adjusting outside mirrors, USB port, power windows at the back too and more. The third trim is called Accomplished, and it adds on things like the 7-inch touchscreen by Harman with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear view camera, start-stop button, LED taillights, and cruise control, etc. And finally, the top trim is Creative – the cars with us – get all the bells and whistles, which includes a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster screen, projector headlights, LED DRLs as I said, auto headlamps and wipers, rear wiper and defogger, and roof rails.
Tech and Interior
The thing I did not expect to find on the Punch was an impressive cabin. And I am happy to be wrong on that. The quality and look of the plastics used is pretty good. The colour palette is also smart, and the cabin has a young, fresh design feel. The 7-inch touchscreen on the higher variants is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and also gets iRA connected car tech. We have a separate review on the tech interface and connectivity from our tech editor Sahil by the way. But I will say this – that screen should have been a tad bigger. Or at the very least the edges not as thick. So with the display not going to edges, it appears even smaller than it is. And the graphic interface is far too cluttered with information. On the whole, Tata needs to up its screen game. The top Creative trim gets a TFT screen on the instrument console too. But here again, I feel the instruments housing, and the shape of the hood, do all look rather old style. Even the squarish dials, don’t keep up with the rest of the car’s good looks and modernity. Tata needs to do a Kia here on its gadgets and interfaces! And I am sure with bigger products that will happen in time.
Also Read: Tata Punch Micro SUV: Variants Explained
The blue surrounds on the AC vents are only so on the Tornado Blue exterior paint models. The rest get grey – which is slightly odd, coz body-coloured ones would’ve been so cool! Smart spaces like the keys bin between the two front seats, bottle holders and even an umbrella nook in the front doors, and a cooled glove box (top-spec only) – are some of the tricks in the Punch. It claims 25 utility spaces across the cabin! The car also has acceptable rear legroom (hey come on look at its size before you judge), great under-thigh support, and surprising headroom. Higher trims have a drop-down armrest at the back, and the fabric seat upholstery is grey with elements of the exterior colour in the pattern. The rear floor is almost flat – which adds to the sense of space.
Dual airbags, ABS (antilock brakes) with electronic brake force distribution, ISOFIX child seat anchors, a reverse camera (in higher specs), seatbelt reminders, and ‘Brake Sway Control’, which Tata says, “detects the tendency of instability during abrupt braking before the ABS kicks in to avoid vehicle swaying from the driving path.” It is a pity that the segment’s price constraints have meant only a lap belt for the rear middle passenger, and I really think we need a law to enforce a 3-point middle belt in all cars. Over 40 per cent of the car’s body uses high strength steel though, and going by Tata’s track record and promise of safety in all vehicles, I expect good crash capability. It is one model, whose GNCAP crash test I will keenly watch.
Engine and Performance
The Punch is small and zippy, yet manages to establish a presence on the road. Visually it manages to stand above the likes of the Swift or Grand i10 Nios. The only engine is the 1.2 litre Revotron petrol. This 3-cylinder unit is meant to be frugal, though Tata will tell us claimed mileage figures at launch only. It packs a decent punch though. The engine makes 85 bhp and punches 113 Nm of peak torque. Gearbox options would read better had there been a six-speed and a proper automatic, but you get a 5-Speed manual or AMT. The company claims the Revotron gets Dynapro technology, which aids in better power delivery, more low-end torque and higher efficiency
|Engine Specifications||Tata Punch|
|Max Power||84 bhp @ 6000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||113 Nm @ 3300 rpm|
|Transmission||5-speed Manual/ 5-speed AMT|
A turbocharged engine could have been offered at least as a (more expensive) option. The market does see a lot of offerings with small yet powerful turbo powerplants these days – and a 1-litre would have hit the spot! For a three-cylinder engine though the Revotron does well. And in this segment, I have no qualms about a 3-pot being plonked in. For the most part, it’s quite peppy. Or should I say, it’s quite punchy? At higher revs, you do start to hear a little bit of that clatter that comes with the 3-cyl territory, and so sound damping overall could have been a little bit better. But otherwise on refinement the Punch, well… punches above its weight!
The Punch will do 0-60 kmph in 6.5 seconds, and 0-100 in 16.5 seconds. Yes, the initial pick up could have been a little punchy (to keep on using that pun!). But the gearshift is such a sea change from Tatas of yore. It is not clunky and hard – both in terms of the physical feel of the stick itself, or the smoothness with which it operates. It has also been married really nicely to the engine, which gives you ample low-end torque. So, all in all, I really have to say on suspension, steering, ride quality, handling and overall performance. The Punch does better than expected. I did not expect to be this impressed, honestly. And let’s keep in mind the segment, size, and price – that’s the context of my excitement. And Tata has not ruled out an electric avatar. Would you buy one – sub ₹ 10 lakh? Food for thought, isn’t it?
On the AMT there is that slight hesitation when it comes to first to second and second to third gear shifts. With am Amt that’s kind of to be expected I suppose. You get used to it in time! Luckily, third to fourth, and fourth to fifth gear, is a lot smoother. And it also holds on to higher gears quite well thanks to that torque. The engineers have tried to offset the negatives that come with any AMT, but does it give the car fun feels on the road? Nope! I know price compulsions have brought us the wonderful gift of the AMT – and indeed rivals like the KUV100, Swift, Nios and even Kwid – all offer AMTs only! But I can still dream of a better automatic on the Punch, can’t I?
This is not a 4-wheel drive, and yet Tata claims some cool credentials for off-roading. And interestingly, Tata has some innovations there. The 16-inch wheels, higher ground clearance and smart approach (20.3°) and departure (37.6°) angles help that cause. Despite the short wheelbase you need to take it slow over sharp crests or tall speed bumps though. But the Punch pulls up inclines well. Its 365 mm of water wading ability is another asset since comparable price point hatchbacks manage up to 300mm at best. Sure will be something to think of in the monsoon – with all the waterlogging that’s becoming the norm, eh?
The AMT is claimed to have the same if not better off-road capability. It gets a new feature called ‘traction pro’ mode to help get going on muddy and low-traction surfaces. The system helps avoid unwanted wheel spin brought on by the lack of traction. It is further complemented by altitude-adjusted transmission maps. That said, the AMT takes some time and persistence to climb up a steep incline. The manual is more at ease on the rough since gear control stays with you.
Before I get to expected pricing, one more thing to cover – luggage space – which is also a doubt many of you had raised with us. And the 366 litres boot volume is impressive, to say the least. Compare to the hatches I mentioned, or even the Mahindra KUV 100, and it’s around 100 litres more space in that boot! The car’s loading lip is a little high though, so there could be more effort for heavier things.
Okay so let’s end on price expectations. Given that Tata wants to pit this car against the likes of the Swift and Nios rather than the S-Presso or Kwid, expect pricing to start at ₹ 4.5 lakh and top off at ₹ 7.5 lakh ex-showroom. Add in the optional equipment and ideally, it should still stay below ₹ 8 lakh. The launch is in under two weeks. And it’s one I am looking forward to, since yes – and this is my last pun – I am pleased as Punch with the package overall! Okay, I know – a bit much, but I just had to use that one too!