Tata Punch Test Drive Review
We do a detailed road test review of the Tata Punch.
Car Tested: Tata Punch Creative Persona; Road Test No. 1352; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 5.75 – 8.50 lakhs (est.)
The Tata Punch is an outstanding micro-SUV thanks to its attractive styling, practical cabin and great ride and handling balance
Compact SUVs and micro-SUVs are being liked by customers a lot, because, on a budget, you get a car that looks like a big SUV. Most automakers are trying to bring out products through this route and now Tata Motors is here with the Punch which was previously known as the HBX or Hornbill. Now, Tata already has the Nexon which is a sub-4m compact SUV so where does the Punch fit in? The Punch will be slotted just below the Nexon and slightly above the Tiago. It’ll rival the Maruti Ignis and Mahindra KUV100 primarily but the automaker is also looking to target customers of hatchbacks like the Swift.
Exteriors – The Tata Punch is definitely a beautiful looking car. It is a bit shorter than the Nexon in terms of length and width but the Punch is taller than its elder sibling. The front of the car carries hints of the Harrier’s fascia and that’s a pretty good thing. Most of the colour options on the Punch are also shared with the Harrier and Safari. The Tata Punch gets projector headlamps with LED DRLs and halogen fog lamps and the vehicle also gets LED brake lights with halogen reverse and turn lights. From the rear, the vehicle looks a bit rounded, while the front portion (near the A-pillar) has a boxy look.
The Punch is the best-looking car in its segment, with its boxy, tough, and eye-catchy design
The Punch comes with appropriately sized wheels at 195/60/16 and the vehicle does boast of a good stance. The bumpers are blackened out on the bottom so as to avoid scratches while soft-roading or while driving on rough terrain. The vehicle has a ground clearance of 187 mm, an approach angle of 20.3 degrees, a ramp breakover angle of 22.2 degrees and a departure angle of 37.6 degrees. The Punch is based on the same ALFA platform as the Altroz.
Interiors – The Tata Punch comes with a very nicely laid out interior with a dual-tone colour theme. We had the Creative Persona variant with us and it has this black and white scheme which looks neat. At most places in the cabin, the vehicle has good quality materials and even the fit finish feels consistent. There are some places where better quality materials could have been used, such as the plastic covers for the 12V charging sockets. I liked how user-friendly everything in the cabin felt, such as the layout for all the buttons and controls.
The interior is quite pleasant and the Punch gets a good list of features
A lot of part sharing has been done with the Altroz too. The steering wheel, instrument cluster, floating touchscreen are similar to the Altroz. In fact, the instrument cluster on the Nexon is shared with the Tiago/Tigor while the Punch gets a better-looking unit. The 7-inch touchscreen from Harman is unchanged and the Punch gets 4 speakers and 2 tweeters which are mounted on the A-pillars, meanwhile all the doors also have a provision to fit 1 tweeter each. The sound quality is extremely good.
The Punch has decent space on the inside. You get fabric upholstery all around but it doesn’t feel cheap. The front seats are large in size and offer pretty decent comfort. You get a good view ahead and the bonnet is also clearly visible from the driver’s seat. The ORVMs are similar to the ones on the Nexon and the driving position is very comfortable. The Punch misses out on a front centre armrest though. The vehicle gets a 1-litre bottle holder in each door along with some small storage areas. The centre area gets a couple of cup holders, a single USB port and two 12V charging sockets (one below the AC controls and one near the centre cup holders).
The Punch sports a long list of features including 90-degree opening doors, voice commands and connected car features
The rear seat also offers good comfort. Knee room is just about enough for two tall passengers to sit one behind the other and headroom is more than enough. The car itself isn’t very wide so 3 people in the rear seat will be a squeeze and the vehicle also doesn’t get a headrest for the middle passenger. The floor is almost flat at the rear so that helps generate some legroom for the middle passenger just like the Altroz. There are two adjustable headrests at the rear and a centre armrest. The vehicle also doesn’t get rear AC vents. The micro-SUV has a boot capacity of 366-litres. The Punch gets front and rear 90-degree opening doors.
Performance – Powering the Tata Punch is a 1.2-litre, 3-cyl, NA petrol engine that makes 86 PS of power and 113 Nm of torque. With this engine, you get either a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed AMT and we sampled both versions. Refinement levels from this engine are fine, yes it does sound a bit noisy on the outside but not much of the noise is heard in the cabin. The engine does get vocal at higher RPMs though. Vibrations are present but not to the level of getting very bothersome.
The petrol engine has decent NVH levels and is available with both manual and AMT gearbox options
The Revotron petrol engine does just fine in terms of outright power delivery. On part throttle, the vehicle moves around with fair ease and feels responsive as well. The low-end feels nice but the mid-range is where the vehicle feels really flat and it does take time to move up the RPM band. The vehicle isn’t very quick off the mark and if you’re looking to drive a bit fast then you will find the engine to be slightly underpowered. For regular city usage, performance is fine. Tata claims a 0-100 km/hr time of 16.50 seconds but we managed 17.09 seconds on the MT and 19.13 seconds on the AMT.
The 5-speed AMT feels smoother than the Tiago but it is not very quick and takes its own time to shift cogs. Manual mode works better when you want to make quick overtakes. The 5-speed MT offers better driveability and the clutch is quite light too. We reckon the Punch will deliver around 12-13 km/l in the city and around 14-15 km/l on the highways. The MT also comes with an idle start-stop feature to help save some fuel.
Driving Dynamics – This is where the Tata Punch really impressed us. It doesn’t feel like a typical small car when you drive it around. It feels very confident and mature both in the city and out on the open roads. The 16-inch tyres play their part here and Tata has also done a fab job with the ride and handling balance of the car. The suspension setup is very nice and the ride quality feels great. The steering is also light enough at low speeds and it offers good feedback too while also weighing up fairly well when speeds increase. The steering isn’t very precise and the Punch isn’t what you’d call a sharp handler but it maintains its composure very well and responds confidently to sudden lane changes or some aggressive cornering.
The Punch has a fantastic riding and handling balance, as well as excellent ride quality
We even took the vehicle for an off-road session on a track designed by Tata Motors. Here we got a chance to drive the car on some inclines, gradients, a bed of rocks and even got to do an articulation test. The Punch fared well in all these tests and we also had a go at the Traction Pro mode which is available on the AMT. What happens here is that when one of the front wheels gets stuck and doesn’t have traction, you get a prompt on the infotainment screen asking if you’d like to activate Traction Pro mode. Once that is activated, you need to keep the brake pedal pressed and then gradually accelerate the car. The other wheel which has traction starts moving and pulls the vehicle out. If the vehicle senses that you’ve been using this mode too much, it asks you to wait for 2 minutes in order to prevent over-heating.
Safety & Service – The Tata Punch gets dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat mounts and Brake Sway Control as safety features. The vehicle’s safety rating isn’t out yet but it is expected before the prices are announced. In terms of service, Tata has been improving in the last few years and the consistently increasing sales are also a testament to that. Yes, they can do a bit better with QC but I think they’re getting there.
Verdict – Tata has got the formula right with the Punch on almost every aspect including the design, the cabin layout and the features. The only fly in the ointment is the engine which feels a bit sluggish when you intend to go fast but the driving manners fundamentally are very good. I think the design itself will be a major factor that will draw people to showrooms and the Punch might cannibalise some variants of the Tiago/Tigor/Altroz too. Meanwhile, we also expect people considering hatchbacks like the Ignis and Swift and lower variants of the Nissan Magnite to look at the Punch. The prices will be announced in the next few days and we’re expecting the vehicle to cost Rs. 5.05 – 7.50 lakhs (ex-showroom).
What’s Not So Cool
Alternatives – Maruti Ignis, Mahindra KUV100, Nissan Magnite, Renault Kiger