With the market preference shifting to SUVs in the past few years, few manufacturers decided to introduce SUV-inspired designs for their entry-level vehicles. Tata Motors has now jumped the bandwagon with the introduction of the all-new Punch to the market. The Tata Punch is the production version of the HBX, which Tata Motors showcased at the 2020 Auto Expo. Is Tata Punch really different in the segment?
Tata Punch stands tall
Tata Punch literally stands quite tall, wide and has an overpowering look on the roads. It is bigger in size than all its competitors and is even taller than the Nexon. The Punch looks like a mini Harrier or Safari, especially because of its front design. You get similar LED DRLs extending from the grille and main headlamp cluster mounted below in the bumper.
Tata has done an interesting job with the grille. It is not chrome but black in colour like the Nexon EV. It gets three tri-arrow design punch holes for the horn. Down below you get black coloured bumper that adds a rugged look to the Punch.
The black bumper becomes black cladding that goes around the car. On the side, you get 16-inch alloy wheels but there is only a request sensor on the driver-side of the Punch. The Punch looks clean from the side and there are a few strong creases but the most interesting part is the rear door handle. Tata has now integrated the rear door handle to the window frame, which translates into a clean looking side.
The tail lamp design is interesting as well. It extends to the side of the car and offers a tri-arrow design element that sure makes it look great, especially during the nighttime. The bumper is black in the rear as well.
Overall, the design of the Punch really stands out. The front DRLs add a distinct identity to the vehicle. We did get a lot of queries from the onlookers and fellow motorists about the Punch. This shows that the design definitely attracts a lot of people on the road.
A funky looking cabin
The cabin of the all-new Tata Punch is designed to attract youths and young buyers. It is a dual-tone cabin with a lot of parts shared with the Tata Altroz. The Tata Punch is the second car to be made on the ALFA platform after the Altroz. So there are a lot of parts shared between the two. For example, the steering, the gear knob, the infotainment system and the instrument cluster are all lifted from the Altroz.
Does that change anything though? Tata has entered the parts quite well with the Punch. It definitely looks youthful with coloured outlines of the AC vents. The Punch gets the standard features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay too. There is an automatic climate control system and cooled glove box as well.
Tata does not offer rear AC vents and we found out that the climate control system is so strong that it cools down the entire cabin within a few minutes even on the hottest days.
However, Tata has only used hard plastic all over. There is no soft touch panel anywhere in the cabin. Also, there is no armrest for the drive, which is something that we feel should have been there. Also, there is one small cabin light but that is not enough for the passengers in the rear.
The Tata Punch is all about space. There is ample space for the front passengers and a good amount of space available to the rear passengers as well. There is no transmission tunnel in the middle so a third passenger can be accommodated. Since there is no panel for the rear AC vents, there is a good amount of space for the feet to move around too.
There is ample headroom and knee room too. With the large windows, you do get a sense of openness in the cabin. There are two ISOFIX mounts for the child seats in the rear. More space to keep your things in the rear seat pockets, and there is a bottle holder on every door of the Tata Punch. There is a good amount of space between the driver and co-driver seat as well. When it comes to space, the Tata Punch offers loads of it. It is definitely the most spacious car in the segment.
Tata is only offering a single engine option with the Punch. You get a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that generates a maximum power of 86 PS and a peak torque of 113 Nm. There is a 5-speed manual and an AMT available with the Punch. We drove the AMT first.
The AMT of the Punch acts typically. It is best suited for city driving, where chances of you driving the car aggressively are minimal. Once you decide to drive aggressively and suddenly decide to overtake the car in front of you you, the Punch will get confused just like all other AMTs. Pressing the accelerator against the floor in the AMT is not fun. It will produce jerks while shifting down and up whenever you get into aggressive driving mode. Otherwise, it is as good as it can be inside the city limits.
If you really want to enjoy all the 86 PS, the manual is the transmission that you need to choose. The five-speed transmission has a short first gear but you can really keep it in the second or third gear during the office hour traffic and relax. The clutch travel is long and the gear shift throws are long as well.
However, we do feel that the AMT is better for convenience around the city roads while the manuals are best if you want to take the highways often. The manual is definitely much more fun than the AMT.
Comfort-wise, the seats are big and have enough side bolsters that keep you in place while making turns. The steering feedback is good enough but the brakes have no feedback. Both the variants that we drove – AMT and MT, had a similar spongy brake feeling where you just do not know the bite point. One really needs to spend a good amount of time with the car to get used to the brakes.
The engine also gets City and Eco mode. It does change the tuning but we are not sure if the power output is also reduced like many other Tata cars. No one had a clear answer to the same.
But it can take on off-road!
Yes, the Tata Punch is probably the only vehicle in the segment that can do some good amount of off-roading and take on challenges. We did a fair bit of testing on a specially curated track for the Punch. We went through the axle twisters, banked corners, deep pits and slush too. The Tata Punch offers a ground clearance of 187 mm, biggest approach, departure and breakover angle.
The result? The Tata Punch went through all the obstacles without any problems. The underbody did not hit anything including the bed of rock that we crossed. The Tata Punch also gets Pro Traction mode. It ensures torque from low rpm so that the vehicle can cross the obstacles without any problem.
Tata even showcased the traction mode by putting one of the front wheels on a slippery ice block. The AMT variant of the Punch guides you on what to do to come out of such situations. One needs to hold the brake and the accelerator at the same time. The sensors then detect the wheel spin and release the brake pressure on the other wheel. This allows the Punch to come out of sticky situations without much of a problem.
Is it fuel efficient though?
We did do a tank full to tank full fuel efficiency run inside the city limits to check the real-world fuel efficiency of the Punch. After more than 100 km of driving with an average speed of 54 km/h and entering the office hours towards the end, we did get a good fuel efficiency.
We even used AC all through and did not put the car in the ECO drive mode. After starting from Delhi, we reached Gurgaon after taking a lot of detours. The end result came out to be 17.2 km/l, which is quite phenomenal. However, according to the display, it was showing more than 22 km/l. Our friend from the industry, who did a similar fuel efficiency run on the highway with the manual transmission variant got a massive fuel efficiency of more than 26 km/l using the same tank full method.
A good choice then?
The Tata Punch really stands out in the crowd because of its design. It is quite capable too as we showed you in the videos above and it can be fuel-efficient too. The Punch ticks all the boxes of a new-age car buyer but misses out on a few features like wireless Android Auto. However, with the features that make it much more capable off the tarmac, we are sure that it will grab a lot of attention in the market. The Tata Punch sure is a vehicle that you can consider seriously if you want to stand out in the crowd. The manufacturer will reveal the prices on 20th October and we think that Tata will follow the same aggressive pricing strategy to kick-start the journey of the Punch.