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Tata Punch Review: An Entry-Level SUV That's Small on the Outside, Big on Presence

Tata Punch. (Photo: Arjit Garg/News18.com)

Tata Punch. (Photo: Arjit Garg/News18.com)

Tata Motors has announced their upcoming product in the form of a sub-compact SUV called Punch and there's a confusion over the segmentation and size of the car. We try to clear the air in our Tata Punch review.

The Indian auto industry is going through a monumental shift! On one hand you have the EVs picking up the pace and on the other, we are becoming an SUV frenzy nation. While this may sound like a contradictory statement, it’s actually not. The SUVs I mentioned here are not the gas guzzling monsters, but small and affordable urban machines, a segment that has been at the forefront of India’s affinity towards SUVs in recent times.

One such small SUV is ready for its debut in the country with much fanfare, as the company launching it is the third largest carmaker in India. It’s much smaller than the cars like Tata Nexon, but promises a big footprint and strong competition to premium hatchbacks like the Tata Altroz. The car I am talking about is the upcoming Tata Punch SUV. Here’s our first drive review -

Design

Let me start this review with the basic understanding of the Tata Punch. Tata will plant the Punch below Nexon in the product lineup and so, it’s safe to call it a sub-compact SUV, though these definitions don’t hold any importance in times where products often overlap segments. It is based on the ALFA platform and is not merely a hatchback on stilts, atleast by the looks of it.

Tata Motors has perfectly managed to create an illusion of a big car by adding elements from their family of bigger SUVs. It has a high ground clearance of 187 mm and elements like prominent black coloured body cladding, tri-arrow inserts, sleek DRLs, wraparound tail lamps which probably is the most stylish tail light unit from Tata yet, floating roof and 16-inch alloys, all adding to the road presence of the Punch.

Tata Punch front profile. (Photo: Arjit Garg/News18.com)

Not only that, smaller elements like beautifully crafted door handles, a Rhino Easter Egg at the rear windscreen, and ‘Vocal for Local’ branding elevates the whole design. The biggest highlight, for me, has to be the 90-degree opening doors, all four of them, for easily getting in and out of the SUV, a much thoughtful design touch for the elderly.

Cabin

Move inside the cabin and you will realize the whole minimalism theme that makes you feel welcoming. The dark grey coloured cabin gets a large light grey strip running across the dashboard. The colour coordinated AC vents adds a peppiness element. The seats fabric, on the other hand, carries forward the tri arrow design elements. One commendable thing is that Tata has improved the cabin quality many notches above.

Tata Punch cabin. (Photo: Arjit Garg/News18.com)

Before we start talking about the features, we will quickly mention the rear seats as there’s a lot of confusion prevailing over the cabin space. The Rear seats of the Tata Punch are comfortable and spacious, especially with loads of headroom. The rear leg room and should room is also good, and with no floor hump, it’s easier to seat three people comfortable.

Carrying forward the practicality bit, you get enough spaces inside the cabin to keep your stuff along with door bottle holders and seat pockets. The boot in itself is rated at 366-litre making it among the largest, even in a segment above thanks to replacement of spare tyre with puncture repair kit. The seats can be folded, but not in split.

Tata Punch rear seat. (Photo: Arjit Garg/News18.com)

Tata Punch gets a 7 inch floating touchscreen infotainment system with Harman sound system and connectivity like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You also get a semi digital instrument panel with 7-inch TFT, steering mounted controls, cooled glove box, cruise control, auto AC, auto headlamps, rain sensing wipers, and idle start stop. In that sense, Tata Punch is one of the most feature loaded cars below Rs 10 Lakh.

The things I missed was a front armrest, and there’s some improvement need in the touch response of the infotainment screen. In terms of safety you get dual airbags, ABS with EBD, brake sway control among other tech. Thankfully, we know how safe Tata cars are and Punch is expected to be no different.

Tata Punch AMT gearbox. (Photo: Arjit Garg/News18.com)

Performance

The Tata Punch gets only one engine option that is the 1.2-litre unit we have seen in the Altroz. It produces 86 PS and 113 NM of output and gets two gearbox options - a 5-speed MT and an AMT unit. I mostly drove the Punch with the AMT unit and found it decent enough, as AMT is not my piece of cake. The AMT behaves the way it’s supposed to behave, and that’s the limitations of this type of unit. The drive feels jittery at times, and can become real jerky in stop go traffic. Thankfully, the engine saves the day for you.

There are two driving modes - ECO & City. Tata has also introduced Traction pro mode with the AMT gearbox for people using the car in rural areas or high altitude cities for easy driving experience and this technology mimics a 4WD system to some extent. The super comfortable seats and soft suspension gives it a plush ride quality overall. In terms of steering, I found it on a lighter side which is good for the city driving or off-roading modes, both of which is the target audience for Tata Motors.

Tata Punch rear three quarters. (Photo: Arjit Garg/News18.com)

Verdict

Let me be very honest here because that’s what we do at News18, honest reviews. Tata Punch is not your traditional vehicle and in that sense, it redefines the whole SUV segmentation in the country. While I am not a big fan of the performance, more specifically the performance of the AMT gearbox, I really like the whole concept here to offer a puffed up car with loads of space and an anticipated price tag just north of Altroz and Tigor. This makes the Tata Punch a value-for-money offering for future SUV buyers in India.

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first published:October 18, 2021, 19:53 IST