Why I would buy one?
Benefits of two pedal set up
Why I wouldn’t buy one?
Weak bottom end performance
Missing features for the second-row occupants
A lot has been said about the Tata Punch being a revolutionary product, first-in-segment et all and that’s pretty much what it is-all the expectations of a B-segment hatchback but wrapped up in an SUV body style (that’s all the rage these days). It after all has to take on the Maruti Swift, Hyundai Grand i10 Nios and the Renault Triber- all successful cars in their own right. In that pursuit, it has all the USPs of the segment including a two-pedal option which has upped the game for this car.
Yes, the AMT in this Tata Punch has a weak bottom end grunt, but it gets the job done with little to no drama. The addition of the drive modes may seem like a boon, they don’t do all that much in terms of performance and it is best if you leave the car in City mode the whole time. The ride and handling characteristics are on the softer side but liveable if you plan and keep your progress constant. Where it does manage to score high is in terms of ride quality, features as well the build quality of the cabin.
Engine and performance
The engine on offer is Tata’s three-pot 1.2-litre unit producing 84bhp/113Nm and can be had with a five-speed manual or a five-speed automated manual, which is what we have driven for this review. This engine is shared with the Tigor, Tiago, Tiago NRG and even the Altroz. It is not the most refined unit and shows characteristics typical of a three-pot engine. You can feel vibes in the steering as well as the gear lever. What's more, it feels relatively short in terms of the bottom end with the AMT gearbox in city mode shifting only past the 3000rpm mark. Overtakes need to be planned as the gearbox takes a bit of change down and give you the required punch. However because this is automatic, you are never going to stall or have a lack of momentum which should make it a convenient if slightly un-dramatic driving experience.
Out on the highway, the Punch with this engine and gearbox feels like a much more surefooted car. The engine has a strong mid-range and this is evident in its ability to cruise at highway speeds. The punch being on the heavier side also feels more planted on the highway as compared to its rivals. To get the best out of it, leave the car in D-mode and let it do its thing in the background. What's more, if you load up in advance and keep a steady throttle through the turns, the AMT will not shift and upset the balance of the car.
The driving modes, while being boxes to tick off for the car to have USPs, don’t do all that much for the driving experience. The grunt is wheezy below the 3000rpm mark which means you need to be in the City mode rather than the Eco mode for any kind of useable performance. We tested this engine and it did the 0-60kmph kickdown in 7.56 seconds while the 0-100kmph kickdown came along in 17.74 seconds. The 20-80kmph run was achieved in 10.77 seconds while the 40-100kmph sprint was achieved in 13.56 seconds. It’s one of the slowest cars we have tested and the lengthy times are mostly due to the lack of initial grunt. In the everyday conditions the AMT will cover up for some of this due to its automatic nature but progress is mostly going to be at a leisure pace if you don’t work the system.
Ride and handling
Tata with its many years of experience in building cars to manage Indian road conditions is one of the tops when it comes to this game. As we said in our first-drive review, under city conditions, it drives like a Tata and that’s characteristic defined by a noticeable weight built into everything. It takes the path less taken with the kind of aplomb shown by its larger siblings and despite the suspension being on the softer side does not get phased easily over badly made speed breakers, potholes and general imperfections. With the high ground clearance, your progress won’t get affected if the road quality deteriorates.
At triple-digit speeds, the Punch has a good ability to cruise in a straight line and will hold its own as long you don’t make any sudden movements. The soft suspension combined with the AMTs characteristic to shift suddenly means you should plan your moves well in advance especially if you are on a hilly road with lots of twists and more often than not have one side of the car loaded up. Finally, the steering has a nice weight but is not as accurate as one would expect from a car of this size and class.
Interior space and quality
Now we have covered the interior of the Tata in detail during the first drive review and will subsequently go into heavier details when we do a road test of the vehicle. So let us then look at some of the highlights from the cabin.
Step inside and everything looks familiar, there’s nothing new or revolutionary about the cabin but it is quite well put together with everything falling easily to hand both in terms of the driver as well as front passenger. Quality, fit and finish is segment standard and is on par with what is offered across all of the Punch’s rivals. An overall glance reveals a vertically stacked layout for the dashboard with squares and rectangles being the primary shapes throughout.
The second row is best suited for two adults, especially if you are on the larger side and while you can fit three abreast, it going to be quite a squeeze. Under thigh support and headroom are very generous for the rear seats and this combined with 90-degree opening doors makes ingress and egress a very easy task for anyone. It’s lacking in some features like 1.0-litre bottle holders in the doors, central AC vent and cup holders in the armrest.
At 366-litres, the boot is much bigger than that of the Swift and Nios but is significantly beaten by the Renault Triber (with the third row removed). The loading lip is high due to the design of the vehicle but thanks to the high roof, it is possible to pack at least one large bag easily.
Features and equipment
This top-of-the-line model that we have driven gets all the bells and whistles available for the Punch. This list includes projector headlamps, 16-inch diamond-cut wheels, climate control, touchscreen infotainment system with floating display, cooled glovebox, rear armrest, power mirrors and doors, dual front airbags and ABS with EBD (all variants). This AMT spec model also gets hill-hold function as well as something called Traction-pro that regulates power between the wheels to overcome low grip situations.
The Tata Punch has got all the required segment-cred to be a competitor among the crop but with the added advantage of the SUV body style. What’s more, is that this two-pedal set up while not the best to use does get the job done without too much of a fuss. The Tata Punch range, at the time of writing this review, is priced from Rs 6.09 lakh to Rs 10.52 lakh (on-road Delhi at the time of writing this review) putting it on par with the competition and quite close to what we had predicted during the first-drive review.
Photography: Kapil Angane