Until about a couple of months ago, your choices as a prospective small SUV buyer were limited to the Tata Punch and…well, that’s about it. You could have moved up a segment into the Nexon’s category, which would have offered you varied choices, but you couldn’t get a similar ‘loaded’ experience without significantly increasing your budget. Now, the Punch is an impressive product in its own right, as it simply nails the fundamentals. However, the true measure of one’s worth becomes evident only when one faces competition from a worthy rival. And the Tata Punch finally has one, and it’s called the Exter, which is Hyundai’s attempt to capture the small SUV market.
So, will the Exter emerge as the new leader in the segment, or will Tata’s offering manage to deliver a knockout Punch? Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.
Hyundai Exter vs Tata Punch Comparison Review: Presence
Now, one of the reasons you buy an SUV is to make a statement. And both the Punch and Exter managed to do that in their distinctive ways. The Hyundai Exter aims to captivate you with its sleek design and distinctive front end. Its flat front goes the extra mile in offering that quintessential SUV appearance, and rectangular elements such as the grille and headlamps add to its bold and boxy appearance. The Exter’s wheel arch cladding adds a dash of ruggedness, although the 15-inch wheels make it look under-tyred. Around the C-pillar, the Exter seems quite bulbous and busy, which, I think, is one of the less flattering aspects of its design. Perhaps, it will grow on us with time. The rear also maintains a flat design, adorned with multiple textured elements, which complements similar elements at the front. The H-shaped tail lamps also match the similarly designed daytime running lamps at the front.
The Tata Punch, on the other hand, has a somewhat understated appearance; however, that doesn’t mean that it lacks road presence. The fact that its front end, characterised by clean lines, shares some resemblance with the Safari and Harrier is enough to bestow it with some SUV credentials. The tri-arrow elements at the front further add a bit of flair to its overall appearance. In profile, however, you can’t help but notice its thin wheel-arch cladding, especially in comparison to the thick cladding on the doors. Nevertheless, the Punch makes for it with its larger alloy wheels, which are a size bigger than the Exter’s.
The shoulder line of the Punch rises towards the rear, giving it a more jacked-up appearance. At the rear, Tata has used a few cuts and creases, which create a bit of a 3D effect on the boot lid, while the tri-arrow design of the tail lamps add a bit of stylishness to the overall appearance.
Hyundai Exter vs Tata Punch Comparison Review: Creature Comforts
Another reason you buy an SUV is for their extensive list of features, and both the Punch and the Exter do not disappoint in this regard, as they both get the basics right. This means that you get features like projector headlamps, LED lighting, a touchscreen, a sunroof, a digital instrument cluster, steering-mounted audio controls, fully automatic temperature control, automatic headlamps, and a reverse camera in both cars. Now, while the Exter gets a better-quality touchscreen and reverse camera, the Punch offers a superior audio experience. Furthermore, the Exter gets hill-start assist on most variants and six airbags as standard across variants; however, it doesn’t have an official safety rating yet. On the other hand, the Punch comes with only two airbags on all variants but has an impressive five-star crash test rating from Global NCAP.
The Exter regains some ground with its built-in dash cam, which records the happenings both outside and inside. It also offers more boot space than the Punch, making it a practical choice for those long highway journeys. Lastly, the Punch’s instrument cluster feels a bit unusual, given its analogue speedometer and odd shape. The Exter, on the other hand, has a better-designed fully digital instrument cluster.
Hyundai Exter vs Tata Punch Comparison Review: Performance, Ride & Handling
While many modern buyers may ignore this aspect of a car, it, nevertheless, is one of the most important factors for those who revel in the very joy of driving – in fact, for the latter, it can often be the deciding factor when buying a car. Both the Punch and Exter get a similar engine displacement, with the only difference being that the Exter has a four-cylinder engine, while the Punch has a three-cylinder unit. For transmission, both cars get five-speed manual and AMT options. On this occasion, we tested the manual version of the Punch and the automatic version of the Exter.
The Exter impressed us with its refinement and the enthusiasm with which its engine revs. It offers a decent amount of torque in the lower end of the rev range, making it quite sprightly in city traffic. The power delivery is linear and remains consistent until the tachometer reaches its limit. While shifts of the AMT transmission are smooth, they could have been a bit quicker. You can get around this problem by slotting the transmission into manual mode or by taking control via paddle shifters. While we didn’t test the manual version of the Exter, I think that it would be quite fun to drive.
The Punch, to be honest, doesn’t quite match the Exter in terms of refinement. However, it’s quite acceptable in its own right. The Punch also falls a bit short in terms of its bottom-end torque, for it requires you to prod the throttle to awaken the engine. It’s only in the mid-range that the power really kicks in. Plus, the power delivery seems to be concentrated in the mid-range and begins to taper off as the engine reaches the upper end of the rev range. Given this and the lower refinement level of the Punch’s engine, you actually don’t feel encouraged to rev it out. It’s a shame, though, for when paired with the manual transmission we had on test, it offers a nice driving experience.
I must add that the pedal ergonomics of the Punch aren’t optimized for maximum driver engagement, which frankly is a bit of a letdown. While we didn’t test the AMT version of the Punch on this occasion, we have driven it before, and it performs well if you drive it in a relaxed manner. Also, the Traction Pro mode, which adds to the Punch’s off-road capabilities, is only available in the AMT variant of the SUV.
In terms of ride quality, the Punch takes the lead. Tata has tuned the suspension of the Punch exceptionally well, making it quite efficient in gobbling up potholes in the city and marinating high-speed stability on the highway. That said, the difference between the two cars is not big enough to completely dismiss the Exter, for it, too, works well in the city over bad roads. However, being on the softer side of things, it is a bit less reassuring at highway speeds – it feels a bit floaty compared to the Punch.
The Punch also has a major advantage in terms of handling, given its 195-section tyres. The Exter, on the other hand, gets 175-section tyres. This means that the Exter has less rolling resistance, and, consequently, better fuel economy, along with a lower new tyre cost. However, all this comes at the cost of a bit of compromised handling, especially in comparison to that of the Punch, which offers superior and confidence-inspiring braking and cornering performance, making it the more dynamic SUV of the two.
Hyundai Exter vs Tata Punch Comparison Review: Verdict
Choosing the winner between the Punch and Exter isn’t an easy decision, for both offer customers of the small-SUV segment something distinct. The Punch is an SUV for the masses, which looks stately and will age well in terms of design. With a decent list of features, the Punch’s interior caters to your requirements but not necessarily to your desires. It, nevertheless, is a comfortable place to be in. In terms of safety, it offers a healthy basket of features, along with an impressive crash test rating. In terms of driving stability, it’s a step ahead of the Exter. It is, then, for those who want an SUV that offers peace of mind without compromising on the basics.
The Exter, on the other hand, is an SUV that is bound to grab eyeballs with its design language. It excels in terms of refinement, offers a plush cabin, and a comprehensive set of features. Plus, it’s an easy car to drive in everyday conditions. The Exter, then, is for someone who wants their car to be admired by others and desires an SUV that’s easy to drive and matches their outgoing personality.
Now, given that both SUVs cater to different priorities, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to decide if the Punch or the Exter aligns better with your priorities and lifestyle.
- Tata Punch Creative Dual Tone
- Hyundai Exter SX(o) Connect
Engine: 1,199cc / 3-Cylinder
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 87bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 115Nm @ 3,250rpm
Price: ₹9.5 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: A 5-star rated SUV with sublime ride quality and handling!
• Audio quality
• High-speed stability
Engine: 1,197cc / Inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 82bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 114Nm @ 4,000rpm
Price: ₹10 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: A well-refined in-your-face SUV with a high cool factor.
• Polished features
• Boot space