Two years ago when Tata launched the Punch, I wondered, who wants an SUV that small? Apparently, a lot of people, because it flew off the shelves like hot cakes. Back to the present, I was standing in front of the Punch EV, key in hand, revisiting the same question. I had flown down from Delhi to Bengaluru to give Tata’s latest EV a spin around the outskirts of India’s Silicon Valley, but, this time around, the SUV in question was not just an EV. It also costs about five lakh rupees more. Could Tata replicate the success of the original Punch with the Punch EV?
Tata Punch EV Review: Starting Off Right
A great way to sell something is to make it look good. That’s the strategy Tata Motors has employed for many years, and it has served them well. The Punch EV continues with that tradition. And for good measure, it has an almost uncanny resemblance to its elder sibling, the Nexon EV. What stands out for me, in this case, is that Tata has managed to give the Punch EV a boxy appearance with minimal use of straight-cut lines. The design just flows from one panel to the other, giving it a rather cohesive look. They have gone ahead and even used some complicated design elements such as the vertically stacked headlamp cluster and the air dam down below, but all of it comes together to look quite simple. yet futuristic. On the sides, the similarities to the petrol Punch start becoming evident, with only a couple of EV badges and a modified wheel design making up the changes, and by the time you reach the back, you can hardly tell the difference between the two. It is quite clever, to be honest. A completely fresh design at one end and comfortable familiarity at the other.
Tata Punch EV Review: Fresh Outside, Fresher Inside
It is important for any car to have a striking design on the outside, and the Punch EV ticks that box in spectacular fashion, but, what is even more important is for the interior of a car to leave a lasting impression. Tata has carried over the basic dashboard design of the petrol Punch, but if you didn’t look at the two of them side-by-side, you would probably never realise it. And that is because everything that sits on the dashboard is pretty much new.
Now over the years, Tata’s exterior designs have been great, but I have always found the interior to be a bit lacking. And at long last, Tata’s fixed that. The steering wheel wears a handsome dual-tone leather cover and has a rectangular piano black finish in the centre, with the Tata logo emanating from it once the ignition comes on. The instrument cluster is an all-digital affair, and no longer looks like an afterthought like that of the petrol Punch, or countless other Tata cars. The graphics are crisp and well laid out, and there is clear contrast so legibility is great. In short, it is well-designed, and packs in a host of functionality as well. The touchscreen falls in the same category. The only thing you can add to it is the fact that the touch response is great too. Tata is also offering a feature called Arcade.ev, which is essentially an application store with games and other applications that you can interact with while charging the Punch EV.
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The climate control functions are also brand new. Gone are the buttons you would find on the petrol Punch, and instead, you get a capacitive touchscreen. I am not a big fan of those, but it’s hard to fault how Tata has done it up. There is a good gap between the different functions. They are all clearly marked and the response is instantaneous. And, there are toggle switches for temperature and fan control, meaning you don’t need to take your eyes off the road to adjust the most commonly used controls.
However, while most of it is great, I do want to point out a few things that are a bit of a problem, or could have been done better. The piano black finish on the steering wheel, centre console, and central tunnel all look fabulous but are also fingerprint and dust magnets. Not only that, they also tend to get scratched pretty easily. And once that happens, it is not at all a pretty sight. The steering wheel, apart from the piano black finish, also uses a matte black plastic cover to house the airbag assembly, and there is no other way to put this - it looks ugly. The irony is that 90 per cent of the things have been done exquisitely well, but the one thing that hasn’t been done well is a downright eyesore.
Tata Punch EV Review: Party Tricks
We have already talked about the Punch EV being quite a bit more expensive than the petrol Punch. After all, it is an electric vehicle and that takes its sweet toll on the price tag. The only way to mitigate the side effects of that handicap is for the Punch EV to have a few party tricks of its own. And, I am happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint.
First up is the bird’s eye view, or as the brochure likes to call it, a 360-degree camera. Now, whether a 360-degree camera is required or not on a car the size of the Punch EV is a separate issue, but as far as the quality goes, it’s pretty good. Not the best in the business, but not far from it either. As far as its use case goes, people who find parking in tight places will find it handy. And let us not forget the blind view monitor function that is part of the package, which honestly, is great for India where road users take up every square-inch of the road surface possible.
You also get ventilated seats. There is also a sunroof, mood lighting which changes according to the music, a cooled glove box, an auto-dimming IRVM, an electronic parking brake, all-wheel disc brakes, and an air purifier. Then there is the fact that six airbags, ESP and ISOFIX are standard across the variant line-up. All of these features, slowly and steadily, start justifying the high pricing of the Punch EV.
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Tata Punch EV Review: Punching Through
All, then, there is left to talk about is the electric powertrain of the Punch EV. When I had first driven the petrol Punch, the biggest chink in its armour was the powertrain. It was smooth but underwhelming in its performance. I had feared a similar fate for the Punch EV and surprisingly, I was wrong. As far as the LR version of the Punch EV with the 120bhp and 190Nm is concerned, it can be quick, depending on which mode you are in. Eco has a sedate throttle response, perfect for cruising about, but if required, it can actually propel the Punch EV up to triple digit speeds with ease, before topping out at 120 km/h. City mode removes the speed cap and sharpens the throttle response, and honestly, both these modes are quite usable on an everyday basis. If you really want to liven up things, then, there is nothing but the Sport mode that will float your boat. It’s not hair-raisingly quick but the throttle response becomes sharp enough that making gaps becomes as easy as putting your foot down. I did, however, find some odd vibrations emanating from the motor as I put the pedal to the metal. Ultimately, I found City to be the best all-round mode for the Punch EV.
Tata Punch EV Review: Verdict
Coming back to my original question, does the Punch EV live up to the benchmark set by the petrol Punch. From the looks of it, it is doing everything and goes even beyond the expectations that were set before it. But in the process, the price has also ballooned a decent bit. And that means that those looking to buy the Punch, and those looking to buy the Punch EV, will be two very different sets of people. The petrol Punch works wonderfully well as the first car in the garage and that is where its audience lies, as for the Punch EV, it’s for those who want to add a second or a third car to their garage and want it to be an EV as well.