When we first drove the all-new Tata Punch, we thought it to be a car that punches above its weight. And after driving it at the BIC, it didn’t take us much time to conclude that it also packs a punch as a driver’s car. And when we finally listed down the final scores, we were somewhat surprised to see this puffed-up hatch punch out other contenders and emerge as one of the ‘Best of 2021’ award recipients.
Alright, enough of the cringe-inducing ‘punch’ puns. Let me now get down to business and tell you – without pulling any more punches – how the Punch made the cut this year.
The Punch is already loved and admired for its funky design, compact dimensions, spacious interior, and micro-SUV-like stance. But its real party piece is the way it drives. Underpinned by the same ALFA-ARC platform as the Altroz, the Punch has a lightweight and robust chassis, which allows it to have an impeccable ride-and-handling balance. On the track, the Punch completely bowled us over with its predictable and surefooted handling (this picture is an exception!). The damping is set up beautifully – the suspension is taut but not excessively firm. Even the steering is quick and direct – for a Tata offering, it’s a bit of a pleasant surprise. Overall, all of us were mighty impressed with its dynamic capabilities.
Under the hood, the Punch has Tata’s familiar 1.2-litre three-cylinder naturally aspirated Revotron petrol engine, which is rated at 85bhp and 113Nm of torque. Its performance won’t set your pants on fire for sure, but it feels more than adequate – yes, even on the racetrack. The top-end is weak, and it tends to be noisy once you rev it past 5,000rpm. However, thanks to taller 3rd, 4th, and 5th gear ratios, you won’t find yourself revving the engine’s nuts off in everyday driving. The engine and gearbox have been mated in such a way that they mask each other’s weak spots. The gear shifts and clutch action are quite smooth and effortless. And when you club all of these together, you have a car that’s virtually flawless for its intended application. In fact, thanks to its brilliant handling, the Punch managed a quicker lap time than the Altroz Turbo, which is a low-riding hatchback with more power on tap – and that’s quite a feat, indeed.
If you look at other areas – things that matter more to an average buyer of this segment – the Punch doesn’t disappoint either. Its cabin quality, design, and fit-and-finish levels are all impressive. The feature list is long, and there’s nothing that’s missing in the cabin as far as we can tell – there’s a Harman 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, electronically foldable ORVMs, and more creature comforts. The seats are spacious, and the cabin, in general, is roomier than similarly priced hatchbacks. At 366 litres, even the boot is quite spacious for a car of its size.
Last but not least, the Punch is priced quite aggressively and is available in a number of variants. Plus, it offers optional kits to cater to different customer needs. There’s also an AMT version, which is again quite decent to drive for its application. Most importantly, the Punch comes across as a terrific value proposition because it pretends to be an SUV – with higher ground clearance, rugged looks, etc. – but it drives like a hatchback and is loaded with premium features. Not to mention it’s quite spacious and practical.
Moreover, it’s now also the safest car built in India, as Global NCAP has given it a full 5-star rating. And you get all of this for under `10 lakh. Well, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that Tata has punched the competition’s lights out with its latest offering!
- Tata Punch (Lap Time – 01:16.7)
|COMFORT / SPACE||5||4.5|
|RIDE & HANDLING||5||4.5|
|VALUE FOR MONEY||30||25.0|