2021 Tata Punch review, road test

    Stylish on the outside, practical on the inside, Tata’s new sub-compact SUV is a tough alternative to hatchbacks.

    Published on Nov 20, 2021 08:00:00 AM

    1,27,997 Views

    2021 Tata Punch review, road test

    The Tata Punch uses the same 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol engine as the Tiago, Tigor and Altroz. With the transition to BS6, this motor gets a reworked air intake system and a new air filter to enhance efficiency and improve drivability; its software and calibration have also been tweaked for linear performance. The good news is that these modifications have resulted in a smoother power delivery and it certainly feels nicer than its older iterations.

    While it is smoother than before, the 1.2-litre Revotron unit still isn’t as refined or vibe-free as Maruti’s K-series engines. The engine sounds grainy and there is some three-cylinder thrum too, but to be fair, it only gets really vocal over 4,000rpm where you’ll also hear a whine from the engine bay.

    The engine makes a modest 86hp and 113Nm of torque, but factor in the Punch’s 1,035kg kerb weight, and the output comes across as more than reasonable. What’s nice is that the engine performs its daily duties with relative ease and its clever gearing makes it quite user-friendly, especially in the city. Adopt a sedate driving style and it’ll even perform satisfactorily on the occasional highway jaunt. But demand a brisk performance and the engine feels out of its comfort zone. Quick overtaking manoeuvres will warrant careful planning, and you will need to spin this engine hard and work its gearbox to make progress. And while on that topic, the TA65 5-speed manual transmission is quite effort-free in its operation, but shifts aren’t butter-smooth like in the other cars it competes with. Thankfully, its clutch is light and easy to operate.

    AMT gets manual mode, but it will still shift automatically when the revs are too high or low.

    Even though flat-out performance isn’t going to be a deciding factor for buyers, the Punch accelerates from 0-100kph in 16.14sec in City mode, and rolls from 20-80kph in third gear and 40-100kph in fourth gear in a lazy 15.58sec and 22.46sec, respectively. There’s an Eco mode on offer which blunts performance even further. Part-throttle responses are lazier than in City mode, and in our acceleration tests, not only is it nearly 1.5sec and 2.0sec slower in third (20-80kph) and fourth (40-100kph) gear, respectively, it sprints from 0-100kph in a lethargic 19.28sec. Thus, this mode is best suited on a mission to extract maximum fuel efficiency.

    Only the manual iteration is equipped with an engine start-stop feature that switches off the motor when the car comes to a halt, in order to save fuel while idling. This system has been included for the company to meet its CO2 and fuel-efficiency targets. An insider at Tata explains that the AMT achieves these targets owing to its inherent ability to operate in higher efficiency zones.

    Speaking of which, the Marelli-sourced 5-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) is a familiar unit that first made its debut in the Tiago hatchback. Within metres of driving this AMT, it feels more refined compared to some older-gen units. The creep function is a bit eager but is easy to get accustomed to and is particularly useful in stop-go traffic. The gearbox performs with relative smoothness as AMTs go, and shift shocks or pauses between gearshifts are well contained. First-time auto gearshift users and newbie drivers will certainly appreciate its ease and convenience. There isn’t a hill-hold feature on offer, so it is advisable to use the handbrake before starting off on an uphill climb to prevent it from rolling back.

    This AMT has a tendency to upshift to the highest gear at the earliest (in the interest of fuel economy) and coupled with this non-turbo engine’s unhurried performance, it encourages drivers to adapt a laid-back driving style. Erratic throttle responses will confuse this gearbox, resulting in annoying pauses while the transmission decides whether to shift to a lower gear or continue in the same gear. Another peculiarity is that while gradually slowing down from fourth gear, it occasionally continues rolling at the same speed and feels like the car is ‘running away’, thus compelling you to depress the brake pedal even harder to control its deceleration.

    Owners may take manual control over the gearbox via the tiptronic mode, useful while driving downhill for more engine braking; however, even in this mode, the gearbox upshifts automatically.

    Like the manual, there are two drive modes – City and Eco. The AMT sprints from 0-100kph in City mode in 19.98sec, which is around 3.0sec quicker than in Eco mode. Rolling acceleration times from 20-80kph and 40-100kph reveal similar results, with City mode being quicker than Eco mode by 2.5sec and 2.8sec, respectively.

    Traction Pro in AMT needs to be activated manually when a front wheel has less or no grip.

    Unique to the Punch’s AMT version is a Traction Pro mode, which detects front wheel slippage and asks for permission to activate via a notification on the touchscreen. Once permission is granted, the driver needs to press the brake and accelerator pedal at the same time, and the system will intelligently apply the brake to the wheel with low or no traction, while the one with traction easily pulls the car out of the sticky situation.

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    Comments
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    A Nath - 402 days ago

    Response for Accelaration is sluggish and irritating , difficult to cross 70KMPH speed barrier on plain road ( express ways) while AC is on, steering is not that smooth and free .

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    Pothaveni Pratheep Goud - 877 days ago

    This car safety but central locking is not working running time also children open mane danjors very pls tata set central locking

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