Tata Punch EV review, first drive - the new electric car to get?
While its rivals are still prepping their big EV launches, Tata Motors is now well on its way to offering you an electric option for most of its models. So, if you have been looking at the Nexon EV and thinking it's just a bit too large or too pricey, there's now the Tata Punch EV for you. Significantly, this is also the first Tata EV to be based on its new, much more EV-focused Acti.ev architecture.
Tata Punch EV Styling
The Tata Punch EV gets a new face to now bring it in line with newer Tata models. So while the squat bodywork is unchanged, you have a similar full-width light bar as the Nexon EV. This one too doubles up as a charging status indicator. The clean blanked-out face works here too, but you get a large split airdam with vertical slats to go with the futuristic theme. The light clusters are the deep-set angular ones similar to the new Nexon. This look is crisp but we think the individuality between the Nexon and Punch is somewhat diluted now.
But a convenient shift that comes as a result of this architecture is the electronic front-facing charge port. It has the new white Tata EV logo and also opens with some flair, but there is a thoughtful manual release in the frunk. There's also a useful 14-litre storage space here, a first for a Tata.
Not much has changed with the rest of the Punch EV over the ICE version, at least visually. In profile, you get aero-focused 16-inch alloys, But again, the new EV architecture shows its benefits. There is no battery pack hanging low and you get a good 190mm of ground clearance.
But we think the rear styling too should have been brought in line with the new theme. It's been carried over as is from the ICE Punch and looks a bit disjointed now. That said, the branding and the new silver-finished bumpers add some freshness. At 366 litres, boot space hasn't been compromised but we would have liked a spare wheel to be standard.
Tata Punch EV interiors, space, practicality
On the inside of the Tata Punch EV, the broad layout of the dash has been retained from the ICE version. But there's now a clean, more premium, ambience here to go with the original blocky theme of the Punch. So you still have the various textured plastics in their horizontal theme and the square air vents but the off-white and grey colour makes for a bright space.
The Punch EV also carries over most of the impressive tech from the Nexon EV, which adds to the modern feeling here. So you have the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster with many layout options. Like in the Nexon and Safari, aside from the small fonts this screen is bright and offers up information without clutter. As in those cars, the Google Maps projection works great here. The new two-spoke Tata wheel, with paddles for the regen levels, continues to look and feel like it is out of something far more expensive.
The 10.25-inch central touchscreen continues to impress especially since most of the glitches we experienced earlier seem to have been addressed. Here too, we liked that the widget-based layout and the smartphone-like menus make accessing functions easy. A fact further helped by the clean responses of the screen. There's also a well-integrated wireless Android Auto/Apple carplay function. Further, you get the Arcade.ev entertainment suite with its integrated streaming and music platforms.
Capacitive touch controls now replace the physical switches in the lower half of the dash. It goes with the reduced look of the cabin but again is a dust magnet and not quite as easy to use. Aside from this, the Punch EV seems to manage cabin space especially efficiently with the new architecture. There is now a new set of more compact front seats which opens up some space. We would have liked a bit less lumbar support but they still do a good job with the supportive cushioning and bolsters. If anything, thigh supports seem to be better while you have the always handy ventilation function too.
Aside from the deep door bins, there's now a new central tunnel that further adds to practicality. It holds the rotary gear selector but now also accommodates some large cupholders. There's even a well-placed armrest to add to the cabin's ergonomics.
The Punch was always best for small families and that continues here largely unchanged, again due to the new architecture. So while the battery pack is packed under both rows of seats and the floor, the seat height isn't comprised. So you still get good thigh support while the scooped-out roof means taller adults should be fine too. They will however still want more knee and legroom. The space here is best for four but we came away surprised by the lack of rear AC vents and power outlets.
Tata Punch EV features, safety
A great attribute of the Punch EV is its long list of features. You get full LED lighting, auto headlamps and wipers, fog lamps, connected tech, the two 10.1-inch screens, ventilated seats, driver seat height adjustment, tilt/telescopic steering, climate control, air purifier, single-pane sunroof, wireless charging and a 45W Type-C charger.
Safety is still of great focus. You get six airbags as standard, hill-hold, hill-descent control, ESC, TPMS, 360-degree cameras and a blind-view monitor. The camera offers some intuitive views so parking is easy. We also happened to drive the Punch EV on a prepared off-road course. The new architecture seems to retain the toughness of the Punch ICE but we came away impressed with how well the traction control and hill-descent functions are calibrated.
Tata Punch EV battery, range, charging
The Punch EV can be had with two battery options, a standard 25 kWh pack or a Long-range version with 35 kWh. Better packaging has allowed Tata Motors to improve battery density by 10 per cent so the smaller pack will give you 315 km of MIDC range and the larger one 421 km. This is not far behind that of the Nexon EV, with our real-world experience largely confirming this.
On a 69 km trip largely on highways and at speeds between 60 to 100 kmph in the City mode, we used about 25 per cent of the battery in the Long Range version This is about 280 km which on a more balanced cycle with greater city driving should get you over 300 km in the real world. Quite useful in these situations is the range indicator in these Tata EVs, It is quite accurate based on your driving patterns and will also recalculate based on the regen level and drive mode combination you choose. This makes for fewer surprises and you can plan longer trips better.
The Punch EV can DC fast charge at up to 50 kW which will get you from 10 to 80 per cent in under an hour. The 7.2 kW AC charger will fully top up the battery in 5 hours.
Tata Punch EV driving impressions
Start driving the Punch EV, and it's quickly apparent that this works well as an urban car. Visibility is great, it's not difficult to find a nice seating position and with no big engine to get in the way, the turning circle is impressive too.
The standard version makes 81PS and 114 Nm, but this Long Range version is quite a bit more potent with its 122PS and 190 Nm. Tata Motors has now some serious experience with electric powertrains and that shows in the quite precise throttle response and progressive ramp-up in torque that you experience with this EV. So getting used to it is straightforward if you've never driven an EV before.
As the outputs suggest, the Punch EV is about as quick as some warm hatches, with a 0 to 100 kmph time of 9.5s. So you will be covered in most situations. Helpfully, the Punch EV is also quite good at highway speeds. It's only past 80 kmph that you notice some strain in the powertrain but it's never enough to leave you wanting. The EV makes the same outputs in all three modes. The City mode is the best for most conditions, although the sharper responses in the Sport mode do make overtakes easier. But we think most will be happy leaving it in Eco for their daily commute.
The regen function is well-calibrated too. Back off the throttle, and the switch to regen is natural and without hesitation. It's again easy to get used to, and we think over time you'll end up using the friction brakes less often. There's no one pedal driving but the highest level is enough to get the Punch EV right down to a slow 5 kmph crawl. In most other situations, the first level does well to mimic engine braking in an ICE car.
These Tata EVs also drive surprisingly well, and the Punch is no different. With the stiff architecture and all the weight low down, you find yourself having quite a bit of fun around bends. So the Punch EV turns with some enthusiasm and you can hold quite high speeds without feeling nervous. The firm suspension tune helps with this and the steering too is direct enough to give you confidence.
These traits left us surprised to find that the Punch can sometimes feel nervous on a steady highway cruise. There's that big car sense of heft and solidity but you also find yourself making small corrections to keep the Punch EV true here. As for ride comfort, the Punch EV handles rough surfaces commendably. It's a typical Tata in the sense that you don't have to slow down too much over broken roads or gravelly patches. But sharp potholes and speed bumps are felt in the cabin given the EV-focused firm suspension tune.
Tata Punch EV price, verdict
Priced between Rs 11 lakh and Rs 14.49 lakh, the Tata Punch EV will most likely be another big hit for Tata Motors. Aside from the few odd styling and rear seat choices, it feels good value. It has enough range to be your only car, space at least for a young family, feels the money inside and drives entertainingly too. All the things the Nexon EV does, but for less money.
Images by Anis Shaikh
Starts Rs 5.49 Lakhs