Tata Punch.ev: Road Test Review

Benjamin Gracias
Does the Punch.ev show the way forward for Tata’s future EVs?

Tata Motors has been at the forefront of the Indian EV revolution in the passenger four-wheeler space. It is interesting to note though that its EVs used existing ICE architecture that were modified to accommodate EV components like the battery and electric drive motor. While this may be the most convenient step into the EV game (and win it), it did come with a few compromises. The Punch.ev charts a different path from existing Tata EV offerings. It sits on a new Acti.ev EV-only platform. Is this the right way forward for future Tata EVs?

It sure is the right way forward in terms of design direction. The ICE Tata Punch was a good looking micro-SUV and the Punch.ev gives it a futuristic edge. It looks like a scaled-down version of the new Tata Nexon EV – a good thing! While we like the DRL which stretches across the front, we would have loved the same treatment for the tail lamps which would have made the Punch.ev more distinguishable from the ICE Punch from the rear. More importantly, the charging port sits on the nose which is a far more convenient charging point on a vehicle, if you have a tricky parking spot.

The new floor is flat to accomodate the battery pack. Interestingly, unlike most EVs that have a lower ground clearance, the Punch.ev has its floor raised by 20mm, so the EV’s ground clearance at 190mm is 3mm higher than the ICE Punch. This raised floor does compromise on headroom, especially at the rear and will be bothersome if you are over six feet tall. Despite the compact dimensions, the cabin is cheerful thanks to the white, black and grey treatment. The seats are well bolstered, even at the rear. More impressive is the 366-litre boot space that’s wide and deep. The lack of a spare wheel gives you a storage bin under the boot floor which is large enough to store the charging cable and other knick knacks. It even gets a small frunk. Overall it is a well-packaged cabin which gives off a premium and futuristic vibe.

A major contributor to this feeling is the dashboard with its glossy panels and touch sensitive buttons. The steering wheel with the glossy pad is a nice touch too. The dual 10.2-inch screens are feature packed and run Tata’s new Arcade.ev suite. These contain 17 apps like Amazon, podcasts, games and OTT platforms besides Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It even gets useful features like cooled front seats, wireless charging, a 360-degree camera, Blindspot Monitoring and an air purifier. Of course, there is room for improvement. The instrument console feels crowded with most of the info in small font being difficult to read. Then there is the rotary gear knob that is not intuitive and refuses to shift unless you stomp the brake pedal.

We are driving the Long Range (LR) version that besides getting a larger battery pack, has a more powerful electric motor that delivers a healthy 120PS and 190Nm. This motor is shared with the Nexon EV but being in a smaller, lighter package means the Punch.ev can hustle. There is ample power on tap be it in city driving or the highways. It is most fun to ride in Sport mode with its heightened responses but you won’t mind cruising along in City mode or even Eco mode for that matter. It’s impressive how refined the powertrain is. It offers fantastic NVH levels which is also supplemented by a well-insulated cabin.

The larger 35kWh battery pack offers a claimed range of 421km. That’s quite impressive for an SUV with such compact dimensions. I was particularly impressed with how well battery regen works here — both to supplement range and offer smooth deceleration. It gets four riding modes that can be accessed via pedals behind the steering wheel. These range from zero where there is no regen; to level three which is strong enough to allow for single-pedal driving in the city. The Punch.ev supports DC fast charging upto 25kW which can charge the battery from 10 to 80 percent in 56 minutes – enough time for a coffee break.

The new Acti.ev platform also has the battery pack act as a stressed member, allowing for a stiffer chassis, 30 percent stiffer than the ICE Punch according to Tata. Having a stiffer chassis allows you to get away with softer suspension settings and this is where the Punch.ev shines. It simply glides over bad roads and the suspension offers the sophistication of SUVs twice its price! The 16-inch wheels help to an extent as well.

It is quite stable at high speeds and while it is not a sporty SUV, it does maintain composure around corners thanks to the floor-mounted battery pack lowering the centre of gravity. The steering though could do with more feedback. The Punch.ev LR version gets disc brakes at the back as well. The braking setup is well attuned with ample bite and feedback even with battery regeneration. Prices for the Tata Punch.ev start at Rs 10.99 lakh going up to Rs 14.99 lakh for the the top-spec Empowered + S LR variant (all prices ex-showroom) that we are driving. The Punch.ev scores highly over its EV siblings and shows the way forward. There are some niggles but these are easy to overlook in the overall scheme of things. If large space is a requisite, it’s the Nexon EV but for everything else the Punch.ev is easily the best EV offering below the 20 lakh rupee mark.

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