Tata Punch EV first drive review. Does it finally pack a punch?
It may not look it, but the Tata Punch EV is a big deal. Yes, this is Tata Motors’ fourth electric model after the Tigor, Nexon and Tiago EVs. But those were ICE platforms that were modified to host electrification. Underneath the facelifted and electrified exterior styling of the Punch EV is a whole new EV-only platform called Acti.ev. This is an electric skateboard that has kept the wheelbase and track the same so that the Punch’s top hat can fit over it seamlessly. Cost was a factor. As was time-to-market. Tata Motors wanted to move quickly so they have focussed their efforts in areas you cannot see, but have very real differences to the experience of the car. Case in point? Pop the hood and you have a frunk! Open the rear doors and you have a flat floor. The Punch EV sits in a lucrative space — fitting in conveniently between the Tiago EV and Nexon EV, having only the likes of the Citroen eC3 to compete with. Let’s settle in and see what this electric ‘micro-SUV’ is all about.
2024 Tata Punch EV Styling
You would think an all new platform would lead to all new styling, but that isn’t the case here. Tata Motors is sticking to the old Punch top hat which means only limited changes could be made. The front gets a facelift, in line with what the Nexon EV recently got (expect this face on the ICE Punch soon, without the jazzy lighting). Higher variants of the Punch EV get the full width LED light bar up front which doubles up as a charge indicator, while LED headlamps are standard across all variants. You get a new design for the 16-inch wheels, while the “.ev” logo now sits on the flanks. The rear three-quarters get next to no changes with the only difference from the ICE Punch being the silver in the bumpers and Punch.ev lettering on the boot. On the face of it, the Punch does look fresh and “electrified” but more could have been done at the rear to differentiate it from the standard Punch. Like I said, Tata Motors did factor in cost and how long it would take to bring the Punch EV to market in this decision, but it isn’t necessarily one that I agree with.
Interestingly though, the charging port has moved to the nose, behind the Tata logo, with a panel that pulls back at the touch of a button (and there’s no fuel filler cap cut-out on the side panels either – nice). It’s a slick mechanism that feels miles ahead of any of the fuel filler caps that were on previous EVs. However I don’t like that I have to open the door and reach out to the centre panel to access said button every time I want to open the charging port. There’s a failsafe under the hood as well — a mechanical operation — but I feel Tata Motors should have given a button on the key fob which pops open the panel. Would make living with it much easier.
2024 Tata Punch EV Interior
The Punch EV gets a significant revamp to the interior, with a big focus on the tech. There are new screens all around — a 10.25-inch unit for the instrument cluster and another 10.25-inch unit for the infotainment screen. The infotainment runs the latest widget-based OS,can get OTA updates and packs plenty of tech including Arcade.ev that allows you to load video / music streaming apps, and games. The cluster is configurable with different views and information is well laid out. It can even mirror Google Maps (through Android Auto) or Apple Maps (through Apple CarPlay) right in front of you – and both can be done wirelessly. The steering wheel is new with the illuminated logo, the air-con controls are now a “phygital” panel with hard controls for fan speed and temperature, along with touch buttons for a number of other controls. There’s a rotary gear selector, new (rather comfy) seats which are ventilated on the top-end versions, and at the rear courtesy the new architecture, a flat floor. Plenty of equipment on the top end trims as well — a 360-degree camera, sunroof, blind spot monitor, wireless phone charger which is also cooled while the air purifier is standard on all variants.
Initial poking around does make it feel like quality has taken a step up. Particularly on tactile points like the air-con vents and door cards. Storage areas are adequate considering the footprint of the car, and I’d have to say the same about rear knee room. This is certainly not a car you want to be chauffeur driven in. The frunk is new as well — at 14 litres it is not super spacious but it’s big enough to fit in the charging cable. Something that did get to me was the slight rocking of the driver’s seat of my car. Not as bad as the Duster’s / Terrano’s back in the day but enough to be perceived under acceleration and braking. The gear selector remains a fiddly thing, though better than before.
2024 Tata Punch EV Drivetrain, Range and Performance
The Punch EV has its batteries in the floor, an all-new battery pack compared to the Nexon and Tiago, and a single motor on the front axle. It continues with LFP cells but the new platform allows for better packaging and better efficiencies. There are two range options — the standard car with 25kWh and a claimed MIDC range of 315km, and a 35kWh option with an MIDC range of 425km. We’re driving the long range version and while we didn’t have the car long enough to do a proper range test, we estimate it to be able to do 300km on a full charge in the real world.
There are different motor specs as well, with the Long Range putting out a meaty 120bhp and 190Nm. And this fixes the ICE Punch’s biggest problem — its lack of punch. 0-100kmph comes up in a VBOX tested 9.34 seconds, and it goes past 100kmph with little effort hitting a true top speed of 134.5kmph (claimed 0-100kmph is 9.5 seconds and top speed is 140kmph). It feels quick right from the get go, and has the spunk that we wished the Punch always had (and which its underpinnings could always handle). There are three drive modes — Eco, City and Sport. City is adequate, but I found myself keeping it in Sport for the most part. And unless I have a long distance to cover, it would be my default mode. It gives you quicker responses when you jab the throttle and piles on speed more willingly, making the driving experience that much more effortless. Being an EV, refinement is top notch however I did feel some vibrations at the steering wheel under hard acceleration in Sport mode. You also get four levels of regen that can be toggled through the paddle shifters, and can tweak the level of regenerative braking delivered off the throttle. What you pick depends on how you like the car behaving when you’re getting off the throttle.
Something that I would have liked to see with this Gen 2 EV architecture is the ability to control the rate of deceleration off throttle. Many other EVs allow you to control the rate of regen (and consequently deceleration) with the initial part of the throttle pedal, which is useful in the more aggressive regen modes. It means, I can stick it in the most aggressive regen setting and then modulate deceleration with the throttle pedal. However, the Tata Punch EV’s regen kicks in much like it did before — only when you get fully off the throttle. Which means, no modulation is possible.
2024 Tata Punch EV Chassis
There have been big changes to the chassis compared to the ICE Punch. The entire floor is now, and therefore, how the frame bears weight, deals with crashes, flex, lateral forces, everything changes. More reinforcement has been done to the sides, while the crash structure has been modified to account for the batteries. Torsional rigidity for this new platform is up by a solid 45 per cent compared to the ICE one, and is theoretically 30 per cent more that a modified ICE-to-EV conversion platform. What this leads to is a sense of incredible robustness while driving down the road.
Low speed ride is exceptionally good, it soaks up bumps and potholes with composure. There are no ugly noises from the suspension, and the Punch EV feels like it was born for this. Would be a boon on bad city roads. As speed rises, you notice a slight firmness in the suspension. On one hand it's a good thing because it gives you a sense of stability on smooth tarmac. However, bumps and undulations can kick the rear up ever so slightly, which can feel unsettling. Most of our highways have these sort of bumps at very regular intervals so it's hard to ignore. The Punch EV, is after all, some 190kg more than the ICE Punch and that means it needs stiffer springs, and a damper retune. It is necessary to keep the weight in check, but as always, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
As for handling, the Punch has slightly vague, light steering and the lack of feedback means you don’t get enough confidence to push too hard. Push hard and it actually grips well but you need to build the confidence to push it to the max. It rolls a bit in the corners, and despite the centre of gravity dropping by 30mm, it doesn’t magically transform into a corner carver. It is easy enough to place the car accurately, but push too hard and the eco-tyres start to squeal, the feeling of roll gets exaggerated and range starts to dip a bit too quickly. But then again, the Punch will mostly be restricted to the city and none of this will matter.
2024 Tata Punch EV Verdict
I have a feeling that the Punch EV is going to crack open the EV space even more — it brings you the things we know and love from the Nexon EV in a more compact, affordable, urban-friendly package. The Gen 2 architecture has some very real benefits on packaging and range, and while it may not look like an all-new car, there’s so much going on underneath. This is a big step. The first pure-EV from an Indian manufacturer! It drives well, it rides well, it feels premium on the inside and it has the punch that the Punch was always missing!
Prices are out — the lower range variant sits between Rs 10.99 lakh and Rs 13.29 lakh, while the long range is between Rs 12.99 lakh and Rs 14.49 lakh. The sunroof is not standard and costs Rs 50,000 extra, and the faster 7.2 kW charger is an additional Rs 50,000. At this price, the Punch makes so much sense. It gives you more bang for your buck compared to the likes of the Comet and Tiago EV, and unless you need the space and added features of the Nexon EV (the range delta is only 50km), you’re better off with the Punch!