Tata Punch replaces our 19-year-old WagonR: 4 months & 2000km ownership

The front of the car has a Harrier / Nexon like presence, there is a futuristic touch to the rear.

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For quite some time, we had been looking for a worthy replacement for our 19-year-old Wagon R which had done 7-digit km. The vehicle was dear to my father-in-law and we wanted the new car to be something modern, refreshing and as practical as his first gen WagonR. He lives in Bhubaneshwar and the car is used for city driving as well as trips to his village in the Puri district – for the uninitiated, the roads even in villages of this part of the country can give any highway a run for its money.

Shortlisting

With Etios Liva being discontinued, based on the above and the fact that I already own a Jazz, we right away requested a Honda Jazz test drive. Unfortunately, we realized that even a full-size 4m car could not properly fit in the garage. This meant that we would have to narrow the search down to smaller hatches only.

This was August 2021 and the choices were limited and simple:

We did not give much consideration to Datsun Go or the KUV 100.

Options Considered

TBH, all these cars did not seem like an upgrade from the WagonR:

  • The Santro was not in consideration even back in 2003, so it made no sense now. Eliminating Hyundai altogether was simple, it’s neither Japanese nor safe.
  • We had been reading about the new Celerio for a while but the launch was delayed. Going for a new WagonR ticked most of the boxes, but it did not feel right to go for the same car again. After all, this was a new car after 19 years.

The choices left were Ignis and Tiago. One was clearly safer while the other was clearly more refined. It was clearly a compromise and no one was happy. We had even considered parking the car outside of the garage in the street – after all, he deserved to buy a better car (Jazz or Urban Cruiser). After a lot of deliberation, we half-heartedly booked the Ignis around mid of October 2021.

The road gets bumpier

Make no mistake, we did know the punch was launching within a week and were ok to consider it. Plus the pressure to make my father-in-law get a new car was mounting on me. My trip to Bhubaneshwar was about to end and if we didn’t book it this time, the old man would get his WagonR registration extended for another 5 years. My gut said – how small an SUV can it be? If a 3.99m car cannot fit in the garage, how comfortable would it be to park a 3.8xx m inside each day?

Fasten your seatbelts

3 days after booking the Ignis, we went to the TATA Motors showroom. I personally was very excited to check the Punch – I knew TATA Motors had been rolling out great products lately, but all of them seemed to be packed with small glitches. Hence I knew the Punch would not be a gamechanger either. A year ago, I was left heartbroken when I wanted to buy an Altroz for myself but went ahead with the Jazz because of the poor refinement and interior finishing in the Altroz.

BOOM – if looks could kill and all that moment. None of us was expecting the Punch to be such a looker. It looked heavy, it looked futuristic and it looked compact. It had pleasantly good interiors for a Tata car, and hardly any panel gaps whatsoever. This was hard to believe.

The family went crazy that finally there is an option worthy of replacing the 1st gen WagonR. However, I had my reservations. After all, this was a Tata car which in a way meant that you could be trading your peace of mind for good road presence. Plus the neck-to-neck parking space each day was going to be a challenge. In fact, the sales agent refused to make a parking attempt in our garage. But taking measurements with a ruler in his hand, my father-in-law was confident that he could make it work.

We booked the Punch Pure variant (to avoid all the tech shenanigans) on October 26, 2021. We have committed a delivery within 3 months, but it took 4. The delivery was done on February 28, 2022.

9 months after making the booking, I am back in Bhubaneshwar and have been trying my hands on this beauty for the last few days. Here are my observations and honest views about the car:

2000 km / 4-month ownership review

Looks and Road Presence

As I said, Punch is a looker (just like other Tata cars). While the front of the car has a Harrier/Nexon like presence, there is a futuristic touch to the rear like an EV concept car. The claddings on the side and across the body add muscle. It doesn’t look like a sub-Rs 10 lakh car and no other cars at this price point come close in terms of road presence.

Space and Comfort

The seating position is nice and high and gives a proper SUV feel. The headroom and front legroom is extremely good while the rear space is sufficient to fit two adults and a kid. The boot can carry 2 large suitcases.

Interiors

Not an area of strength for Tata Motors, but they have done quite a neat job in the Punch. The dash is made of hard plastic but the quality is very good and there is no unnecessary rattle. The black and white schemed digital meters look classy. However, some of the buttons seem to be delicate.

Drive Quality

The high ground clearance and the SUV nature of the vehicle ensure that this easily glides through any bumpy breakers or holes that a city has to offer. We have not tried off-roading but this certainly seems capable of the challenge. There are YouTube videos of punch doing extremely well in off roads. We went past some of the roads that were water and mud-laden because of construction work, and we couldn’t feel anything. This is a big plus over any of the hatches or compact sedans. Punch clearly beats my Jazz when it comes to this department. High-speed stability seems exceptionally well – I constantly did 100-120 km/h speeds on the Bhubaneshwar-Puri highway and the car added a lot of confidence.

Engine Refinement and Power

The 1.2L Revetron Engine of Tata continues to be an Achilles heel. The power is sufficient for city driving and the pull in lower gears is very good. The ability to glide at triple digits on the highways is as good as any other 1.2L NA engine (other than Ford’s dragon engines, I miss Ford). I struggled to push the car beyond 120 km/h though. However, it is the refinement and the NVH levels where the rivals have a big upper hand. My FIL too agreed that his Wagon R was way more refined. Having said that, I personally enjoyed the slight vibrations and cabin noise. It complements the high seating position and the SUV feel.

Cons of Tata Punch

Lastly, the biggest positive of this vehicle in my view is the Value For Money that it brings to the table. Tata Punch is the most comprehensive value-for-money package that one can ask for. There is a price difference of Rs 4L on road between the base variant (Pure) and the top variant (Kaziranga / AMT / IRA). This is too much for the same engine and an AMT gearbox. Hence the lower variants become a value for money.

We got Pure variant + Rhythm pack at <7L on road and this seems like a steal to me. The car has almost everything that an ordinary household requires. This should be an easy pick over the Ignis, Swift, Nios or even some of the compact sedans and premium hatches.

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