In the automotive sphere, as an adjective, ‘all-new’ is probably the most misused one. On the one hand, it does enable marketers to sell refreshed models as ‘all-new’, but there’s no denying that more often than not, these aren’t exactly all-new. Facelifts, model-year revisions, and even small mechanical updates can indeed turn an existing model into something more likeable, but a complete transformation isn’t likely to happen. The latest all-electric model to come out of the Tata stable, the Punch.ev, looks to us like an all-new car, but is it actually one, considering the Punch itself has been around for a while? We try and find at a first drive event of what’s expected to be a game-changer for Tata Motors.

So, is it all new?

We must take a look at what’s changed, and then we’ll just let the new inclusions do the talking. For starters, the Punch.ev isn’t really a Punch underneath. Based on Tata’s new acti.ev platform, which is an electric-intensive, scalable architecture, the Punch.ev moves away from its internal combustion engine counterpart. This is a first because until now, every other Tata Motors electric offering was based on a slightly modified version of an existing platform. On the Punch.ev, that approach changes, with the underpinnings made suitable for a battery-powered car. The chassis has been stiffened, the battery has been placed on the floor, and everything around — brakes, suspension etc. — has been uprated.

All this results in a car that is a thorough improvement over the standard Punch, in terms of both ride and handling. Both in corners and at highway speeds, the Punch.ev feels substantially more surefooted. With a large percentage of weight placed closer to the bottom of the car, EVs can exhibit better dynamics, and the Punch.ev epitomises that. What’s even better is that the ride quality hasn’t suffered, either. It’s stable on good roads and supple on bad ones — or where there are no roads, too. While the new acti.ev theoretically opens up the chances of employing an all-wheel drive system, the Punch.ev continues to be a front-wheel drive car. It might lose out whatever light off-road capability an AWD layout would’ve given it, but the combination of instantaneous torque and well-sorted suspension makes the Punch.ev lots of fun in less-than-ideal road conditions.

There are two versions to choose from: the standard Punch.ev and the Punch.ev Long Range. The former is an 80 bhp and 11.62 kgm model, with a 25 kWh battery, which results in a claimed range of 315 km. This sounds fairly decent, but the Long Range model takes things up a notch. It comes with a 35 kWh battery and a more powerful setup, which makes 122 bhp and 19.37 kgm, while the claimed range is rated at an even more impressive 421 km. Given the Punch.ev’s size, those figures do sound quite encouraging. To put things into perspective, that’s more power and torque than a Hyundai Venue N Line; a 0-100 km/h time of under 10 seconds doesn’t sound bad at all. The Long Range model is claimed to hit 100 km/h on the speedo in just 9.5 seconds, whereas the standard model takes a relatively leisurely 13.5 seconds.

Encouraging range

With better optimisation in battery use and an ever-widening charging network, we can comfortably say that range anxiety on new electric cars will soon be almost eliminated, but how does the Punch.ev fare in that regard? Its claimed range is encouraging, no doubt, but real-world conditions can sometimes be brutal. In our case, we found out that having covered about 150 km in both city and highway traffic, the Punch.ev still showed 220 km of range. Not bad at all!

What about charging? The two models have two AC chargers accompanying them. One is a 3.3 kWh wall charger, which on the standard Punch.ev takes 9.4 hours to fully charge the car from 10 per cent. The same charger, when used with the long-range model, will take a total of 13.5 hours for a 10 to 100 per cent charge.

The faster 7.2 kW AC fast charger, available as an optional extra, will charge the Punch.ev in 3.6 hours, whereas it’ll take 5 hours for the Punch.ev Long Range. A DC fast charger, on the other hand, available at charging stations and some petrol pumps, will be quicker. A 50 KW fast charger will top up the Punch.ev from 10 to 80 per cent in just under an hour. This means zero-tailpipe-emission road trips won’t look like distant dreams anymore.

Talking of driving, while it’s been established that the Punch.ev is a fun car to drive, it does have some level of adjustability on offer — to suit your mood and driving style. There are three driving modes to choose from, namely Eco, City, and Sports, each offering power delivery tailored for the application. There are also multiple levels of regenerative braking, which can be controlled using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

The newness isn’t confined to what’s underneath, either, since Tata has brought some key changes to the exterior design, too. Akin to the recently refreshed Nexon.ev, the Punch.ev too has a wide LED DRL running across its face. The headlights are stacked atop the fog/cornering lamps and the vertical air vents in the new bumper. The charging port sits in the middle of the car’s face, which means you can drive straight into the charging bay without needing to route the cable around the car. It adds to practicality, and makes the fuselage cleaner.

On the whole, the cabin looks and feels great, especially with the new steering wheel and larger screen

On the whole, the cabin looks and feels great, especially with the new steering wheel and larger screen | Photo Credit: Amit Naik

Cabin

On the inside, the Punch.ev’s cabin has been equipped keeping in mind its quick top-up time using DC public chargers. The time you’d have earlier spent in a cafe, or indulging in doom-scrolling on your Instagram, can now be utilised better inside the plush cabin, thanks to the variety of entertainment options. The 720p 26.03 cm screen supports a variety of apps and popular online video streaming services. You can also make the most of the screen real estate by browsing the internet; or you can connect your phone using the two prominent connectivity suites: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which are available with wireless options. To ensure that the safety of occupants isn’t compromised, the video playback options on the infotainment will stop as the car’s speed goes over 5 km/h.

Some of the features are limited to the better-specced variants, but it’s good to see that Tata has offered a number of these: AQI display, wireless phone charging, air purifier, 360-degree cameras, ambient lighting, sunroof, six-speaker music system, six airbags (across the range), cruise control, disc brakes on all four wheels (on the Long Range model) and so on. The instrument panel is also all-digital and offers three layout options. On the whole, the cabin looks and feels great, especially with the new steering wheel and larger screen. The cooled seats at the front are a neat inclusion, too. The interior is spacious, but comfort at the rear could be slightly better, we feel. Boot space isn’t bad at all (at 366 litres), and with no engine at the front, Tata also offers a ‘frunk’ under the bonnet, which has a volume of 14 litres.

Tata offers an eight-year or 1,60,000 km warranty on the motor and the battery pack. Both of these are IP67-rated, which means there’s a provision to ensure neither dust nor water gets into them. Prices start at ₹10.99 lakh for the base model, whereas the fully-loaded Punch.ev Long Range (including the optional fast home charger) has an ex-showroom price tag of ₹15.49 lakh. In comparison, the Citroen eC3 is priced between ₹11.61 lakh and 13.50 lakh, and the bigger Nexon.ev is available from ₹14.74 lakh onwards.

Tata Motors has a more than 70 per cent market share in the EV 4-wheeler space in India, and a product like the Punch.ev shows the deep understanding they’ve developed of the ever-growing EV market in the last few years. With superior ride and handling, solid performance, and useful features, the Punch.ev has everything it takes to write another success story for Tata. It also makes buying a small EV look more attractive than ever before, but most importantly, it proves that not always is the term ‘all-new’ misused in the automotive context.

©Motoring World

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