Citroen C3 vs Tata Punch comparison review - SUV charm, hatch sense

Tuhin Guha Published: November 07, 2022, 01:21 PM IST

We've reached a point now where a tight budget is no longer a reason to deprive yourself of all the bragging rights that come with owning an SUV. The Tata Punch has been our pick in this regard so far but can the Citroen C3 make an impression with its unique take on the matter?

Citroen C3 vs Tata Punch: Exterior, dimensions, boot space

Now Citroen insists on calling the C3 a hatch but it can more than hold its own against the clearly SUV-inspired Tata Punch, with its 154mm of added length. And it is a handsome car with Citroen doing a great job of distilling its family face onto this more affordable package. These orange highlights are available selectively and they do the job of making the C3 stand out in a crowd.

The Punch also draws inspiration from the Harrier and Safari with its split headlamp look and two-step grille arrangement. The mass of contrasting grille and cladding work well to enhance this SUV-themed look.

The more sculpted bodywork with the heavy cladding, the floating roof and the hidden rear door handles along with the stylish 16-inch alloy wheels help temper some of the tall-hatch-look of the Tata Punch in profile. The Citroen C3 seems more proportionate, it is only 7mm down on ground clearance from the Punch at 180mm. The bodywork is a bit less extroverted but again the orange highlights provide good relief. But there's no hiding the significant cost-cutting with the 15-inch steel wheels, the fender-mounted indicator bulbs and flip-type door handles.

The Tata gets LED taillamp highlights and continues with that fuller, heavily-cladded look from behind. But the Citroen isn't far behind with the intricate design for the taillamps and contrasting cladding. The Punch has a larger boot at 366 litres against the 315 litres of the C3 but both have quite high load lips with the Citroen carving out a flatter space.

Citroen C3 vs Tata Punch: Interiors, space, features

This SUV theme carries over on the inside with both. The Tata Punch and Citroen C3 make use of contrasting colours and textures to shore up the ambience. The high dash with the contrasting horizontal elements in the Punch comes closer to giving you that sense of driving an SUV but the bright orange contrasting panels and lighter colour pallette with the generally lighter grey and silver used in the C3 enhance the cabin's sense of space.

Having said that, the quality of plastics used in both is passable. The cabin in both seems well put together on first impression but look closer and there are discrepancies. We found some misaligned panels in both cars. The Citroen suffered from rough edges in the dash moulding while we saw some of the fixtures already falling off in the Tata's boot and engine bay. The Tata Punch claws back ground with its heftier feeling doors and the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. Also, the switchgear, shared with pricier offerings, feels better damped and more substantial.

The Citroen C3 has the edge with the space it offers. The larger windows lend an airier feel. A sensation enhanced by the wider seats and larger footwells. The seats are far more comfortable than they look with great contouring, good back and thigh support. But the Punch will probably be more comfortable over long stints behind the wheel with its substantial contouring and better padding. The fabric too feels of a slightly plusher quality although those with a wide frame may not be too happy with the snug fit.

A similar sense continues at the back of the Citroen C3, although ingress and egress are hampered by the narrow opening between the seat and B-pillar compounded by the high sill. This starkly contrasts the 90-degree-opening doors of the Tata Punch's ALFA architecture and the good hip point of the Tata's seats. Once inside, the C3 and Punch again make an equal tradeoff with their seat comfort. Both offer similar support but the Tata has better-defined bolstering. The cushioning is similar to the front but the Tata gives you a centre armrest as well as a well-placed door armrest so falling into a snug position is very easy. The Citroen has more leg and knee room with the longer wheelbase and wider bench making space for a third adult easier to find. Although, the Tata does away with a centre hump for better leg-space for the third passenger.

The Citroen C3 also holds an edge over the Tata Punch in terms of practicality. The front door pockets are better designed while there is more space for small objects in the central tunnel with its layered cubbies and many small spaces. The Tata doesn't quite manage this as well, also skipping rear charging ports which the Citroen gets two of.

Look at the features list and the C3 is almost jarring in its cost-cutting. Sure you get a crisp 10.2-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto/Apple Carplay but this is the only highlight here. The Tata Punch's 7-inch unit may not be as intuitive to use but packs optional connected-tech, what3words navigation and an eco-driving indicator. Then there's the vast list of features like auto headlamps and wipers, drive modes, push-button start, a useful semi-digital instrument cluster, cruise control, climate control and auto-folding mirrors. The Citroen gets none of these. In fact, you don't get features we've become quite accustomed to like a tachometer or a full trip meter. Even small touches like a key reminder or a dead-pedal are missing. There's also no separate lock/unlock button and the rear power window switches are centrally placed.

Citroen C3 vs Tata Punch: Safety

This lack of creature comforts in the Citroen C3 also spills over into a distinct shortcoming in safety features. We wish Citroen paid more attention in this regard. Aside from the mandated safety equipment, there's really not much here. So there's no dimming rear-view mirror, no rear washer/wiper, no ISOFIX child seat mounts or a rear camera. You don't even need to press the clutch to start the car, a genuine hazard. In contrast, the Tata Puch carries a five-start Global NCAP safety rating with all these features present. The only drawback is the lack of ESC.

Citroen C3 vs Tata Punch: Driving impressions

Both, the Tata Punch and the Citroen C3, come across as easy cars to drive, a great trait if you are a new driver looking for their first car. The driving position is comfortable, you get height adjustment for the driver's seat in both and there's great visibility with the bulged front haunches letting you place these cars quite accurately in tight spaces.

The Tata Punch can be had with a single 1.2-litre petrol motor that makes 86PS and 113 Nm. The Citroen C3 can also be had with a similar motor but a more direct competitor to this fully loaded Punch is the 1.2-litre turbo that makes 110PS and 190 Nm.

This PureTech motor really is the highlight of the Citroen C3's driving experience. It's about as good as these small turbo-petrols get with its refinement and power delivery. There's no real vibrations filtering through as you start off, quite unlike the Punch, and then there's a wide and linear powerband to play with. You can potter along in traffic with not too many gear shifts to contend with. Lag too is very well controlled so you won't be caught out by sudden surges in acceleration. This also translates into some potent performance. The 0 to 100 kmph time of 11.3 seconds suggests you will leave quite some cr behind in a traffic light drag. It also makes overtakes not a concern.

The only real drawback is the clutch which feels too springy and abrupt in its disengagement to make for smooth shifts. We don't remember it being like this from our previous experiences with the C3, so it could be an issue with just our test car. The Punch may be missing the extra 6th gear but the 'box itself feels more precise and easier to operate.

Now the Punch can't quite match the excitement the C3's motor offers. But, in isolation, the Tata does everything you could want from a small runabout. There's not quite the low-end grunt of the Citroen so starts on inclines can be tricky but once on the move, the Revotron motor is about as tractable as the one in the C3. You still a wide powerband but with a lesser degree of performance. This does mean that overtakes and making up gaps in traffic will need an extra downshift or two. But we think you won't mind living with this, given how much more efficient the Tata is.

The Punch and C3 also have something to offer if you like driving or going on road trips. Both cars feel surefooted at highway speeds with great straight-line stability. You have a sense of security from both cars in this situation that's quite heartening to see at this price point. This also turns into them feeling tied down around corners, the Tata is marginally tauter here although the Citroen will still keep most drivers happy. There's again a fine difference in the steering feel of the two here, the Tata has a lighter wheel that makes it a touch easier in traffic but we like the added precision with which the steering in the C3 weighs up as you turn it further into a turn.

The Tata Puch has a clear edge in terms of ride quality. It's got that typical Tata trait of feeling tough over bad roads while also ensuring you remain comfortable. Most potholes and bumps don't jarr you in the cabin. This is quite unlike the Citroen at low speeds where it can't quite keep these imperfections at bay. Although this improves notably as speeds rise where both seem quite adept a giving you a steady, level ride.

Citroen C3 vs Tata Punch: Price, verdict

The C3, in true Citroen fashion, brings a fresh take on an affordable family car. It's about as good as a car in this price range can get with its looks, space and driving feel. Had it been better packaged or fully lived up to its no-frills brief in terms of price, the Tata Punch would have had a tougher job. As it stands, the Punch offers more of what a new or cost-sensitive car buyer might want with its long features list, a touch more SUV character, good efficiency and competent driving dynamics.

Citroen C3 vs Tata Punch: Real-world fuel-efficiency, performance

Citroen C3 vs Tata Punch: Scorecard

Also read,

2022 Citroen C3 review, first drive – does the new SUV-themed hatch leave a mark?

2021 Tata Punch road test review

2021 Tata Punch vs Renault Kiger compact crossover comparo

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