A battle among the best driving affordable SUVs

The most loved and sold vehicle category around the world is an SUV. Owning a proper SUV in India is a pricey endeavor. Thanks to versatility in the Indian automobile industry, we enjoy several subcategories of the oh-so-popular SUV. One among them is the sweet spot between large and small cars – sub-four-meter SUVs. The SUV segment is fired up with options, and just like around the globe, its heat is felt in India. We’ve waited eagerly to get our hands on the most fun to drive sub ten lakh (ex-showroom), sub-four-meter SUVs, and here are your contenders – Tata Punch MT (AMT is meh!), a vehicle launched with a name to match its approach. Renault Kiger, a Renault Kwid on steroids, the good ones! And, finally, the Nissan Magnite, a surprise package from Nissan, at least with the CVT. We pit them against each other to find the best driving affordable SUV that deserves your attention.

Design and feel


Look at the three in comparison, and the Tata Punch gets its Punch thrown back to it. Both the Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger share the same platforms. But, their design approach on the exterior and interior differs in their unique ways. That said, both the Kiger and Magnite look substantially large than the Punch.
The Tata Punch fails to capture the big car feel, a desire for most buyers in this segment. The Nissan Magnite and the Renault Kiger feel proportionally large from the outside, grabbing more attention than the Punch. The Punch also drives like a smaller car than the contenders. More on that later. For now, let’s focus on the exterior and all the features these cars sport.

The Kiger looks modern, but thanks to its smaller sibling styled fascia, it may go unnoticed in a crowd of cars. The styling details make it look like a car designed in a racing game. The squared tri-LED headlamps, sleek LED DRLs, humps on the hood, C-styled rear LED lamps, skid plates, and roof rails make this car look substantial.
The Tata Punch is nice and small compared to the others. It drives like a small car too. The tri-arrow design is everywhere, on the grill, the horn cut-out, rear LEDs, interior dash, seats and many other areas for you to find as easter eggs. Remember, all the three cars run on 195 section R16 tyres. The mini harrier like stance looks handsome in isolation. Many who saw this car for the first time expressed that it was smaller than their perception. Maybe that was the intent?

The Nissan Magnite gathered the most attention of the three, and we’d see random people peeping through the glass, figuring out this car more often than one would expect. Those DRLs add a flair to the front fascia, and the rear looks like a car above its price tag. The wheels look timeless in comparison; the overall proportion, although sitting on similar platforms as the sister concern rival, gathered more attention than we anticipated. Nissan has struck a sweet chord with the Magnite, especially the Turbo CVT.

 

Interiors

Tata Punch:

The Tata Punch feels well-built both outside and the inside. The floating touch
panel with all the goodies except wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay found on the other cars make this cabin seem like a taller hatchback with height adjust on all vehicles. The dual-tone contrast quality materials in tri-arrow styling make this space look pleasant. Segment-first automatic everything – auto headlamps, auto wipers, auto ORVMs and auto locks make life easier and complicated at times. Get used to tapping that Start/Stop button for unlocking doors and more. The dead pedal seems like a standard across manuals, but the clutch design on this car got on my nerves. I wear a shoe size ten and could not engage the clutch without bending it awkwardly.
The rear passenger seat feels like a bit of hatchback in space and lacks creature comforts offered by the other contenders. Everyone in the car will enjoy Harman speakers and loads of cabin utility space. The Punch is utilized with 366 litres of boot space despite its size.

Nissan Magnite:

The Nissan Magnite feels much spacious on the inside, thanks to a larger
wheelbase than the Punch. The driver seat is commanding, and overall dimensions make this car look promisingly large on the inside. The animated all-digital large console looks like it will convert into 3d with the right glasses. This car also gets a 360-degree camera at a single touch on the infotainment console and is handy to park and maneuver in tight spots. Segment first feature here as well. Buyers get a traction control system with ESP, hill hold ability, and tyre-pressure monitoring system. An additional tech pack adds a wireless charging pad, JBL speakers, Air purifier, and more goodies. The switches are excellent in quality and well laid out with rotating knobs that feel tactile. A-pillars on all the cars are smaller and thus offer a nice view of the world. Soft feel fabric adds a sense of niceness to the otherwise blacked interior. Dual-tone finishes also change the monotony on the steering wheel and those sporty AC vents. A sense of space is felt both at the front and rear.
The rear passengers get ample creature comforts with AC vents, 12V socket, armrest with phone and cups holder. Compared to the Punch, the rear passengers would be happier in the Nissan Magnite with more leg and shoulder room. The Magnite offers a well laid-out 336 litres of boot space, allowing more cabin space.

Renault Kiger :

The Kiger cabin feels familiar when viewed after the Magnite. The buttons, AC controls and even the Start/Stop button are the same. That said, Kiger adds some features like cabin lights and LED elements behind the dash with added storage near and under the armrest.
These additions eat in the sense of space felt on the similar platform based Magnite. Apart from the matte silver element diving the dashboard, most of the driver bin is blacked out. The steering, too and in a way, looks sportier to hold. What is annoying on the Kiger are utility controls – door controls, seat controls, seat belt locks and more feel like an afterthought. They are placed awkwardly close to the driver and rear set.
Kiger’s rear space is also way similar to the Magnite. What’s missing here is the soft-touch fabric but loads of dual-toned silver elements, giving an innovative design to the shared parts. Sitting on the same wheelbase with a giant boot space of 406 litres, the cabin area inside the Kiger is ample but feels just a few millimeters less than the Magnite.

Drive –

Tata Punch –

Tata Punch AMT felt like an unfair comparison to the other two cars. Sitting in a
similar price range, we chose the engaging manual. The Tata Punch feels like a fantastic car to drive; the ride is supple, soaks everything well, the vehicle’s dynamics are impressive but where it lacks is the engine. The Punch is powered by a 1.2l engine that churns out a mere 85bhp and 113Nm of peak power and torque figures. It feels like driving a small car, and that is a compliment. If I could fit the Magnite engine in this, this car would shine even more. The car is nimble around the city and relatively steady on triple-digit speeds, but the suspensions are tuned to be super soft. Great for the city, and roads less travelled but weird on corners and highway undulations. I want to love the Punch for all the other things it offers, but the engine and gearbox leave me wanting more. Brakes offer good bite and stopping power.

Renault Kiger –

Renault Kiger comes with the same engine as the Magnite but is tuned for more linear power delivery. It makes the exact power figures as the Magnite with 99bhp from a 1L turbocharged engine but is tuned to support its eco, normal and sports modes. We are driving the CVT variants, and both produce a healthy 152Nm torque. The Kiger feels more prominent than the Punch, both in dynamics and drive. There are nice graphics on the driver console and a monotone infotainment system. The turbocharged engine makes this car feel light on its feet.
That said, the tune in eco is best left untouched. It makes the vehicle lethargic while the sports mode electronically weighs up the steering and throttle inputs. But barely improves the acceleration or driving dynamics. Normal mode works best for the Kiger but lacks the zeal offered by the Magnite. Brakes feel mushier as compared to the other contenders.

Nissan Magnite:

The Nissan Magnite is a surprise from Nissan, especially with the CVT
turbocharged 1L engine. Nissan has tuned the power delivery to be a bit more urgent, and every time you floor the throttle, even at higher speeds, the Nissan tuned engine makes the Magnite pounce ahead. The power delivery defies the proportions of the Magnite. The exact power figures are on paper, but Nissan tuned Magnite makes it feel quicker than the Kiger on throttle response. Both the Magnite and the Kiger share underpinnings, but the engine response on the Magnite is addictive. The Nissan Magnite will always keep the driver grinning with excitement.
The suspension setup is perfectly stiff for the car’s engine response and makes it feel the lot’s stable (read enjoyable). Let me ask you a question – What do you do the most in your vehicle – You drive it the most, and in that sense alone, the Magnite excited us. Brakes on the Magnite are not as impressive as the Punch but do a commendable job compared to the Kiger.

Fuel efficiency is almost similar among the three varying from 17-19km/l with a light foot
throttle. Push these cars around, and all of them return a real-life mileage figure of 11-12km/l in varied driving conditions. The Tata Punch is an excellent offering as its base variant, spec it up to the manual trim we drove, which costs around nine lakhs! For just a little extra moolah, you get a lot more with the Nissan Magnite. Yes, the Kiger is styled and comes with driving modes, but it can cost almost a lac more for a similar performance as the Magnite. Our pick is the Magnite for its large proportions, better safety features, 360-degree camera and that bomb of a turbocharged engine tuned better than the sport mode on the Kiger.

 

Watch the complete comparison video here.