Fiat's Punto reinvents itself
Fiat – or Fabbrica Italiano Automobili Torino to give the company its full name – has made some truly great cars, among which I would count both the original and the modern Fiat 500 baby cars. It’s also churned out some rubbish, including too many of the models that have borne the names of the company’s supposedly prestigious sporting brands – Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
I’m pleased to report that the latest incarnation of the Fiat Punto – now dubbed the Punto Evo – fits into the former category, Better designed and much better built than its earlier incarnations, this one’s a gem,
Competition is scorchingly hot in the small car sector right now but judging from a busy week living with it, Italy’s contender has nothing to fear from its rivals except, maybe, their till now better reputation.
Next generation technology, innovative design down to the smallest detailing, and a truly comprehensive range of engine and trim options, have all gone into a potent mix. And with low running and maintenance costs and purchase prices ranging from £10,195 to £15,295 on the road, the Punto Evo makes economic sense too.
In both three and five-door form, it’s a great looking little car, with a cutting edge to its styling, both inside and out. Not that it doesn’t have a few flaws.
The dials, for instance, are too small and badly coloured, making them difficult to read, especially when driving in bright sunlight.
With strict observance of speed restrictions now a necessity if you want to hold on to your licence, it’s worrying not to be able to read the speedo clearly – especially when a car has as much get up and go as does the impressively well sorted Punto Evo.
In other aspects, the cabin is commendably ergonomic, with quality materials and good fit and finish.
Exterior styling is gorgeous, with striking new DRL headlights staring determinedly out onto the road ahead, even when the car isn’t moving, while the fog lamps have an adaptive cornering function.
Available in body colour, black or metallic – depending on the trim level chosen – side mouldings give a nice finishing touch to an attractively clean-cut design.
There’s a choice of six engines, ranging from 1.2 to 1.6 litres in capacity, each of them giving lively performance – and they all come with a stop-and-start system to greatly aid fuel efficiency.
The most radical introduction to the range is the 1.4 MultiAir engine, featuring a revolutionary new method of controlling the inlet and exhaust valves, improving power and torque while at the same time reducing fuel consumption by 16 per cent.
The Punto Evo is comfortable, spacious and handles well. In Sporting trim, with a 1.6 litre 16-valve engine it can reach 118 mph, cracking the 0-62 mph sprint in under nine seconds.