Fiat Grande Punto 1.3 75 Active - FIAT PUNTO Car Review

Review

Added: 22 May 2006
Last update:

EVERYONE seems to love a cheeky Italian if the recent sales success of Fiat is a good judge.

From struggling to success in a little over three years, the mighty car group has turned on critics with cars which people want to buy and tell their friends about.

The Punto won its admirers when it was launched but such is the pace of progress in the motor business that it was left behind by newcomers.

But it still has its fans, so Fiat's answer was to keep it going and bring in the Grande Punto alongside.

A little larger but a lot more stylish, roomy and comfortable while retaining its sparky soul, the Grande Punto is available in a range of two body-styles and a variety of economical petrol and diesel engines.

I chose the anticipated best seller, the Grande Punto 1.3 Active with the slightly less powerful 75bhp diesel engine.

Not that you would worry about a lack of response because this is an Italian which is lively and excitable without being too loud.

The 1.3-litre engine uses the latest multi-jet technology to produce rapid responses throughout its range, provides easy motorway cruising and yet still manages to return really good economy.

The powertrain is an excellent match thanks to a light clutch, easy change five-speed box and an engine which never really sounds as if it is straining.

Fully loaded it struggles up some hills and takes appreciably longer to overtake, but used by the driver alone it is much more sprightly.

However it is driven it is hard to push the fuel economy below 60mpg because it just seems to run on air without having to compromise the driving.

The brakes need a slightly heavy foot to bring about rapid deceleration, but not much more than on most small cars and the feedback through the pedal is very good. I like the handbrake as well.

The steering with its town or country setting will be appreciated by some drivers who have to wiggle around small parking lots or ease into the smallest spaces but who want greater feel on open roads.

The clarity and simplicity of instruments and secondary controls is also welcome as is the straightforward heating and ventilation system.

Oddments room is fairly good but not particularly generous and the boot space is an improvement over the old Punto and easy to use.

The way passengers climb in and out is also better in the Grande Punto and once inside there is adequate room for four but it's a tight squeeze for five.

I liked the driving position in the Grande Punto and you can see everything around you thanks to a low waistline, slim roof pillars, good lights and wipers.

The noise levels are also low and road rumbles are probably the most intrusive.

They tell you what's underneath the wheels better than the suspension because this really soaks up the worst bumps without complaint and makes the Grande Punto surprisingly comfortable for a small car.

The handling is entirely safe and surefooted with predictable characteristics and the lack of power is not really going to get you into trouble.

The Fiat Grande Punto is a marked improvement over the models of old and it can stand wheel to wheel with the best from Germany while its specification and sophistication give it a strong price advantage.

It's so good you cannot help patting it when ever you leave it.

FAST FACTS

Fiat Grande Punto 1.3 75 Active 5dr

Price: £9,090

Mechanical: 75bhp, 1,248cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5spd manual gearbox

Max speed: 103mph

0-62mph: 13.6 secs

Combined mpg: 60.1

Insurance group: 3

CO2 emissions: 123g/km

BiK rating: 18%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles; 3yrs paint; 8yrs anti-rust

Words: Robin Roberts

Keywords: FIAT, PUNTO