Fiat Punto 1.2 Active Sport - FIAT PUNTO Car Review
Added: 23 Dec 2002
SURVIVING the test of time when newer models are springing up from all sides can be a tricky exercise.
Safe in the knowledge that they already had a competitive product on their hands, Fiat decided to cut prices and boost equipment for former Car of the Year, the Punto.
The strategy saw prices start at £6,495, the arrival of what's claimed to be the most affordable diesel car in its class. And one of the finest standard sound systems available in a supermini.
Among the best value in a range that now stretches to 19 models is the Active Sport, with its eight-valve 1.2-litre engine. With 60bhp on tap, this unit offers 25% less power than its 16-valve stablemate. It is, however, a quieter engine and one ideal for all-round driving.
Puntos have a style of their own - very Italian - and while the five-door version looks attractive, it's the three-door that has a sharper edge to its design.
It's a theme that extends to the cabin, with chunky and sensibly laid out instruments, nicely textured seats and a wealth of cans, coins and cubby space.
Best of all though is the confident feel you get when behind the wheel.
Basically this is a lively and refined car with a first-rate driving position, slick gearchange, and positive feel when tackling fast bends - even if you do feel the bumps from rough surfaces.
Safety is a priority throughout the range with side airbags and a passenger bag which can be disarmed for carrying children.
Attention to detail has proved meticulous, with several interesting and standard features. Among them are an alternative Dualdrive setting for the steering. Just press the CITY button on the dash and the wheel becomes noticeably lighter - ideal for parking or town driving.
Another is the follow-me-home system, which allows headlights to stay on for a set period after the car has been locked, to light a parking area or make the route to the front door safer - a boon for female drivers.
There are of course criticisms. Despite a spacious cabin, tall drivers, who need the front seat slid well back, will ensure it's 'knees under the chin' time for those behind, who don't have the easiest of access anyway.
All Puntos come with a high level of standard kit, but paying the extra £575 to upgrade from Active to Active Sport, sees a single-slot CD player replace the radio/cassette and foglamps added to the package.
With fresher models like the Honda Jazz, Citroen C3, revamped Ford Fiesta and imminent new Nissan Micra in opposition, things aren't going to get any easier for the current Punto.
In its favour, it's cheap to run, service and insure, and remains one of the best looking small cars around.
Fiat Punto 1.2 Active Sport
Mechanical: 60bhp, 1,242cc, 8-valve petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-spd gearbox
Max speed: 96mph
0-62mph: 14.3 secs
Combined mpg: 49.6
Insurance group: 3
CO2 emissions: 136g/km
BiK rating: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000; 8yrs anti-rust; 3yrs paint
Keywords: FIAT, PUNTO