Fiat Punto 1.4 Dynamic+ 5-dr - FIAT PUNTO Car Review
Added: 15 Dec 2003
IT IS now knocking on for a decade since Fiat first introduced the Punto into the European car market.
What has been very much a success story for the Turin car giant saw the Punto crowned European Car of the Year 12 months after the launch in 1994 and, to date, more than five million have graced the driveways of Europe.
Renowned in its early days for good value style and spaciousness, the Punto emerged in second generation form in the autumn of 1999, with a more sexy shape and more lively engines to tempt younger drivers to this practical little Italian job.
In the process, Fiat has continued to regularly sell 50,000+ Puntos in the UK each year and, this summer, introduced the third generation, designed to build on the successful progress made by its predecessors.
This latest product of the Italian carmaker bowed in boasting a 22-model line-up and six trim levels, Active, Active Sport, Dynamic, Eleganza, Sporting and HGT all created to cater for most people's requirements.
There are seven options available from the Fiat engine-room, four petrol and three diesel, included among which is Fiat's extremely wallet-friendly and hugely capable, 1.3-litre Multijet turbo diesel power source.
However, for this particular exercise, I opted for one of the other new engines in the pack, the FIRE 1.4-litre petrol engine which proved an extremely spirited and torquey performer.
Maximum power of 95bhp at 5,800rpm helps the Punto to achieve the 0-62mph dash in under 10 seconds, en route to a maximum speed, where legally allowable, of 111mph - proving that this little chap, that also pulls well in the mid-range, is well able to take care of itself among the wall-to-wall heavy metal of the motorways.
Neither is it short on the fun factor, responding to the urging of the nicely refined 16-valver via a fine, smooth-changing five-speed gearbox, to string together a series of B road bends in footsure fashion to provide confidence inspiring progress.
Mounted on 14-inch alloys, the latest Punto provides an agreeably supple ride, the car having benefited from some subtle suspension revision. An increased ride height and the subsequent lengthening of the shock absorbers' travel, helps to provide the latest car with much smoother progress over roadway imperfections than its predecessor.
This latest Punto is also quite something in the city, having inherited the Dualdrive electric power steering which, in City Mode, had helped its predecessor to become superbly adept at the urban trawl, mastering the mystique of accessing parking spaces with finesse and without recourse to the optional parking sensors.
I must confess that, at first glance, this Punto's makeover didn't strike me as so different from the car I drove in its homeland at the second generation launch in 1999, but a closer look revealed quite a bit of cosmetic attention with a proper front grille, large jewel headlights and a deeper airdam at the front and new tail light clusters at the rear catching the eye.
The interior furnishing has been updated and, while there has been no compromising of the Punto's legendary passenger space, revisions include a two-tone grey finish to the dash, new and more serviceable fabrics and higher grade equipment.
Standard kit on the Dynamic+ test car included air con, trip computer, electric front windows, steering wheel mounted controls for the sound system which includes a CD player and there is a fair quotient of cupholders and cubbyholes.
Overall, the refreshed Fiat Punto looks well set to give a further good account of itself in the hotly contested supermini segment. It will satisfy not only current owners but the many newcomers which prices starting at under £7,000 for a three-door 1.2 litre Active model should attract.
Fiat Punto 1.4-litre Dynamic+ 5-dr
Mechanical: 95bhp, 1,368cc 4 cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-spd manual transmission
Max speed: 111mph
0-62mph: 9.9 secs
Combined mpg: 46.2
Insurance group: 7
CO2 emissions: 145g/km
BiK rating: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles; 8yrs anti-rust; 3yrs paint
Keywords: FIAT, PUNTO