Fiat Punto Active Sport 1.2 - FIAT PUNTO Car Review
Added: 07 Mar 2003
WHEN it comes to cutting edge styling, there are few cars to match the Fiat Punto.
It's as Italian as olive oil and just as smooth. And for looks it still blows most of the opposition out of the water. The fact that it still looks fresh and new four years after its revamp is a tribute to the designers.
It's also a tribute to Fiat's supermini that it has survived its TV advertising campaign.
The original and clever Spirito di Punto adverts were replaced with the bloke in the garage with the naff Brummie accent - a bizarre choice for such an elegant little car.
But this former European Car of the Year remains fiercely competitive in one of the toughest sectors of the market, and is still capable of springing a few surprises.
It retains its sweeping angular lines, and in black livery is still an eye-catcher, particularly in its three-door format.
The Active Sport tag on the model I tested is a little misleading. It sounds like a hottish hatch, but that is simply not the case. Sporting refers to the trim level, not the performance.
The interior certainly has a sporty appearance with its mixture of black textured trim and aluminium on the dashboard and the racy steering wheel. It looks and feels well put together and at £7,799 you get plenty of kit for your money.
Driver and passenger airbags are standard as is the excellent single CD/radio that wouldn't be out of place in a car three times the price. Also included are a trip computer, foglamps and follow-me-home headlamps, electric front windows and anti-theft device. But it would be nice to see anti-lock brakes included in the price.
The seats are also well-designed and comfortable, providing plenty of leg and headroom, providing you are not too tall. There is decent space for two adult passengers, the third would be a squeeze, and the 60/40 split folding seats provide plenty of carrying space. I managed to carry an armchair with the seats folded flat.
Despite only pumping out 60bhp, the eight-valve 1.2 engine proved to be willing, economical and surprisingly quiet. So quiet in fact that a couple of times at traffic lights I had to turn the radio down to check the engine was still running.
The gearbox is sharp and precise and the clutch light, but I found the pedals a little too close together for comfort.
The ride is very firm, even harsh, but it does give this Punto a sporty feel, particulary on fast corners where the it sticks harder than pasta to a saucepan.
The steering is also excellent with a well-balanced feel and is flexible. Pressing the City button makes the steering become lighter, a blessing for those tight parking spaces.
Not surprisingly, the Punto is cheap to run. Fiat claims 49 mpg, but my trip computer showed 45mpg over a 400-mile run. Not bad considering there was a fair amount of motorway driving involved. Low CO2 emissions also put it in the cheapest tax category for company car drivers, and group three insurance make this a very tempting proposition.
Fiat Punto Active Sport 1.2
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