Fiat's Punto on Evo-lutionary road - FIAT PUNTO Car Review


Added: 28 Jan 2010
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HAVING first hit the highways in 1993, the Punto is one of a long line of small cars that have served Italian motoring giants Fiat well down the years.

Just like it’s predecessors, many still remember the iconic 127 and the innovative Uno with affection, the Punto quickly won a place in the hearts of small car lovers all over Europe.

Within a few short years it was the top selling supermini on the continent and by 1997 was the best selling car across all segments of the market, also being named European car of the Year on its way to the top of the pile.

In 2006 it was revamped and re-branded the Grande Punto, reflecting it’s superior size in the category and the premise that this was a small car with big ideas, and is still the fifth best selling car across Europe.

No pressure, then, for the latest Punto which Fiat unveiled to the UK motoring press in Cheltenham.

The prefix has been removed from the moniker and the new model now boasts a suffix instead and is known as the Punto Evo.

The message is clearly one of evolution - but with a little revolution thrown in as well.

For the new range sees the introduction of two new engines for which Fiat claim some pretty impressive technological advances and which the boffins in Turin feel will help them maintain their prized position at the forefront of low-emission motoring.

The MultiAir petrol unit incorporates newly developed electronic system to control air intake in direct response to driving conditions and engine needs.

By optimising intake over the full rev range, Fiat claim they can reduce average fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 10 per cent, with a similar increase in power and a 15 per cent increase in torque.

The Evo will be available with two 1.4 litre versions offering 105 and 135 horsepower.

And there will also be a choice of 75 or 95 horsepower versions of Fiat’s new 1.3 litre Multijet II diesel engine.

This takes the technological advances of the first generation Multijet further with increased control of the fuel injection system and again offers reduced fuel consumption and emissions but more power and quieter running.

What does all this science actually achieve on the road, though?

Well, quite a lot actually if a spin down to Herefordshire and back up through the winding lanes of the Forest of Dean is anything to go by.

I had the chance to put the 105 and 135 horse power versions of the Evo’s 1.4 MultiAir through their paces and got a pleasant surprise.

The drive is incredibly smooth and assured for a small car, the 135 horse power version (top speed 127mph, 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds) in particular responding quickly and effortlessly when you ask for a bit of oomph but also more than happy to pootle along in traffic.

Even the 105 horse power version (top speed 115mph, 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds) had no trouble propelling me swiftly and safely past those slow moving trucks and tractors so often encountered in the countryside.

But it’s not just the engines that have changed in this Punto upgrade. There is eye-catching new badging and tweaks to the body and rear light clusters which ensure the Evo retains its predecessor’s good looks - it is Italian after all!

And Fiat have really gone to town on ramping up the spec levels inside.

The Grande Punto already offered impressive front seat room for a supermini and nothing has changed there, but the look and feel of the interior have moved up a few notches in terms of quality and comfort.

Hard lines have been smoothed out and softer looking materials used to create a more comfortable, relaxing environment. Some models even offer ambient interior light fittings beneath the dash for mellower moods when night driving!

And the technological advances under the bonnet are matched all the way inside the Evo with pride of place going to Fiat’s Blue&Me Bluetooth based entertainment, navigation and phone system.

This will be included as standard across the entire range but, in keeping with the evolutionary theme, has also been upgraded.

Blue&Me TomTom will be available in all but entry level models and adds a portable 4.3 inch high-resolution touch screen to the system which fits atop the dash via an integrated connector, doing away with the need for suction pads (and the unsightly marks they leave on the windscreen) and trailing cables and wires.

Mobile phone, sound system, trip computer and, of course, navigation can all then be controlled from the screen as well as via steering wheel mounted controls or voice recognition.

And for the first time Fiat’s popular eco:Drive software is fully integrated in Punto Evo and can offer, via the screen, real time tips about reducing the environmental impact of your driving.

There’s also an optimum gear shift indicator and stop/start engine technology with ABS, driver and passenger airbags, driver’s knee airbags and electric front windows also standard on all models as well as a long list of options and extras for a wide range of model variations.

It may have lost the ‘Grande’ from its name, but the Punto Evo is definitely still very much a small car with big ideas.

Words: Lee Gibson

Keywords: Fiat, Punto, Evo, MultiAir, Multijet, Diesel