Review: Fiat Punto Evo
One of the best handling hatchbacks gets a mid-life makeover. Will it see its glory days again?
There’s little doubt if you needed great ride and handling packed in a hatchback form, the Punto will always be the first on your list. It’s the best driver’s hatchback the country has ever seen. But being around for years, the competition has caught up, and the sales numbers got in the worry zone for the company. But there’s an update now. And it’s not a minor one or just a model year change, things have changed inside out. And changed for the good.
Firstly, the Punto was never a bad looking car. The styling was very European, and that gave it an edge over the Japanese and Korean hatches available in abundance in the country. Now, the Italian designers have gone back to the drawing board and given the Punto a refreshed look. The headlamps are now pulled back and the grille is even more pronounced than the earlier model and gets a chrome outline. The fog lamp housing too gets chrome finish and the overall effect on the styling works in the favour of the Punto to refresh things up.
Gallery: Fiat Punto Evo >>
At the back too, the tail lamp cluster sees a design change. And just like the front, it looks classy too. There has been no change in the side profile – the creases through the door panels, the chrome handles and the chunky rubber looks as good as it ever did.
Under the hood, Fiat gives you an option of a petrol and a diesel block. The diesel engine is the same MultiJet that we’ve seen in a slew of cars on Indian roads from Fiats to Suzukis to Chevrolets. It’s available in two tunes – the 75bhp and the 90bhp.
Here, we have the less powerful 75bhp one. And the first thing that you’ll notice is that it’s nowhere quick. The turbo lag is prominent till 2,000rpm and the power runs out at 4,000 revs after which it’s just noise and no power. It makes the powerband pretty narrow forcing you to play with the gear ratios often to keep it in the meat of the band. The engine is mated to the same five-speed manual gearbox – the ratios are quite sorted but the shifts are rubbery. And that makes staying in the powerband a bit of a task.
The ride has always been the Punto’s strong point and it remains to be so. The suspension gobbles up the potholes with little stress offering a comfortable and a pliant ride. The Punto doesn't fear corners and sticks to the line beautifully. But the nice ride has its drawback – the body roll. There’s plenty of it.
The earlier Punto (the 2009 model) had a great steering feel. But the 2012 model felt a bit watered down. And this one too is the not the best when it comes to that. It’s not as uncommunicative as most of the other hatches, but it’s not as good as the gen 1 Punto.
As we mentioned earlier, things have been refreshed on the inside too. The entire dashboard has been redesigned with the one that looks more sleek and classy. The materials used are also of good quality and there’s even some soft-touch materials used in here. The upholstery too gets better fabrics; the ones that make it look sportier. The Punto isn’t too great if you plan to squeeze in your full family. The leg- and the shoulder-room is limited.
The top-end, Emotion, variant of the Punto gets almost every creature comfort that you expect from a hatchback – height-adjustable driver seat, music system with Bluetooth, aux and USB inputs and auto climate control.
The range starts at Rs 4.55 lakh for the base 1.2-litre petrol variant, and goes up to Rs 7.19 lakh for the range-topping 90hp diesel (both prices ex-showroom, Delhi). Go ahead and click this link to see the new Punto from all angles.
4cyl, 1248cc, 75bhp, 200Nm, 5M, FWD, Rs 4.55 - 7.19 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
One of the best in the country with the ride and handling dynamics. The refresh makes it even more of a looker.