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Fiat Punto Evo Abarth
5/10

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Road Test

Fiat Punto Evo Abarth driven

Driven October 2010

Additional Info

Last year, Fiat sold 247 Abarth Puntos in the UK. OK, in the great league table of ‘Good Years For Selling Cars', 2009 ranked somewhere down by the late Middle Ages, but still, Mini managed to shift 4,303 Cooper Ss in the same period. Seventeen times as many. Maybe it's a bit unfair to compare the Punto with the all-conquering Cooper, but consider this: UK customers bought over 1,000 Abarth 500s in that same year.

So the British reaction to the Abarth Punto has been a resounding chorus of meh. But now there's a new one, based on the face-lifted Punto ‘Evo', and it should, on paper at least, attract a few more punters.

The Abarth Punto gets a turbocharged version of Fiat's 1.4-litre ‘MultiAir' engine, with clever valve management saving buckets of fuel and boosting torque. At 163bhp, it's 10bhp more powerful than the Abarth Punto's old 1.4, but that's still a modest output by modern hot-hatch standards. It's a refined, smooth engine, but unsurprisingly the Punto feels brisk rather than banshee: it's a second slower to 60mph than our small-hot-hatch champion, the Clio 200. An SS upgrade arrives soon, adding 20bhp or so. Worth hanging on for.

A disclaimer. We only drove the Punto on the marble-smooth tarmac of Fiat's Balocco test track. We'll withhold final judgment until we've got it on a nasty B-road, but the ride felt nicely judged: predictable and grippy, if not as direct and firm as the Clio 200.

It's much sharper than the old Punto, though. For the first time, the Abarth Punto gets Fiat's Torque Transfer Control system, an electronic faux-diff that brakes the inside front wheel activated when you flick the Sport button. It works well, tucking the nose in far tighter on sharp bends and limiting understeer. It's so effective, in fact, it's difficult to imagine a situation in which you'd want to switch it off.

For a product of the company responsible for the hyperactive, puppyish Abarth 500, the Punto is a surprisingly mature thing. Will it attract a host of new customers? Probably not. Though better than its predecessor, it's difficult to know what the Punto offers that other hot hatches don't: its steering and gearshift are well short of the fingertip involvement of the Clio, and it can't match the boutique chic of the Alfa MiTo or Citroen DS3.

But if you think of the Punto Abarth as a mini GT rather than a hot hatch, a car for economical day-to-day boring stuff with a bit of fizz when you need it, it makes more sense. Go on, give an Abarth a home.

Sam Philip

On your drive for: £407pcm
Performance: 0-62mph in 7.9secs, max speed 133mph, 47.1mpg
Tech: 1368cc, 4cyl, FWD, 163bhp, 184lb ft, 1755kg, 142g/km CO2

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