What is it?
The straight-talking alternative to the smoke-and-mirrors MiTo that borrows its chassis, the Punto Evo is, as the name suggests, a subtle evolution of Fiat’s now slightly dated and always distinctly average supermini. But the refresh hasn’t improved its looks, and the Punto’s styling was its principal selling point. A new gawping air dam and headlights make it a strange pastiche of the 500 rather than the micro Maserati it started out as.
There have been improvements to the running gear, however, with chassis revisions and a choice of new and better engines. Not a million miles away from being good then, but still a considerable hike.
The new engines have put a welcome bit of lead into the Punto’s pencil, with a choice of three excellent MultiAir petrols and two of Fiat’s well- established Multijet diesels, with power outputs ranging from 77bhp to 135bhp. A slightly stiffer chassis has reduced body roll in the Punto Evo too, but overly assisted and rather numb steering means there is little of the ‘spirito’ Fiat’s ad men used to bang on about.
In fact, economy is what the Evo is all about (a strange sentence to commit to the annals of TopGear), so all new models get a version of the stop-start system that is spreading, fungus-like, across the industry. This keeps emissions and fuel consumption down, and in all likelihood your blood pressure up.
On the inside
The cabin is where the Punto’s evolution is most convincing, with softer, sturdier materials on and around a completely redesigned dashboard, new seats and clearer instrumentation. There’s more fabric trim where it used to be just plastic, and the high-end models even get bits of posh stitched leather.
Thanks to improved insulation, the Punto Evo also feels more refined at higher speeds and under heavy revs, an attribute doubtless given a leg-up by those new, smoother engines.
It’s not fair to talk about Fiat’s reputation for reliability, so we won’t. Giving the Punto Evo a fair crack, it certainly seems very well put together and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t stay that way.
In terms of your outlay, it’s reasonably priced and well equipped at that, especially with things like the stop-start technology. And it’s a device that will save you money as you go, increasing your fuel consumption and lowering your CO2.
But it’s a car that lacks the class of, say, the Volkswagen Polo, and certainly doesn’t have the addictive driving characteristics of the Ford Fiesta. Don’t expect it to hold its value in that sort of company.