The gorgeous Fiat Punto Evo is a showstopper, but has Fiat ironed out its quality glitches? We do our Fiat Punto to find out.
Fiat, somehow, manages to strike an emotional cord in many peoples’ hearts. I guess nostalgia drives them down memory lane – I’m referring to the Padmini of course. I could never figure out what the big deal was, maybe because the cult status that the Italian manufacturer enjoyed was before my time or the fact that my dad was never a big fan of Fiat and hence didn’t own one. For me, it was simple evolution. A company tastes success, sees hard times, and then makes a comeback... in Fiat’s case the wait continues. Anyways, in 2009, the Grande Punto was launched in India and though it swept everyone off their feet with its good looks, it suffered from quality issues. Actually, that was just the tip of the iceberg as their partnership with Tata Motors meant that they were always relegated to stepchild status at dealerships and service centres. But, we’re now in the year 2014. Fiat has a completely new sales and service network, and it dares to dream big once again as it readies to launch a face-lifted version of the Punto. So, we headed to Lonavla for our Fiat Punto and to find out if the Fiat Punto Evo can be a serious contender.
Looks is a very personal thing – I may like Maria Sharapova, you may prefer Serena Williams. Now, I don’t know what works for you, but if the Fiat Punto Evo doesn’t take your breath away you’re blind or simply have no taste. Fiat Punto Evo, of course, stands for evolution. The nose is completely revised, and the mix of Italian flare and Indian masala is very much evident. The grille gets a chrome strip running across it, which complements the new swept back headlamps. The bumper too has been redesigned and chrome surrounds the fog lamp area. The bonnet gets a prominent ridge in the centre. This aggressive front fascia is exclusively for Indian Puntos. All these changes make it hard to believe that this is just a tweaked Punto, and not an entirely new generation. Come to the rear, and some nip and tuck work has been carried out as the bumper gets its own share of chrome. And, of course, the rear lamps are now LED’s.
With dark clouds threatening to explode, we quickly got inside the car to start our Fiat Punto Evo and were welcomed by the solid centre console with an integrated music system. It comes with the Blue&Me infotainment system, which gets voice command features and lets you control your smart phone as well as pick your favourite track without taking your eyes off the road. The dashboard layout is the same as the Linea’s, and the piano black inserts make it look quite premium. The cabin comes in dual colours, except for the diesel 90hp variant that gets all-black sporty interiors. The steering wheel is identical to the outgoing Grande, which is a good thing as the design provides perfect grip and its weight makes it feel solid on the road.
Fiat has ensured that the Punto comes with all the bells and whistles, like automatic head lamps, rain sensing wipers, power windows, rear defogger, remote keyless entry and tail gate opening, and rear AC vents – which is a first in this segment. Safety has not been overlooked either, as it’s equipped with twin airbags.
The face-lifted Punto retains the existing powerplants – a 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol, as well as the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel. The top model of the diesel pumps out a healthy 90bhp, but it continues to suffer from turbo lag low down in the rev range. It tests your patience, as the engine only comes to life after the rev needle passes the 2,000rpm mark. As the power only builds up at high speeds, you end up arm wrestling with the gearbox within the city limits.
The 1.4-litre petrol engine remains fairly refined at low speeds, but the power remains meagre at best. The 91bhp heart performs best in the mid-range, but step on the gas and the engine starts to get noisy. In terms of refinement and power response, Fiat needs to tweak things a little more.
All is not doom and gloom for the Fiat Punto Evo however. It remains quite planted on the twisty roads leading to Lonavla. The body roll was minimum, and even during a heavy downpour during our Punto Evo if felt very surefooted. Moreover, the front ventilated disc brakes and rear drums remain quite effective. The ride quality, meanwhile, is as good as ever and the Fiat Punto Evo continues to carpet most of the puddle-filled potholes with ease.
The Fiat Punto Evo has among the highest ground clearance in its segment, which is surprising considering how well it handles. This ensures, of course, that it doesn’t scrape the many speed breakers and bumps that litter our roads. The cabin is airy and provides a lot of shoulder space – to the extent that three passengers can sit abreast as the back seat is quite big and provide decent back and thigh support. It is, no doubt, the best looking hatchback in the country, but interior quality could still be improved. It all depends on how much of a buzz Fiat can create around the new Punto, and whether or not they’ve got their sales and service sorted? I would buy it on looks alone!
- Fiat Punto EVO 1.2L/1.4L Petrol
- Fiat Punto EVO 1.3L Diesel 90 Hp
Engine: 1,368cc / 4 Cylinders / DOHC
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 88bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 115Nm @ 4,500rpm
Price: Rs. 4.55-6.65 lacs (ex-showroom delhi)
Engine: 248cc / 4 Cylinders/DOHC / CRDI
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 90bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 115Nm @ 1,750rpm
Price: Rs.7.19 lacs (ex-showroom delhi)