Car tested: 2009 Fiat Grande Punto 1.3L Multijet Diesel
Price OTR Mumbai: 7,04,337/-
The first impression is said to be the last impression but we think otherwise. The Fiat Grande Punto has been awaited in the Indian market since a while, launched in Europe in 2005, it had bagged the car of the year award with nobody coming close to give it some competition, the Indian version is no different, the aggressive pricing and the features the Fiat Grande Punto offers are too good to be true.
Exteriors – The Punto is a masterpiece of classic Italian design and looks absolutely stunning. Even though it appears to be derived from its older sibling, the Linea, its actually the other way around, the Punto was first developed by Fiat in Europe and based on its success the Linea was conceived. The front looks distinctly different from the Linea, which makes it look like a different car, unlike the Indigo and the Indica, on which a boot appears to be mechanically attached. Driving the Punto in traffic attracts a lot of attention, especially if it is red, and one can catch people stealing a glance or two. The Headlight cluster looks neat and the front grill with the Fiat logo steals the show. The fog lights do a decent job at night and the rear looks sharp with the tail lamps gradually blending into the rear windshield.
Interiors – On the inside, the Punto gives a distinct feeling of déjà vu, the interiors are copy pasted from the Linea and the Punto offers features way above its class, the only difference being grey colour interiors instead of beige and the instrument cluster is black instead of white. The music system is decent and has provision for USB in the glove box. Automatic climate control and audio controls on the steering wheel are standard in the top variants and we were amazed to see Blue and Me in a car at this price. The steering wheel has good grip and has depressions for fingers, which make it pretty convenient to hold. The car feels a bit claustrophobic due to small glass area but slowly you get used to it. Seats are very comfortable but rear legroom is nothing much to talk about. Headroom though on the lower side is just about adequate. The boot space is much bigger than expected and there is a light provided in the boot for visibility at night, which is quite thoughtful.
Built Quality – The Punto is built to last, the car is made of heavy gauge metal and the doors shut with a loud thud. Though the initial models had more than a few panel gaps and the plastic quality felt cheap, FIAT seems to have responded and the newer models are way better in those respects. But still there are uneven panel gaps at places like the steering wheel column which is difficult to fanthom on a premium hatchback. The Punto also comes with 2 stage airbags, which open in 2 stages enhancing the protection to the occupants in the event of a mishap.
On the Move – Cranking the ignition, the 1.3 Multijet comes to life with a confident purr. We were surprised to note that the engine hardly makes any sound while idling. Once the car is slotted in gear, it moves effortlessly, whats more evident is that the gearbox is tall geared and suffers a bit from low end grunt, however there is no evident turbo lag. On flooring the aceelerator, the car drives and sounds like a petrol car. The gearbox is a bit notchy especially going into third cog. The engine note is quite mind blowing for a diesel, and it sounds like a racing car, how did FIAT manage to make it sound so sweet. The other cars which run the same engine, like the Maruti Swift and the Indica Vista don’t sound even half as good. The doors automatically lock once the car reaches a speed of 20kmph, which is neat. The OVRM’s are smaller than we would have liked but are well positioned.
The multi information display is smart and shows a lot of data like the average speed, average, range, which doors are open etc etc. The airconditioning is decent with automatic climate control being standard on the top variants. One smart feature is that one can set up a speed limit and once the car has crossed the limit it will give a loud beep, reminding us to slow down. The horn is accessible from the driving position but feels a bit hard to operate. Another feature on the car is MY CAR, which informs about low brake fluid, low oil pressure etc and even reminds one if the car requires servicing. Airbags are standard on the top variants.
Over our 500+ km test the car returned an average of 14.5 kmpl, which was quite good as the car was driven hard all the time, thanks to the sweet engine note. During routine running, we expect the Punto to deliver around 17 kmpl.
Ride, Handling and Braking – Ride and handling of the Punto is the best in the segment, with no car coming close. The car is extremely sharp and responds to the slightest steering input. Ride is very good too, the suspension soaks in all the bumps even on the worst of Mumbai roads. We jumped a couple of speed brakers to test the ride of this beast and it was not long before it became a habit, the Punto would soak all the force and the cabin would be unaffected. The 195/60/15 Good year GT3’s may not be the best but they provide enough grip for the job. The car, needless to say, is real good fun to drive.
Performance – We loved redlining this little beast and the sweet sound of its engine made us do it all the more. The rev counter shows all the way till 7000 RPM and the Punto easily revs to 5000. However, the engine lacks the “kick in the pants” feel of the Swift. Power delivery is linear and the car feels slow and this can be attributed to the weight of the car, which is close to that of the Chevorlet Optra Though there is no turbo lag, sense of urgency is missing. However its not as sluggish as people make it out to be and is good enough for daily driving but not for drag racing. You do feel though she weighs alot more than your normal hatchback and Fiat needs to add VGT to make this car more peppy.
Conclusion – The Grande Punto is good fun to drive, is extremely safe and well built, and it comes with an unmatched 2 yrs unlimited kms warranty, which just goes to show how confident FIAT are of their product. Priced at 6,31,700/- ex showroom Mumbai, its the best your money can buy if you are looking for a hot hatch.
- Ride quality
- Stunning looks
- Accessibility of controls
- Engine sound
- Very well damped and lack of any kind of NVH
- 2 Years unlimited mileage warranty
- Tata service
- Plastics and panel gaps
- Only one keyless entry remote comes with the car
- Blue and Me not easy to understand, voice dialling very difficult to use
- Indicators and light stalks on the wrong side
- Co-driver can unlock all doors from their door