2014 Fiat Punto Evo Review
Car Tested: 2014 Fiat Punto Evo
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 5.41 – 8.68 lakhs
The Fiat Punto Evo has even more appeal than its predecessor, the engines and strong mechanicals of the car remain unchanged
Time and again we review the Fiat Punto and every time we come out impressed. The Fiat Punto was launched in India in 2009 and hasn’t seen much of a facelift. When Fiat launched the Grande Punto in India, the international markets got the Punto Evo, that was in 2009, we are now in 2014. The Punto Evo isn’t five years late though because we in India don’t get the international model but something even better. Fiat has given the Punto a comprehensive facelift for the Indian market, one which makes its debut here, emphasising the importance of India for Fiat. The Italian automaker has always got its products right but lacked on the sales and service front, which is now resolved by going solo. The facelifted Punto borrows the Evo moniker from the international model but is the most up-to date version of the car which pulled Fiat out of financial trouble in 2005, when the third generation model was launched. Can the cosmetic updates boost the appeal of the 9-year old Fiat Punto?
Exteriors – The big change is on the exterior, the front-end is all new and is so vastly different than the Grande Punto that if you park both cars side by side and look at them head-on, there is little to relate both of them. The old Punto was very eye-catchy and inspite of its age, it never failed to impress people who had a thing for Italian design. The Punto Evo’s styling might not stand the test of time like the Grande but there is no denying that the changes induce a lot of freshness in the car. The front-end draws heavily from the Avventura Crossover Concept that made its debut at the 2014 Auto Expo but we do miss the Maserati inspired elements found on the old car.
The Punto Evo gets new larger swept back headlights that extend all the way back, it has a boomerang sort of kink, inducing some flair. The headlights on the Sport variant gets the smoked treatment while regular variants get chrome highlights inside the lights. The bumper is all new and gets chrome surrounds around the fog lights. The grille is larger than before and is split with the lower half carrying the number plate, the grille also gets a chrome outline. The hood too has been revised, it gets a power bulge with two striking lines running all the way down to meet the Fiat Logo which is placed facing upwards.
The side profile of the Fiat Punto Evo is almost identical to the old car, save for the different front fender which accommodates the new headlights and the new alloy wheels which get striking designs. Lower trims get wheel caps while higher variants get 15-inch alloy wheels and the Sport version gets 16-inch wheels. The rear will remind you of the old car as the design here is not all new. You do get new clear lens tail lights which use LEDs and looks stunning when lit. A new rear bumper with the fog light and reflectors being surrounded with chrome (similar to how its done at the front) is the other change. The overall result is a car which looks immediately fresh and the Punto continues to be the most attractive vehicle in the hatchback space.
Interiors – The Punto Evo borrows its dashboard from the Linea facelift. The old dashboard wasn’t as upmarket and the new one really transforms the appeal of the cabin, it gets piano black inserts for that premium feel. You get better quality (overall build quality is fantastic and the vault like feeling continues to be present) with fit and finish seeing an improvement as well, still not class leading but a step in the right direction. The interior gets the dual-tone treatment of black and beige (also on the seats) on all models except the Sport which gets an all black cabin, gelling well with the positioning of this model. The instrument cluster is all new as well and looks spectacular with its twin pods. The old steering wheel has been carried over but that’s a good thing as it is very well contoured and feels nice to hold with audio controls falling right in hand.
The interiors of the Punto Evo are now more upmarket, the car does delight you visually
The Punto Evo also gets orange ambient lightning with an LED strip being placed on the left side of the dashboard (above the glovebox), it gives the car a unique appeal at night. The Punto also gets a rear AC vent for improved cabin cooling. The seats of the car are supportive and offer good comfort and the rear seat has good legroom while headroom is decent too but under-thigh support is just about average. The boot is generous (no electro-magnetic tail gate opener) and all the equipment from the old car has been carried over so you get a nice audio system, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity (the Blue & Me system isn’t the easiest to pair and it doesn’t stream music from your phone), etc. Where the Punto doesn’t excel is ergonomics, it takes time to find the right position (the steering wheel is placed too forward) and the big A-pillars hinder visibility. Still, the Punto has some good attention to detail, like the rear wiper automatically engages when you put the car in reverse (if the front wipers are on), the wipers have double blades and swipe the windscreen absolutely clean with a delayed swipe happening (after a few seconds) for that drop which almost always gets left over.
Performance – The Fiat Punto is available with three engines, 2 petrol and 1 diesel, the oil burner being offered in two states of tune. The 1.2-litre petrol which serves as the powerplant of choice on entry level variants (Active and Dynamic) outputs 68 PS at 6000 RPM and 96 Nm at 2500 RPM. This engine feels quite underpowered and low-end grunt is missing although the mid-range is decent enough to lug all that weight around. With an ARAI mileage of 15.8 km/l, the 1.2-litre Punto petrol doesn’t deliver on efficiency either. Then there is the 1.4-litre motor which belts out 90 PS at 6000 RPM and 115 Nm at 4500 RPM, this mill has decent low-end punch and accelerates pretty well in-gear. It boasts of the worst ARAI figures in the segment (14.4 km/l).
Neither the petrol nor the diesel engines will scorch the tarmac but performance is adequate
While the petrol engines won’t make you skip a beat, the same can be said about the diesels as well. The infamous 1.3-litre Multijet mill is offered in two outputs, 76 PS and 197 Nm in regular variants, this powerplant gets a revised first gear which is now taller (we complained several times about the very short first gear in our previous reviews). The change does make ambling around town an easier affair but still the performance from this mill is lacking, the Punto being a heavier car needs more power which comes in the form of the Sport variant, where the national diesel engine of India belts out 93 PS and 209 Nm. While the ARAI certified mileage of the 76 PS variant is 21.2 km/l, the more powerful 90 HP variant returns 20.5 km/l.
The problem with Fiat’s tuning of the Multijet diesel engine is the lack of low-end grunt, you do have to give the turbo time to spool up, which does hamper city drivability. On the highway though, the car has some punch but again not enough to justify the sporty positioning of the 90 HP variant. Mid-range is where these engines excel but many cars in this segment will beat the Punto when it comes to outright acceleration and the irony here is, some of them use the same powerplant. The gearbox offers smooth shifts (there is a dead pedal too) but our test car had a lot of engine noise in the cabin, the steering was vibrating when the AC was turned on. Fiat needs to up the game, the regular variants should get the 90 HP tuning while the Sport trim should get a 1.6-litre diesel heart to take on the Volkswagen Polo GT TDI which is currently the hottest hatchback in India.
Driving Dynamics – There are no changes on this front and we have discussed the dynamics of the Punto so many times, that this time we will take a small detour and talk as to why the Punto is so brilliant in this department. The second generation Punto did not sell well and Fiat did not have the financial muscle to develop the third generation Punto completely on its own. So it went ahead and partnered with General Motors, using the current generation Opel Corsa platform (known as GM Gamma or Fiat Small Common Components System platform) on the Grand Punto, resulting in underpinnings of a higher segment at lower costs due to 30% component sharing. This platform has the right balance between ride and handling, making the Punto such a hoot to drive.
The Punto rides beautifully over bad roads, taking everything in its stride (with 16-inch wheels, it does feel a bit stiff at certain speeds but is still very compliant). It remains stable at speed but what plays spoil sport is the ridiculous ground clearance of 185 mm on the diesels and 195 mm on the petrols. Had Fiat not increased the ground clearance, we would have gone ahead with confidence and declared the Punto the best handling car in its class. The increased GC results in some body roll and robs away straight-line stability too. Handling is good, the hydraulic steering is well weighed and returns good feedback. The car has strong brakes with good pedal bite. The turning radius has been reduced, making u-turns much easier than before.
Verdict – The Fiat Punto has always been strong when it comes to ride and handling, powered by engines which although not fire-breathing, offered more than adequate performance for most drivers out there. With the cosmetic changes, the Punto’s appeal has gone up by several notches. This Italian hatchback looks fresh but now comes with a very appealing interior too. With Fiat now ramping up dealerships and focussing heavily on after sales service, the new Punto Evo is certainly a car which is worth a look, trust us, it won’t disappoint you. After all, no car has the character of a Fiat.
The Fiat Punto Evo gets changes in the right direction but could do with more performance. The vehicle feels every inch new which is sure to attract young buyers to Fiat’s fold.
* Fresh exteriors
* All new cabin with better quality
* Ride and handling balance
What’s Not So Cool
* Petrol engines lack punch
* Sport variant not sporty in performance
Further Reading –