Fiat Punto Evo Long Term Review
The Fiat Punto Evo appeals to the heart instantly and makes you fall in love with it
It’s been quite a while since we have had a real car in our long term fleet, in fact, if I recollect, the last time was back THEN. I am not saying other cars aren’t real but nothing is as unadulterated as a Fiat vehicle. When you drive any car for a long time, it spoils you and that’s what happened. Before this red Italian arrived, I was driving the new Ford Fiesta for six months, not letting it go because there wasn’t any car suitable enough to replace it. But then, the Fiat Punto Evo arrived and I was happy to let go off the keys of the Fiesta. You see, we at MotorBeam love Ford cars but give us a Fiat car any day and we will happily accept, more so when the car in question is the top of the line, 90 HP Sport.
If there is one area, where the Fiat Punto Evo is simply not matched, it’s the styling. This car simply looks gorgeous and isn’t your typical hatchback in any way. The design elements are so delicious, right from the chrome surrounds around the fog lamps to those striking LED tail lights. Fiat certainly knows its design and in spite of the Punto Evo being a hatchback, people do turn and see where ever it goes. Driving a Punto Evo is a very exclusive thing because till date, I am yet to see even a single car on Mumbai roads. It’s such a shame that buyers don’t even check out this Fiat, at least its appearance should make them want to take a test drive.
Things on the inside aren’t that good though. While the refresh in the form of the Evo has made the interiors much better, there are some not so nice things about the cabin. We have praised Fiat cars for their solid build, good space and comfortable seats but quality is a sore point and the lack of Bluetooth audio streaming is shocking in 2015 when cars half of this price get it (Maruti Celerio). The ergonomics continue to be quite wrong, the steering is too ahead although after having driven the Punto Evo for a long time, I am quite used to it. One nice touch is the orange ambient lighting on the dashboard which looks super cool at night.
Being the 90 HP version of the Punto Evo, our long termer has the most punch of any Punto available today (till the fiery hot Punto Abarth arrives later this year). Sadly though, in spite of all those numbers on the spec sheet, the Punto Evo simply isn’t fast which is largely due to two main reasons. One is the turbo lag and the other is the horrible chewing gum laden gearbox. You see, I have been driving the Punto Evo in the city for the most part and what pain it is to get through stop go traffic as the bottom end is very weak and the turbo doesn’t spool up till 2000 RPM. Making matters worse is the gearbox, it has a rubbery shift and the same transmission in the Tata Bolt is like thousand times better. Why Fiat why?
The Punto Evo’s diesel engine has a terrific mid-range and sounds amazing at high revs
However, leave the city and get on the highway and you will love this Multijet motor because it has a terrific mid-range with a kick in the pants feel is very much present. It pulls with immense enthusiasm in the top-end too and this is by far the best sounding diesel engine in its class, it sounds so melodious at high revs. Once in the mid-range, all that power deficit is forgotten and doing high speeds isn’t a task at all because this Italian hatch does pull cleanly. So if you really want to enjoy the original 1.3-litre diesel engine, you need to drive the Punto on the highways.
Where the Fiat Punto is unbeatable is dynamics. Our test car is shod with 16-inch wheels on grippy tyres. The handling is just excellent, it corners with such amazing precision and the steering too has ample feedback, it’s a hydraulic unit, among the very few cars in the world that still use this steering set-up and that’s because the Punto Evo is nothing but the Grande Punto from 2005 with a facelift, no changes in mechanicals whatsoever. That’s where the problem lies. Rather than taking the Punto to the next level, Fiat has abandoned this very child which saved it from bankruptcy last decade.
Let me explain. When Fiat launched the Grande Punto in 2005, it was a huge success and came with a ton of features, it also got 5-star rating from Euro NCAP back then. 10-years later, the equipment list hasn’t changed so while all its rivals have gone a step-ahead with keyless go, push button start, reverse parking sensors, electrically retracting outside mirrors, modern audio system, the Punto Evo continues devoid of all this. While many won’t care about these features, if you want to get volumes, you have to equip your car with most of the equipment offered by rivals.
Then there is the quality of the car, while it’s good for the most part of it, it’s not flawless, you pull out your USB cable from the centre console and the whole panel comes off. The Punto was the best handling car with the stability of a leech when it was launched, Fiat increased the ground clearance and ruined most of that fab dynamics. Today, I would rank a Volkswagen Polo over the Punto in the handling department just because of this. And how can we forget, the most important parameter for most car buyers in India, fuel efficiency, the Evo falters on this part too. We have been getting under 13 km/l and with the same kind of driving, our long term Maruti Swift has returned us at least 15 km/l. The heavy weight, poor tuning of the engine for the city and power sapping steering system are to blame for the lack of frugality.
I know I have been very critical of the Fiat Punto Evo in this report but hear me out. I drive this car daily and it pains to see such a terrific vehicle not sell because of minor issues which Fiat simply doesn’t want to solve. Launching the Punto Abarth is a good thing but more important than that is to bring the Evo on par with rivals in areas of features, mileage and most importantly performance (cars like the Hyundai Grand i10 diesel with one less cylinder are faster to the ton). Till Fiat India wakes up and makes these changes, the fantastic Punto Evo will be limited in sales to enthusiasts, the minority which truly understands what a Fiat is. Many ask me why you drive the Punto in spite of the aforementioned flaws, a small drive is enough to answer, because no car has that feel and emotional connection which a Fiat does.
Further Reading –
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta