Fiat Abarth Punto Review
Car Tested: 2016 Fiat Abarth Punto; Road Test No. 625
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 11.74 lakhs
The Abarth Punto is a mean looking bully-boy that can scare the nuts out of other hatchbacks
The Abarth Punto is a blessing for us enthusiasts as we held back tight eagerly waiting for the hot hatch since its announcement at the 2014 Auto Expo. Well, killing time for almost two years wasn’t easy but the Scorpion is finally here and we have 145 reasons to shout hurrah! Yes, those magical number of ponies under the hood gave us goosebumps. Fiat is locally manufacturing the Abarth Punto in India to keep the price under Rs. 10 lakhs that was speculated to be a tad higher. We came up with our initial impressions of the performance hatch as soon as it had launched. Now we spend a good while behind the Scorpion badged wheel to examine if it is exactly what we dreamt of all this while?
Motor Quest: The Abarth Grande Punto was the first Punto to get the scorpion badge in 2007 internationally. It was powered by the same 1.4-litre 145 HP turbo petrol engine that the Indian Abarth Punto is getting currently. The hot hatch was updated in 2010 as the Abarth Punto Evo, getting a 1.4-litre 165 PS MultiAir petrol turbo engine. It has been discontinued from the international markets due to low sales.
Exteriors – The Punto Evo is already one of the best looking hatchbacks in India today having a timeless design. With the addition of some sporty styling elements, the Abarth Punto looks simply lip smacking. Considering the price point, the Italian hatch got substantially more attention as compared to the Mercedes GLE we drove a while back. The red race strips running across the length of the car simply stands out with this black shade. The red colour has also been sprinkled on the ORVMs, front and rear fog lamps housing. Don’t you miss the big bad Scorpion sitting on the roof, we specially took this shot to highlight the best part of the styling.
It looks like a tattooed bad boy with some serious power to punch others
Another element that catches attention instantly is the alloy wheel design. The spokes actually look like Scorpion claws and adds to the bling of the car’s appearance. There is a sporty Abarth decal as well that runs across the side profile. The performance oriented Punto looks menacing at night, specially in this Hip Hop Black shade. It also comes with a Pearl White shade that looks rather sedate. Fiat has reduced the ground clearance from 185 mm to 155 mm on the Abarth Punto for better dynamics, more on this later.
Interiors – The all-black theme inside the cabin is exactly the same as the Punto Evo 90 HP Sport variant. However, there are some Abarth specific details that makes this driver oriented car more special. While entering the cabin you would notice a neat Abarth branded door sill. Then there is the yellow and red stitching on the seats and gear lever. The aluminium pedals having Scorpion logos look great and also get rubber lining so that you don’t slip off the pedals. The revised instrument cluster with red and yellow elements looks more dramatic than the boring grey instrument panel of the Punto Evo. The leather wrapped steering feels great to hold and the key fob also gets the Abarth badge.
The already sporty black interiors now get sportier with Scorpion treatment
The small screen audio system has been carried over from the regular hatch, which is a big disappointment. Considering the fact that Fiat is offering a 6.5-inch touchscreen unit with navigation system on the lower trims of the Punto Evo in the form of Sportivo edition, why can’t they provide the same on the Abarth, which is relatively quite expensive. Having said that, the audio system on the Abarth now gets music streaming with Bluetooth. Earlier you could only make/receive calls via Bluetooth but no music streaming. The steering mounted controls can be used for controlling calls and music along with the voice command system. The audio system just sounds average like the Punto Evo, nothing extraordinary.
The automatic climate control system is effective and easy to use and the car also gets an AC vent for rear passengers. The quality of materials remain inconsistent, similar to the Punto Evo. There are some soft touch materials and tactile buttons but at the same time you can also find hard plastics and flimsy materials like the glovebox lid, door handles, steering adjust lever, etc. Space inside the cabin remains average for rear passengers as there is limited legroom and headroom for tall passengers. The front seats are big and supportive having seat height adjust for the driver. 280-litres of boot space is quite accommodating for keeping luggage for long trips. The spare wheel is a 15-inch steel space saver.
Performance – Now after admiring the sporty cosmetic tweaks inside out, it’s time to feel the rush of Abarth power. Crank the 1.4-litre turbo petrol motor and you could feel the adrenaline pumping already with the excitement of putting 145 horses and 212 Nm of twisting force on tarmac. If you’re thinking you would impress people in the parking lot with its exhaust note by revving hard, sorry. It sounds like a regular petrol engine and doesn’t have a throaty note of a typical Abarth but still an aftermarket kit would do the job. There is a slight hint of lag under 2000 RPM but when you push the pedal to the metal, it goes bonkers with tremendous thrust of torque.
The grin on your face is directly proportional to the turbo spooling
The lower end of the rev range is progressive but the mid-range is ballistic with a flat torque curve from 2000 RPM to 4000 RPM. The torque steer in the mid-range ensures the driver that you are behind the wheel of a powerful car. The peak power of 145 HP comes at 5500 RPM that maintains the top-end grunt intact and keeps the car pulling relentlessly until you hit the rev limit at 6500 RPM. The acceleration is very satisfying and addictive as the Abarth Punto does 0-100 km/hr in just 8.8 seconds. Which also means that you can do 1 km from standstill in 30.4 seconds! The Abarth Punto has an impressive top speed of 190 km/hr.
On the flip side, the 1.4-litre T-Jet has a bad habit of drinking. While Fiat claims 16.3 km/l of fuel efficiency, we saw 8.4 km/l on the MID for obvious reasons. The gearbox remains a bit notchy that doesn’t give you a reassuring feedback while shifting and sometimes you end up being in a wrong gear. Once you get the hang of it, you realise how much fun a manual transmission is to control such a powerful engine unlike the Polo TSI which only comes with an autobox. First gear maxes out at 52 km/hr while second gear will see you do 92 km/hr and third gear redlines at around 150 km/hr. The gear ratios are stacked closely and the engine revs quite quickly. Its cruising ability is worth appreciating as well, the motor spins at 2400 RPM in the top gear at 100 km/hr. NVH levels are excellent but there is some wind noise creeping in at high speeds.
Driving Dynamics – The Punto is known for its sharp handling and excellent high speed stability. While the handling got compromised to some extent with the high ground clearance of the Evo, Fiat has lowered the ride height for better handling and here’s how it feels like. The Abarth is more eager to enter corners at high speeds and maintains its line cleanly. Furthermore, the ugly body roll is now much better controlled and this setup urges you to push the car to its limits every time you see a corner. The hydraulic steering might feel a tad heavy at low speeds to those who are used to electric power steerings of recent times but boy, the steering is feedback rich around bends and very confidence inspiring at high speeds.
After driving over sensitive and lifeless electric steerings you feel totally connected to the road with this hydraulic setup. Quick lane changing and shooting the gaps is a delight on the Abarth Punto with such power on tap. The Apollo Alnac rubber provides decent grip when you throw the car around corners but if you do that too often, we recommend you to upgrade the tyre compound considering the strong power and your love for pushing the Punto to its limits. The lower ground clearance doesn’t end up hitting the underbelly on bumps but you have to be careful with those huge speed breakers.
The Abarth Punto now feels tauter and committed around high speed bends
The suspension has been stiffened up, which is another reason for better controlled body roll. However, this doesn’t make the ride quality jarring. You can make out very little difference in the stiffness at low speeds. The wide section tyres absorb bumps and potholes very well and masks rough road patches. It feels as stable as a tank at high speeds and you can munch miles on the highways all day long. The suspension gets a good balance of both and Fiat has tried offering practicality and performance at the same time. Finally the sharp handling of the pre-facelift Punto is back to some extent. With more power comes great responsibility and all-four discs on the Abarth Punto offer splendid braking performance with positive pedal feedback.
Safety and After Sales Service – The Abarth Punto is offered in a single variant that comes standard with safety features including ABS, EBD, dual front airbags, seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters. The Punto was always praised for its strong build and structural strength and hence is one of the safest hatchbacks in India. The Abarth Punto is available in over 100 dealerships across India and there are 125 service outlets currently, which Fiat plans to grow further. The hot hatch comes with 3 years/1,00,000 kms standard warranty and you can also opt for 2 years/upto 1,50,000 kms extended warranty.
Verdict – After having driven the Abarth Punto extensively, we are still craving to drive it again and again, it is that good! The 145 BHP T-Jet engine just drives you crazy with its blistering performance. That along with the exceptional handling makes the Abarth Punto a proper hot hatch and totally worth the wait. However, there are certain things missing in the car and the Italian carmaker could have made it a complete package by adding parking sensors, power foldable ORVMs, touch screen, etc. People expect such features by spending a premium for a special car over their regular counterparts. At the end of the day it is an Abarth, which is meant for a specific audience called driving enthusiasts and they don’t really care about such features. The only thing they care about is satisfaction behind the wheel and the Abarth Punto offers much more than that.
The Abarth Punto is here like a dream come true and Punto fanatics like us should thank Fiat India for fulfilling our desires. The unique styling is such that you won’t think of doing an aftermarket job on the exteriors. The engine never gives up delivering strong power and the crisp handling makes sure you feel confident all the time.
* Stimulating exterior styling turns heads instantly
* Abarth specific details like alloys, decals, aluminium pedals, etc.
* Torque rich and powerful T-Jet pushes you back into the seat when you floor it
* Hydraulic steering is a delight and offers ideal feedback
* Ride quality is excellent despite stiffened suspension setup
* Rock solid high speed stability and brisk lane changing
* Bluetooth music streaming and nifty features like all windows auto-down, climate control, follow me home headlamps
What’s Not So Cool
* Inconsistent quality inside the cabin, hard plastics, flimsy elements like door handles
* Exhaust note doesn’t sound as throaty and loud as an Abarth should
* Gearbox is notchy that lacks proper feedback
* Some features missing include parking sensors, touchscreen, lane changing indicators, power foldable ORVMs
Alternatives: Volkswagen Polo GT TSI
Fiat Abarth Punto Specifications
* Engine: 1368cc, T-Jet, 4-cylinder, Turbocharged, DOHC, 16V
* Power: 145 HP @ 5500 RPM
* Torque: 212 Nm @ 2000-4000 RPM
* Transmission: 5-speed manual
* 0-100 km/hr: 8.8 seconds
* Top Speed: 190 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 10 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: McPherson Struts (Front), Torsion Beam (Rear)
* Tyres: 195/55/16
* Brakes: All discs, ABS
* Safety: Dual Airbags, ABS, EBD, Seatbelt Pretensioners
Fiat Abarth Punto Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 3989 mm X 1687 mm X 1505 mm
* Wheelbase: 2510 mm
* Ground clearance: 155 mm
* Turning radius: 5-metres
* Boot Volume: 280-litres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 45-litres
* Kerb Weight: 1150 kgs (est.)
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta
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