The Fiat Grande Punto is undoubtedly the most important car for Fiat India. The car has been delayed massively, however this has helped Fiat price it right and get the service in place. The strategy of launching the Fiat Linea first has helped in creating a brand identity for Fiat in India. We got our hands on the Grande Punto Diesel and we are surprised, excited, disappointed and impressed all at once.
Exteriors – The Fiat Grande Punto is the best looking hatchback in India. PERIOD. The Italian beauty turns heads where ever it goes. The Maserati like front grille is very very attractive, the headlights look amazing. Rear lights look a wee bit odd, with the reverse light placed for the sake of it. Mirrors have a very good shape but don’t offer as good rear visibility as the Swift. Overall Fiat should get full marks for the exterior design which is spot on and reason enough to buy the Punto.
Interiors – Similar to the Linea minus the Beige treatment, the interiors of the Grande Punto are very well designed. The steering wheel is great to hold. The interior is a nice place to be in with alot of buttons to play with. The instrumentation is classy and elegant. The multi-information display shows alot of data like time, date, temperature, distance to empty, etc. The Punto differs from the Linea with its 2 stage airbag. The airbag opens in 2 stages within a span of nano seconds to prevent injuries to the passenger due to the airbags, a first for a car in India. Boot is big and can swallow a couple of bags with ease. However the car feels a bit cramped at the rear, more so with the front seats pushed completely back. Tall drivers will find their legs kissing the dashboard and the front glass looks a bit small compared to cars like the Swift and the Honda Jazz. Seats are very comfortable though. The indicators are on the wrong side and Fiat should have changed this before launching the car here. Owners with multiple cars wont find it easy adjusting everytime they drive their Punto. However when the indicators are activated they buzz with a sweet sound which reminds you that they are active. Cool.
Built Quality – We were quite surprised about the built quality. Fiats are always known for the quality, but the Grande Punto seems to be an exception. The plastic quality is low and parts are not put together well. The test car with hardly any mileage on the odo had the gear numbers out. The horn felt too hard at first. Maybe a bit of honking will sort that out. However the famous Fiat thud remains. The car doors shut with a reassuring thud and the quality of the exterior is top class.
On the Move – The Grande Punto comes with Intelligent Smart Start, which prevents the starter motor from damage. Switching on the ignition the car starts with a humble roar. The famous multijet engine doing duty in 6 other cars has been tuned slightly different in the Grande Punto. The car accelerates smoothly and the power delivery is linear, unlike the Swift Diesel. Steering gives good feedback. But the turning radius of 5.4m is crazy, you need to reverse for U-turns. The clutch is way too light, infact its so light, you don’t feel the clutch is depressed. We would have liked more feel from the clutch. The gearbox felt a little rubbery. Gears did not slot in perfectly. For a moment you would think you are shifting gears in a Indica. Maybe all this has something to do with the test drive car being new and thus we will reserve our comments for later. The wipers are one of the best on any hatchback. The new type of blades leave no marks on the windscreen and do their duty extremely well. Audio quality is average, nothing to talk about. Audio lovers will surely like to change the ICE setup to suit their needs and preferences.
Ride, Handling and Braking – The ride of the Fiat Grande Punto is the strongest point of the car. The car, just like any other Fiat, takes all the bumps, potholes in its strides. Ride quality is simply excellent. Handling of the Grande Punto is good but the Swift with similar footwear will do better. A sharp 90 degree turn made the tires screech a bit. However the ride and handling combo is excellent with a fine balance of both. The car is surely setup more for better ride then handling. The brakes are good and have a decent bite. They stop the car without any drama. Heavy braking makes slight noise from the rear. Maybe this could be attributed to the drums at the rear.
Performance – The 1.3 litre multijet lacks the punch for which it is famous for. The power delivery is linear and makes city driving a breeze. Torque is well spread through out the powerband. High revving makes the engine very noisy. 1st and 2nd gear are, dare we say this “useless”. With 3rd and 4th gear being better with some urgency in movement. 5th gear is 1st gears sibling. Feels out of breath on high speeds. Fiat, you made the engine and Maruti tunes it better. There is no doubt the Swift will run away from the Punto every traffic light. Torque and linear power delivery is good but we would have liked the jerk which the Swift Diesel delivers. The linear power delivery has taken the fun out of the engine and the Grande Punto Diesel is no ways close to the Swift Diesel in the fun factor. On the highway the Punto feels it needs more horses. Maybe slight obesity has caused the sluggishness.
Conclusion – The Grande Punto will sell well, simply because its a great car which does all the things well and some exceptionally well (ride). It might not have the kick in the pants feel of the Swift Diesel or the bedroom space of the Indica Vista but it looks killer and that alone can help it set the sales chart on fire. However we will reserve our views till we do a complete review of the car.