The fifth-generation Fiat Punto enjoyed reasonable success in the local market. It has proven to be the company’s biggest-selling vehicle since it was first launched here in 2005 and Fiat hopes that the new generation will be as popular as the model that it replaces. The sixth generation has just been launched and features, for the first time in South Africa, Fiat’s award-winning MultiAir engine.
Although the new Punto looks similar to the Evo version of the outgoing-generation, Fiat has stated that this sixth generation is all new and the only thing that has been carried over is the sheet metal. A redesigned body-coloured bumper and deep front air dams for a more aggressive look distinguish the front of this car. Also, the Fiat badge has moved off the grille and now sits on the nose of the car. At the rear there’s a new bumper and high-mounted taillamps.
Fiat has redesigned the interior of the Punto and claims that everything from the materials to the facia has been redone. However, the entry-level Pop model gets the same facia as used in the previous-generation, but with some detail changes.
The layout of the audio and air-con controls is logical, but look a bit messy. For those models equipped with Fiat’s audio system, there are steering wheel-mounted buttons for easy use.
The cabin feels spacious and airy, thanks in part to the increased length. The new Punto is 4 060 mm long, 1 690 mm wide, 1 490 mm high and has a wheelbase of 2 510 mm. Upon inspection, the boot space seemed rather small. There is 275 dm3 available, so it should be fine for some shopping or small bags for weekends away.
On the road
Fiat has been known to build vehicles with taut dynamics that deliver a pleasant driving experience. The company’s gutsy 500 is one of the more fun small cars to drive, and this is the company that’s responsible for the “hot” Abarth brand. So, I had high expectations when I got behind the wheel of the Punto 1,4 MultiAir.
With 77 kW available at 6 500 r/min and 130 N.m from 4 000 r/min, this 16-valve MultiAir engine in this particular Punto has enough grunt. Power delivery from this naturally aspirated unit is smooth and gear changes are slick. However, some properly timed downshifting of the six-speed manual transmission and a bit of a heavy right foot is required to keep it on the go when tackling hills.
The steering feels – dare I say it – Korean-like with the power-assisted electro-hydraulic set-up. It’s light and gets slightly jittery when the car hits a rough patch, but it’s not unsettling and actually proved to be handy when maneuvering between trucks on the busy roads of Durban.
The start/stop technology (standard across the range) switches off the engine when the vehicle has come to a complete stop (this means no air-con during this time) and the transmission is in neutral. The engine kicks in once the clutch is depressed and first gear is selected. Some vehicles with this technology tend to suffer from a few seconds’ delay before all systems are going again, but in this case, it all happened quickly enough and without holding up the traffic behind us for too long.
Range and kit
There are four Fiat Punto models on offer.
Punto 1,4 Pop – R129 900
Punto 1,4 Easy – R149 900
Punto 1,4 MultiAir Easy – R169 900
Punto 1,4 Turbo MultiAir Lounge – R209 900
Standard features across the range include a trip computer, electric windows up front (all-round in the Lounge model), air-conditioning (dual in the top spec versions), ABS, dual airbags up front, stop/start technology and daytime running lights. An audio system is optional on the entry-level Pop Punto, but standard on the other models. More airbags and safety features are added as you move up the range, as well as an audio system and alloy wheels. For peace of mind, the four-year/60 000 km service plan is available on the two MultiAir Puntos, while an impressive five-year/150 000 km warranty is available across the entire range. For a full specification list, you can download the spec sheet by clicking on the documents tab in the top right hand corner of the image block.
Fiat has been getting a lot right lately. The company has realised that it needs to be a little more realistic when it comes to the pricing of its vehicles, as well as offer customers more for their money. While it can be argued that the Punto’s specification list isn’t as impressive as some of the Koreans’, this car is perhaps a good indication that the company is ready to play ball with the likes of Hyundai and Kia. With a pleasant driving experience, an acceptable amount of standard features and clever pricing, the Punto is a good start.
Model: Fiat Punto 1,4 MultiAir Easy
Engine: 1,4-litre, 16-valve, petrol
Power: 77 kW at 6 500 r/min
Torque: 130 N.m at 4 000 r/min
0-100 km/h (claimed): 10,8 seconds
Fuel consumption: 5,7 litres/100 km
CO2: 133 g/km
Top speed (claimed): 185 km/h
Price: R169 900
Service plan: 4 years/60 000 km
Service intervals: 30 000 km