The Fiat Punto has always been a good-looking car, but it had some drawbacks that the company has decided to fix in the 2012 variant. And because sales have been flagging, they’ve added a little more equipment across variants in the hope that buyers would pick a Punto for the features it offers.
So just how good is the new 2012 Fiat Punto? CarToq recently test drove a bright red 1.2 Dynamic to see if the minor changes to the car have made it more desirable.
Looks, fit and finish
The fit-and-finish on the Punto is one of the best in the segment. The doors close with a solid thunk and the car feels solidly built. The Piscean look with the large chrome grille and bright-eyed headlamps, give this car a “cute” look. Externally, nothing has changed visibly on the Punto, other than the fact that it now sits further away from the ground. Ground clearance has been increased by 20 mm, to 195 mm in the Active and Dynamic variants of the car. Shod with 165/80 R14 tyres, the car does look taller.
The insides of the Punto have been refreshed and made brighter by adding a dual-tone colour scheme. The interiors are now light grey and black, with the seats also coming in a lighter colour. The plastic fit and finish is generally good and feels built to last, although there are some plastic bits such as the height-adjustable seat belt latch and parcel tray hinges that feel a little flimsy.
Comfort and features
All variants of the Punto now come with a music system. The Dynamic variant we tested came with an integrated audio system, but no steering audio controls, USB or Bluetooth system. These additional features are available only in the top-end Emotion variant. Other standard features in the Dynamic variant include power adjustable rear-view mirrors, speed sensing door locks, 180 watt power outlet, theatre-dimming interior lamps, ABS and two glove compartments. There are no airbags in this variant.
Rear wash-wipe, demister, front and rear fog lamps and manual HVAC are other standard features in this car. The Punto boasts of a comprehensive multi-info display that shows you average consumption, range, instant fuel consumption, temperature, headlamp beam setting, trip meters and even things like speed warnings and buzzer sounds that can be set. One can also set the auto-lock function, stereo display, date and time using the “menu” button on the dash, and all this is displayed on the multi-info display.
Seating comfort in the front seats are good, with the driver getting a height adjustable seat, tilt-adjustable steering, dead pedal and height adjustable seat belt, making it easy to find a good driving position. Lumbar support and under-thigh support are good. In the rear seat, legroom is quite decent, but headroom is a bit of a bother for taller passengers. The middle passenger in the rear seat also has a bit of a transmission tunnel intrusion to deal with.
The car has a 280 litre boot which is pretty good for its segment and the rear seats fold in a 60:50 split to increase luggage space when needed.
Performance and handling
The 1.2 Dynamic is powered by Fiat’s 1172-cc petrol engine that puts out 67 bhp of power at 6,000 rpm and 96 Nm of torque at 2500 rpm, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The gearshift is slick and easy to use. The gearing is slightly on the taller side, which means that the car doesn’t pick up as quickly but can cruise effortlessly at higher speeds. In fact, pick up is quite linear in the Punto, and it goes about accelerating at a pretty sedate pace. So while that may not thrill enthusiasts, it provides for a more comfortable ride for passengers.
However, when it comes to handling the Punto is excellent. The steering response is sharp and positive and the car does not put a wheel out of place. The slightly stiff suspension set up also allows the car to corner with ease, without inducing body roll. But this stiff set up also means that some smaller bumps and undulations filter into the cabin.
Noise levels are extremely well controlled in the car and you can barely hear the engine during normal driving. Even when revved hard, you only hear a sporty hum that filters into the cabin. The Punto 1.2, however, is best driven at a leisurely pace and you can let it stretch its pace on the highway safely, as it handles well even at high speeds. Brakes are ABS equipped and felt sharp enough.
The increase in ground clearance hasn’t affected handling in anyway. It has made the car more surefooted over speed breakers and bad roads. The Punto had a habit of hitting its “chin” on ramps earlier, which now seems to have been done away with.
Fiat claims that the Punto 1.2 gives a mileage of 15.2 kmpl. During our road test we largely drove the car in the city for over 130 Km with just about 30 km on the highway. Overall, we got an average of 13.9 kmpl (with only about 10% AC use, as it was winter). This mileage is par for the course when compared with other hatchbacks in its segment, although the claimed mileage isn’t as much as either the Swift or i20 claim.
What we think
Overall, the Fiat Punto is a stylish and classy premium hatchback that will appeal to buyers looking for a bit of design flair and good ride comfort. As long as you’re not a performance-minded person, and looking for a well-built premium hatchback that can carry you around in comfort, the Punto should suit your needs. The 1.2 Dynamic that we tested is priced at Rs. 5.04 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, which makes it slightly cheaper than the Volkswagen Polo Comfortline and about at par with the Skoda Fabia Ambience, and slightly more than the Maruti Swift VXi.