What Fiat refers to as the ‘Fiat Punto 2012’ began life in 2005 as the Grande Punto and was facelifted to become the Punto Evo. Now, it has had another nose-and-tail job (returning it close to its original look) to become the plain Fiat Punto. Still with us? Good.
A mild re-trim and re-fresh of the interior and a wider choice of engines complete the changes. The full list comprises: 1.2 8-valve petrol (68bhp), 1.4 8-valve petrol (76bhp), 1.4 16-valve MultiAir petrol (103bhp and 133bhp), TwinAir 0.9-litre petrol (84bhp) and 1.3 16-valve MultiJet diesel (74bhp and 85bhp).
One of the key new power units in the range is the much-discussed 84bhp, 875cc, TwinAir two-cylinder turbocharged engine, which made its debut in the Fiat 500. It’s good for 103lb ft of torque at 2000rpm and has an official Co2 rating of just 98g/km in the big Punto body.
At tickover, the two-pot’s distinct off-beat thrum can be sensed through the cabin floor. Climbing up through the rev-range there’s no disguising that there’s a twin-cylinder engine under the bonnet: the sound track is as clear as it is unexpected. That’s not to say the engine is rough, indeed, it is smoother than many small-capacity diesel.
It’s more the unusual aural intrusion than a lack of mechanical refinement that marks out the driver experience. And, despite its small capacity, the engine can easily haul the 4m-long Punto around with two adults on board. It also has the legs for brisk motorway driving and pulls well at higher revs, even in the longer-striding sixth gear.
More importantly, there’s a question mark over the real-world economy of this tiny engine. Run back-to-back with a 1.3 MultiJet diesel Punto, and using the on-board trip computer, the oil-burner was significantly more economical. Owners of Fiat 500 Twin-Airs are reporting similar findings.
Another highlight of the range is the non-turbo, 103bhp version of the 1.4-litre MultiAir engine, which feels strong, smooth and torquey. Push away from the lights and the front-drive Punto feels much more like a 2.0-litre engine in its character, at least in the bottom half of its rev range.
But the choice of the range is the 1.3 Multijet diesel, which comes in 74bhp and 85bhp guises. Using a common rail injection process with up to eight individual cycles, it is exceptionally quiet, free revving and, in top-of-the-line guise, imbued with solid slab of mid-range poke, providing the new Fiat better cruising credentials, outstanding in-gear performance and decent economy.
The Punto’s on-road performance, is rather less beguiling. The steering is lightly weighted at the rim but it also conveys a sense of disconnection. Steer into a roundabout or a fast bend, and you are never quite sure of position of the front wheels. At speed, the Punto is quite hard to place accurately.
Pushing through a series of bends, the Punto demonstrates a degree of nicely rising lateral grip, but you don’t feel you can exploit it because the car rolls a reasonable amount and because of the lack of confidence in the whereabouts of the front end. The ride wasn’t half bad, though, especially on the very poor surfaces near Fiat’s Balocco test track. This car lopes along pretty well.
It’s an intriguing car. Decently spacious for a supermini, nippy and, with the right engine, particularly characterful. And the showroom price is competitive. But the driving dynamics are decidedly humdrum.