Fiat’s first ‘proper’ Abarth for two decades looks the business and goes well

What is it?

This is the Punto Abarth, the first of the new-generation Abarths to go on sale in the UK. It is not, apparently a Fiat - look for a Fiat badge and you won’t find one anywhere.

This is because Abarth has a fine racing, rallying and road car heritage and, though it has always been linked heavily to Fiat, and owned by Fiat Auto since 1971, the Italians are keen to give it its own distinct brand image - so a warmed-over Punto T-Jet would simply not be on.

Instead, you get a 153bhp, 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, and the ability to get to 62mph in just 8.2 seconds.

What’s it like?

The Punto Abarth certainly gets off to a good start - it looks fantastic. The standard Punto is already blessed with elegant, clean lines, and the Abarth adds a dose of healthy testosterone with its lower stance, chunky 17-inch alloys and black side skirts and roof spoiler.

There’s more good news inside. Much as in the standard Punto, there’s still the odd bit of brittle plastic trim here and there and the aluminium-look plastic on the central console is unconvincing to say the least.

All the Abarth-specific interior trimmings are good, however. The steering wheel, handbrake and much of the dash are covered well-trimmed leather. The faux-suede seats (are comfy and supportive, though a little narrow shouldered. In fact the interior as a whole feels a fair bit more special than most cars in this class.

On the road, initial impressions are also good. Press the sport boost button on the centre console and peak torque (available at 3000rpm) jumps from 152lb ft to 169, and the weight of the steering is altered to give a chunkier feel. This makes for a meaty mid range, making overtaking easy and allowing you to maintain a swift cross-country pace.

Push the engine harder, however, and the combination of that low-down torque and a power figure that starts to tail away after just 5500rpm leaves you curiously unsatisfied. It’s almost like a turbodiesel in its power delivery, lots of shove, but not enough high-end zing, and that’s a bit of a shame. Still, stick to seven or eight tenths of the engine’s ability, and you’ll be going pretty quickly anyway.

It’s better to stick to eight tenths or so for the sake of the chassis, too. There’s no shortage of grip over most roads, and the car is eager to point where you want it to when you want it to.

The trouble is the ride. Over a typical fast-and-bumpy British B-road, the Punto is uncomfortable. It jars over sharp crests and dips, and shudders through potholes. There’s simply none of the pliancy and fluidity that you’d find in a Fiesta ST, and the Punto feels less controlled as a result, and much harder and more wearing to drive quickly.

Should I buy one?

If you love fast Italian cars, and are also fond of a bargain, the Punto Abarth has an awful lot to recommend it. It’s funky, fast enough to be fun, and should cost less than a Fiesta ST. So what if it’s not the last word in dynamic sophistication?

Matt Rigby

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Comments
22

25 July 2008

It's not A Fiat, please stop calling it that.

[quote Autocar]It is not, apparently a Fiat - look for a Fiat badge and you won’t find one anywhere.[/quote] Here, you even know that it is an 'Abarth Grande Punto'

The V5 states the manufacturer is 'ABARTH' Please edit your article for accuracy. Bad research makes for poor journalism.

26 July 2008

Come on, man, it's a Fiat!

26 July 2008

[quote julianphillips]

Come on, man, it's a Fiat!

[/quote]

It's a product of Abarth & C. S.p.A. Italy. Which is a company of the Fiat group. The Alfa Mito is being produced in the Fiat Mirafiori factory and is based on a Grande Punto too. Is that a 'Fiat Grande Punto Alfa Romeo Mito'?

Was the last Skoda Superb called a 'VW Passat Skoda'? No, although it was a Passat in all but name.

The C1/107/Aygo all have their own brands.

Why can't the Abarth Grande Punto?

I just think its fair to give credit to Fiat for creating this brand and sticking to it with seperate branding, showrooms and workshops.

26 July 2008

Yep, fair enough.

28 July 2008

Semantics. Its a sporting Fiat and 'twas ever thus. To all intents and purposes this is more like Mercedes and AMG but we don't call them AMGs, do we ?

28 July 2008

[quote James Read]

Semantics. Its a sporting Fiat and 'twas ever thus. To all intents and purposes this is more like Mercedes and AMG but we don't call them AMGs, do we ?

[/quote]

Or Lexus-Toyota, Infiniti-Nissan.

The thing is Abarth has a heritage and history that goes back way before the two names mentioned above were even considered, but people still refer to them by their brand name. Abarths have always been developed Fiat models, but should be viewed as a car in it's own right.

28 July 2008

I agree with everything you say. Because as the V5 says Abarth rather than Fiat, then it's an Abarth.

If a Merc AMG was an AMG on the V5 rather than a Merc then that what it shall be called. Imagine the issues Toyota would have had back in the day if the UK press had called their Lexus LS400 a Toyota?

All of these are slightly different situations, but you can't argue with the V5. This means that EU type approval would have had to have been sought as a separate brand. It may have been fastracked as it is based on an existing model, but nonetheless Fiat have spent alot of money developing and launching this new company, when they could have done it half-assed again like the sticky badge versions of the older Puntos and the Stilo.

28 July 2008

Branding aside, the Punto Abarth (or is it Abarth Punto?) looks like a cracker and I want one. Not sure why, but there is something infinitely more appealing to me about the Abarth than the Fiesta ST which was mentioned in the article.

28 July 2008

All 10 first wave dealers have demos now. Get down there and have a blast!

28 July 2008

Ah, I see. So where do I go to try one. I can't seem to find any Abarth dealers (unlike Lexus etc.). They wouldn't be found at Fiat dealers would they ?

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