If you really want a driver’s car, you’re better off opting for the Punto or 500 Abarth
The Sporting strikes a decent blend of performance and usability
Decently spacious for a supermini, with a good range of engines, but the Punto's driving dynamics are less-than beguiling
What is it?
This is the range-topping version of the new Fiat Punto Evo.
The new 1.4-litre Multiair petrol engine gets turbocharged induction to increase output to 133bhp and torque to 152lb ft. Miraculously, despite the higher power output the turbo’d Multiair engine produces less CO2 and better economy than its cheaper, naturally aspirated sibling with claimed figures at an angelic 129g/km and 50.4mpg combined.
The Punto Evo 135 is only available in top-level Sporting trim with a five-speed manual gearbox.
What’s it like?
The engine is the real step forward for Fiat. It offers a wide spread of torque and is good fun to push toward the red line, yet is also affordable to use everyday thanks to standard stop-start tech and advanced electronically-controlled valve control.
There is non of the peaky power delivery that you can get from other small turbocharged units and this engine, though perhaps not as free-revving as you might want, is a great unit for people wanting accessible performance occasionally and refined, punchy progress for the daily commute.
There are some let downs. Rather than the slick, new six-speed gearbox that is installed in the lower powered Punto Evo, the 133bhp turbocharged car sends drive through the old five-speed box. Unfortunately the older ‘box is nowhere near as rewarding to use, having a rubbery and vague movement that doesn’t encourage hard use.
Ride quality is also compromised on the Sporting model due to the standard 17-inch alloys. It’s damped well enough that most people wanting the extra poke would accept the firmer ride without complaint, and the bigger wheels look great, but the ride is particularly lumpy over B-road surfaces and could do with more pliancy for better road holding as well as comfort.
The steering is fine for everyday use, but is too vague and not quick enough to match the sporting potential of the engine. The turbocharged Punto Evo is rapid and stylish enough to satisfy many looking for the occasional B-road blast, but the emphasis is clearly still on everyday usability.
Should I buy one?
The Fiat Punto Evo Sporting benefits from having a broad range of abilities, particularly in its ability to be refined and frugal as well as spirited when you want it to be. Unfortunately it falls short of the poise it needs to be a truly rewarding warm hatch, comfort is compromised by the firm ride, and the high list price could put many buyers off.
If you really want a driver’s car, you’re better off opting for the Punto or 500 Abarth models, both of which are cheaper than this Punto Evo. But if you don’t want to go that hardcore and still want some spirit in your Italian hatchback, the Sporting strikes a decent blend of performance and usability, even if it does come with a high price tag.