What is it?

This is the latest model to receive Fiat Group’s new Multiair technology. The Fiat Punto Evo Abarth gets a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine complete with the clever valve management system to enhance performance (particularly at low engine speeds), and improve economy and emissions.

One of the most significant upgrades is an Alfa Romeo-style switch to allow the driver to alter the car’s throttle response, steering weight and traction settings, though in the Abarth there are only two settings – sport and normal.

Fiat’s Torque Transfer Control system - which reduces understeer by braking whichever front wheel is losing traction - also makes a welcome appearance in the new Punto.

All the style tweaks that distinguish the standard Fiat Punto Evo also appear in the hot Abarth, including piano-black dash fascia, sat-nav docking system, clearer dials and revised styling.

What’s it like?

The engine is a big improvement over the old model. Multiair brings with it impressive low-end torque and general flexibility through the gears, and also makes the engine feel more free-revving. It makes for accessible performance whether you’re cruising home or trying to set a new lap record.

The six-speed gearbox it is mated to is less ideally suited to the Abarth. For a hatch that is intended to be a truly engaging drive the shift is too long and indistinct. It’s an improvement over Fiat gearboxes of old but it’s still not rewarding enough.

That’s not the only slightly unsatisfying aspect of the new Punto Abarth. The steering, though nicely weighted and responsive when in sport mode, always feels artificial and the brakes could use more finesse, having little modulation between light braking and full-on, hazard-lights flashing emergency stopping.

So clearly the Punto Abarth is no dynamic benchmark. But it is by no means a poor car. It has plentiful grip, which the TTC system effectively enhances by dragging the nose into line out of corners, and this together with the predictable handling means you can gainfully throw the Punto around and enjoy every minute.

We were only allowed on the smooth surfaces of Fiat’s Balloco test track, so final judgement on the ride quality will have to wait until a UK test. But what was evident is that there’s noticeably bouncy rebound over undulating surfaces – which could be a problem in urban Britain - but generally the setup seemed reasonably well-judged and coped very well on track.

And in normal mode? This is actually the biggest disappointment. Okay, so maybe around town you’ll want the lighter steering but in truth this softer setting makes the car feel sluggish in its responses. The Punto is clearly designed to appeal to those wanting a performance hatch that doesn’t compromise all elements of comfort and refinement, but it seems unnecessary to offer quite such a soft setting in a car wearing the scorpion badge.

Should I buy one?

If you want the best handling performance hatch available for under £17k, no. Renaultsport will sell you that. But in practice the Punto is a very different prospect to the more focused Clio 200.

It’s a well-priced hatch that offers a pleasing interior, an excellent combination of economy and pace and exploitable performance. The more powerful, similarly priced and arguably more rounded Seat Ibiza Cupra and Skoda Fabia VRS could be its biggest problems, but the Abarth Punto is fun and charismatic. That’s more than enough reason to buy one.

Victoria Parrott

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Comments
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Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:
It’s a well-priced hatch that offers a pleasing interior, an excellent combination of economy and pace and exploitable performance.

okay, so £16,500, 160 hp, 0-62 mph in 7.9 s and 47.1 mpg is 'well-priced', but...

Autocar wrote:
Compared to the Skoda and Seat, the Volkswagen [Polo GTI]demands a premium price: as I write it’s the wrong side of £18,000
- Autocar's first drive review of Polo GTI

okay, so £18k, 180 hp, 0-62 mph in 6.9 s, and 47.9 mpg is 'a premium price'.

The tarted-up Fiat has a dodgy gearbox, dodgy steering, and dodgy brakes. And it's expected to ride poorly on UK roads. Oh, and it's underdamped in its normal set-up. All that nothwithstanding, Autocar concludes:

Autocar wrote:
the Abarth Punto is fun and charismatic. That’s more than enough reason to buy one.

righty ho! So in essence it's objectively mediocre-to-crap and overpriced compared to competition, on power, dynamics and raw performance, but it's got charisma. Mugs, start forming a queue here. Autocar's reviews plumb new lows.

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

A good looking car made better by probably one of the best small 4 cylinder engines currently available now. Being Fiat they will never get it perfectly right but this is an option once the wifes 500 goes back.

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

It was the best looking hot hatch, but never the best driving. They may have improved how it drives but its lost its looks. Cant see why anyone would buy one now (But at least its not an Auto Nicksheele)

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

I don't think that the Punto Evo front bumper has done the Abarth version a whole lot of favours from an aestheic point of view. Still, very glad it exists and wish there were more of them on the road.

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:

If you want the best handling performance hatch available for under £17k, no. Renaultsport will sell you that. But in practice the Punto is a very different prospect to the more focused Clio 200.

Yes but would I buy either? Absolutely not where I live. We had a Clio Sport 182 and it was a fabulous car spoiled by appalling couldn't-care-less dealer service and return trip after return trip to the service department to put right minor niggles that should have been put right first time. The Fiat and Seat dealers are owned by the same group and it's the same for all three marques in nearby towns. This has to be factored into the purchasing decision. So if I was in the market for this type of car again, it would be the Skoda more than likely where I live where the dealer has an amazing reputation locally for service. There's no point in having a fun car which is no fun to own.

Audi A3 2.0TDi S-Line / Subaru Legacy Tourer

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

I did try one a previous version Punto SS and it was a riot. Built quality superb, very classy and cosy inside (all black incl. full leather) and mental performance for the road. What really impressed was the sharpness of the thing. If I was shopping for such a car I would seriously consider it although after testing a Clio with cup susp. I would probably buy the latter. I am very grateful this car exists though!

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:
It’s a well-priced hatch

If £16,500 for this car is so well-priced how come the same car is only €19,500(incl. 19% VAT) on the Continent?

given that £1=€1.20 currently one would expect it to be priced at £16k or less. Either the Continental price is very good value or the UK price is over-priced. Fiat UK are milking this car's price.

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

nicksheele wrote:
Either the Continental price is very good value or the UK price is over-priced. Fiat UK are milking this car's price.

Doubt that Fiat UK are 'milking' the car's price. They are not selling enough cars to be able to relax even slightly on pricing. I would suggest there are other reasons - maybe spec differences, the cost amortisation of RHD production over a relatively small number or cars, etc.

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

nicksheele wrote:

righty ho! So in essence it's an Eye-tie car, objectively mediocre-to-crap and overpriced compared to competition, on power, dynamics and raw performance, but it's got charisma. Mugs, start forming a queue here. Autocar's reviews plumb new lows.

My God - nicksheele whats caused all these anti Italian feelings you have with their cars ? I take it you have tried this new Punto Abarth and the 500C Abarth, and various Alfa,s you like to criticise so eloquently. I havn't so can,t comment, so I take your word.

Re: Fiat Punto Evo Abarth

4 years 5 weeks ago

nicksheele wrote:

Autocar wrote:
It’s a well-priced hatch that offers a pleasing interior, an excellent combination of economy and pace and exploitable performance.

okay, so £16,500, 160 hp, 0-62 mph in 7.9 s and 47.1 mpg is 'well-priced', but...

Autocar wrote:
Compared to the Skoda and Seat, the Volkswagen [Polo GTI]demands a premium price: as I write it’s the wrong side of £18,000
- Autocar's first drive review of Polo GTI

okay, so £18k, 180 hp, 0-62 mph in 6.9 s, and 47.9 mpg is 'a premium price'.

The tarted-up Fiat has a dodgy gearbox, dodgy steering, and dodgy brakes. And it's expected to ride poorly on UK roads. Oh, and it's underdamped in its normal set-up. All that nothwithstanding, Autocar concludes:

Autocar wrote:
the Abarth Punto is fun and charismatic. That’s more than enough reason to buy one.

righty ho! So in essence it's objectively mediocre-to-crap and overpriced compared to competition, on power, dynamics and raw performance, but it's got charisma. Mugs, start forming a queue here. Autocar's reviews plumb new lows.

I have to agree, the Punto does sound rather half-arsed compared to VWG's efforts. Mind you, I don't want a DSG gearbox, I really don't want a DSG gearbox, I really really don't want a DSG gearbox... so that leaves me with one option for a hot supermini. Bloody Renault.

Or I could have a Fiat 500 Abarth. Or a Mini Cooper S or even a John Cooper Works Edition. Hmm. If only I could have a Mini JCW stripped of all the stupid retro-fripperies...

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Our Verdict

Decently spacious for a supermini, with a good range of engines, but the Punto's driving dynamics are less-than beguiling

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