What is it?
A facelifted version of Fiat’s Grande Punto planned to go on sale in the UK next January at prices, officials say, will be no higher than those of today’s four-year-old model.
Along with the obvious change in name – the Grande part is lost and the word Evo added in an apparent attempt to distance the new car from its direct predecessor, which will continue to be sold unchanged alongside its newer sibling here in the UK, Turin’s best selling model gains a raft of subtle exterior styling changes.
While the familiar steel bodywork remains unchanged, Fiat’s design team has striven to provide the Punto a fresher, more assertive appearance through the adoption of a distinctive new front bumper boasting an integrated grille, larger air ducts and added brightwork.
The look is mirrored at the rear by a similarly styled rear bumper as well as a boot opening mechanism integrated into the corporate Fiat badge, which now sits higher up on the rear hatch and is underscored by a new Punto model identification badge.
Other changes centre around the head- and tail lamps, which both receive new graphics, the latest in LED technology and a day time running feature in line upcoming EU legislation.
Inside, the Punto gets a lightly reworked dashboard with higher grade trims and a knee airbag and the option of an improved Tom Tom based infotainment system that now provides a range of driving efficiency readouts to allow the driver to better monitor economy and, through innovative Internet based software, even compare it to the results achieved by other Punto Evo drivers.
Further changes are concentrated under the bonnet where Fiat’s excellent 1.4-litre four-cylinder direct injection MultiAir petrol engine in 103bhp naturally aspirated and 133bhp turbocharged guises and a second-generation version of 1.3-litre four-cylinder MultiJet diesel in 74bhp and 93bhp states of tune help to boost the number of engines on offer to ten and come as standard with a start/stop system.
What’s it like?
We recently sampled the MultiAir petrol engine in the mechanical identical Alfa Romeo Mito and subsequently sung its praises. But the reworked MultiJet diesel launched in the Punto and soon to find its way into other Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia models is even more impressive.
Using a new 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 a combined cycle average of 67.3mpg in standard five speed manual guise.
In other respects the Punto remains a very rewarding car to drive. The electro-mechanical steering is light but direct, providing it with excellent manoeuvrability and instilling the driver with confidence while the Punto’s MacPherson strut (front) and torsion beam (rear) suspension now handles pockmarked sections of bitumen in a more controlled and noticeably quieter manner.
Spirited driving does, however, reveal one major weakness – namely an almost lack of side support from the high mounted front seats.
Should I buy one?
There’s much to like about the Punto Evo, not least its brilliant new 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel engine and more mature on-road nature. But with rivals like the new Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia, it faces intense competition.
Still, with prices that, Fiat says, will not increase over the outgoing Grande Punto it represents exceptional value.