4 February 2005

This is the car that must rejuvenate Fiat – it’s the new Punto, unveiled this September and on sale in the UK early in 2006. Styled by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, who designed the ’93 original and the Uno before it, this car is almost entirely new, sharing only some engines with the existing model. The new car shares its platform with the next Vauxhall Corsa, a product of the technical collaboration between Fiat and General Motors. Mechanically both cars are entirely conventional with transverse engines, MacPherson strut suspension up front and a coil sprung torsion beam axle at the rear. Fiat needs to have intensively developed this set-up to improve on the very average ride and handling of the current car. Despite the fresh platform, the new Punto rides on the existing 2460mm wheelbase, but it is slightly longer and fractionally taller. Whether these changes will enable to Fiat to find more interior space remains to be seen. Expect improvements in body stiffness, safety, refinement and build quality, as well as a wide variety of options, ranging from high-powered stereos to telematics systems that Fiat is developing with Microsoft. The new engines include Fiat’s 85bhp 1.3 Multijet diesel, as well as potent 150bhp 1.9 Multijet oil burner, both of which should give the Punto a competitive advantage in performance and economy. Petrol engines will include a 60bhp 1.2, an 80bhp 16v 1.2, a 95bhp 16v 1.4 and possibly a 130bhp 1.8 16v. There will be five speed manual and six speed sequential gearboxes.

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