Hot Grande Punto aims for both Fiesta ST and Corsa VXR; in showroom this autumn
27 February 2007

Fiat has just released the first pictures of the car with which it will return to the hot hatchback market in the autumn; the Grande Punto Abarth. The Torinese motor maker will unveil this fast supermini, in what looks like production-ready form, at the Geneva show in March. The introduction is a part of the relaunch of its once proud, recently neglected sporting brand Abarth. Whether this is the finished production version or a close-to-road-ready design concept, however, remains to be clarified; Fiat calls it the 'Grande Punto Abarth Preview', and we're not convinced that it's quite ready for the showroom.This Grande Punto Abarth gets blacked-out windows, black plastic valance and sill extensions, painted-and-polished alloy wheels and a discreet roof spoiler. Interestingly, it also wears Abarth's Scorpion badges not only on its rear wings but also on its grille and rump, in place of its Fiat identifiers. There have been rumours that Fiat would set up Abarth as a stand-alone brand like Lancia and Alfa Romeo; this hot Punto comes as the most conclusive proof yet that there's truth in those rumours.And there will be real urgency locked up within the hot Punto's flared arches, too. This little Fiat will be powered by the company's new 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, but will be offered in two different states of tune; as a 155bhp Ford Fiesta ST rival or a 180bhp alternative to the Vauxhall Corsa VXR. This marketing strategy will allow the hot Punto to appeal to two distinct types of hot hatchback buyer; the younger driver who's looking for an affordable route into fast hatchback ownership, and the real fast hatch aficionado who demands sub seven-and-a-half second 0-62mph performance.Neither version will offer four-wheel drive. Autocar has heard rumours that Fiat is working on an all-wheel drive Punto, but this clearly isn't it. The maker hasn't ruled a faster, all-wheel drive 'Puntograle' out for later in the car's life, though; its press release actually states that this is just 'Abarth's first interpretation of the Grande Punto,' and that 'other models will be involved later'.The Grande Punto Abarth will go on sale in Europe in September; right-hand drive sales should start by the end of the year.

Our Verdict

Fiat Punto

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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