What Fiat refers to as the ‘Fiat Punto’ began life in 2005 as the Grande Punto and was facelifted to become the Punto Evo. Now, it has had another nose-and-tail job (returning it close to its original look) to become the plain Fiat Punto. Still with us? Good.
A mild re-trim and re-fresh of the interior was once met with a wider choice of engines to complete the changes, however that it has been condensed to a mere two choices. The full list comprises of 1.2-litre 8-valve petrol (68bhp) and a 1.4-litre 8-valve petrol (76bhp).
Strangely, Fiat has done away with the diesel units that would normally be found under most mid-sized family hatchbacks, but also the newest addition to the Punto range was the TwinAir unit borrowed from the 500. Under our examination, the 0.9-litre, two-cylinder unit performed admirably and didn't feel short of breath as one may imagine it would.
The highlight of the range now is the non-turbo, 77bhp version of the 1.4-litre MultiAir engine, which feels strong, smooth and torquey. Push away from the lights and the front-drive Punto feels much more agile enough, at least in the bottom half of its rev range.
But these remaining petrol engines are nowhere near as good as the 1.3 Multijet diesel, which came in 74bhp and 85bhp guises, was under the bonnet. Using a 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 decent economy.
The Punto’s on-road performance, is rather less beguiling. The steering is lightly weighted at the rim but it also conveys a sense of disconnection. Steer into a roundabout or a fast bend, and you are never quite sure of position of the front wheels. At speed, the Punto is quite hard to place accurately.
Pushing through a series of bends, the Punto demonstrates a degree of nicely rising lateral grip, but you don’t feel you can exploit it because the car rolls a reasonable amount and because of the lack of confidence in the whereabouts of the front end. The ride wasn’t half bad, though, especially on the very poor surfaces near Fiat’s Balocco test track. This car lopes along pretty well.