It boxes with so much cleverness that it feels comfortably larger. The direct-action, hydraulically activated inlet valves give it dollops of torque right where you need dollops of torque and the short gearing on the five-speed manual ‘box helps, too.
It’s smooth, too, and there’s barely a tremor at idle. Push away from the lights and the front-drive Punto Evo feels much more like a 2.0-litre engine in its character, at least in the bottom half of its rev range.
Up to around 4000rpm, it moves the five-door hatch purposefully and refuses every offered excuse to shudder, strain or lapse into harshness.
It helps that the gearing is so short, but Fiat figures the lower-powered, non-turbo Punto Evos will live most of their lives in cities, so straining at higher revs on the highway is a small price to pay for what is effectively cheap, urban muscle.
So, if 77bhp (at 6000rpm) and 85lb ft of torque (at 3250rpm) seem like a tiny numbers in this day and age, it’s coming from an engine that is unstressed and feels it every inch of the way. Sprinting to 62mph is, obviously, not a forte, but its combined fuel consumption is down at 52.3mpg, with just 132g/km as well.
It will stretch across the traditional sprint in 13.2 seconds and will top out at just 103mph, but it’s more about rolling in-gear acceleration than outright speed. And, in rolling in-gear acceleration, it’s more than strong enough in normal traffic.
Another sign of its city focus is the addition of Start&Stop, Fiat’s take on the fuel-saving technology that is sweeping through Europe’s car industry. This version works if you come to a halt, pop the gear lever into neutral and release the clutch. Then, once you push the clutch pedal back in, it will have the engine re-fired before you’ve shifted back into first gear.
While its two-stage steering system (you can push a button for lighter city steering) is silly and over-complicating things, the steering itself is accurate and light and the suspension upgrades see it walk across hard-edged bumps with far more assurance than the old car.
The seats, though, are perhaps the only truly disappointing aspect of the car. They are flat and unsupportive and not particularly comfortable in any situation.
Should I buy one?
For all the good points, though, the core problem still remains for Fiat: petrol engines in small cars are seen (especially on the continent) as coming from the budget-conscious playlist.
And if it’s just the best Punto Evo you’re after, you'll take the 1.3-litre MultiJet II turbo-diesel.