Punchy turbo engine makes this Punto a real party animal; doesn't steer well, but is still great value and fun

What is it?

It’s the petrol-powered version of Fiat’s warm Punto, and another nail in the coffin for large-engined small hatchbacks.

At least, that’s what Fiat is calling it; the 120 Sporting mixes the sort of performance add-ons you might expect of a 200bhp fire-breather with a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine producing 120bhp and 152lb ft of torque.

And it’s pretty quick. Fiat claims this Punto Sporting does 0-62mph in 8.9sec and a top speed of 121mph, with combined economy of 42.8mpg.

What’s it like?

Reasonably convincing. The turbo means that while the Punto’s peak power can’t match, say, the Ford Fiesta ST, it has a little more torque, so it feels just as nippy as the Ford – quicker, even, lower down the rev rage - without ever melting asphalt.

The Punto chassis is basically sound, so it’s more than game for being chucked at corners with Italian enthusiasm. The five-speed gearbox is slick, too. This is a car that you’ll enjoy hustling, wringing out, and driving with way more commitment than it actually deserves – which is the USP of a cheaper warm hatch, after all.

Fiat has worked hard at the Punto’s spec, giving it 17in alloy wheels, a sports spoiler and exhaust pipe, sideskirts and a sports steering wheel. You also get air-con, sports seats and six airbags. The basic Punto is still the best-looking small hatch out there, we reckon, and the styling tweaks build on that fact instead of demolishing it.

Sadly, though, there has to be a flaw, and it’s the steering; if Fiat has added any weight to the bread-and-butter model’s urban-biased set-up for this car then we couldn’t feel it. It’s accurate enough but way too light and totally devoid of feel, and that’s before you hit the City button.

Should I buy one?

If you expect top-level hot hatchback performance and handling, then perhaps not. But if you’re after a relatively cheap, lively and fun-to-drive hatch that looks the part, it should feature highly on your shortlist.

Add a comment…