Following its distinct move up market, wheelworldreviews editor DAVID HOOPER drives the new Punto Evo, from Fiat.
THIS is the latest small car from Fiat and it’s called the Punto Evo – an evolution of the Grande Punto which has proved a popular seller for the Italian carmaker.
Clearly related to the Grande Punto, this car has moved things decidedly more upmarket, and the Punto Evo is well placed to take on its traditional rivals with confidence.
Now proudly wearing the recently redesigned Fiat badge on its nose, above a new front bumper and grille arrangement, the car can be easily distinguished from its predecessor.
Inside though, is perhaps where the most noticeable changes have been made. The dashboard has been completely redesigned and the car I tested featured a smart new dashboard with a piano black finish for its radio and CD display. The dashboard top is now layered with a soft-touch finish, and low red lighting illuminates the area above the glove box on the passenger side.
I liked the overall look and feel of the car, and I thought the trendy seat coverings on the car I drove added to its appeal.
Equipment levels are comprehensive too, with things like knee airbags, ESP and double seatbelt pretensioners, until recently the reserve of more expensive cars, now finding their way in to cars of this size which appeal to buyers looking to cut, or simply maintain the cost of their motoring.
Standard across the Punto Evo range is eco:Drive, which helps customers maximise every gallon of their increasingly expensive fuel. Up or down arrows will suggest gear changes if the driver is wasting fuel and Fiat’s Start&Stop system will turn the engine off when the car is stationary at traffic lights or in queues.
Punto Evo buyers have a choice of five engines which all meet the latest Euro 5 emissions standards. Thanks to low fuel consumption and C02 emissions owners will pay only £35 car tax on cars with Multijet engines.
The new Ecotechnology engine line-ups are known as MultiAir for the petrols, while the diesel units are called MultiJet, in Fiat speak.
In addition to the petrol or diesel decisions, customers have to choose between two different characters for their new car. Three-door GP and Sporting versions feature a sporty chassis set-up and no nonsense looks, while a softer, more comfortable set-up features on the three or five-door models in Active, Dynamic or Eleganza trim.
My test car arrived in the plush Eleganza trim, and with an asking price of just over £15,000, will certainly appeal to the current crop of carbuyers who are downsizing from bigger cars, but don’t want to skimp on the luxuries. On all but the entry level Active model, you can specify a slot to locate the portable Blue&Me TomTom navigation unit on the top of the centre console.
Fiat’s Blue&Me infotainment system is also great for controlling your iPod, USB stick or mobile phone from the controls mounted on the steering wheel, which means the driver doesn’t have to take their hands off the steering wheel.
The Eleganza model I tested was a comfortable car to travel in. The suspension was excellent at soaking up the road’s indiscretions, and while a 0-62mph time of 11.7 seconds is never going to set the world alight, the strong pull from the willing diesel engine meant progress was pleasingly quick when it needed to be, with the car able to zip past slower traffic on A roads without any problems.
The handling was also impressive, with the car coping with changes of direction very well, making it fun to drive quickly when the mood took me, although a slightly more positive response from the electric power steering would be appreciated.
The steering system does have its benefits though – the girly button is still there (remember those TV ads). Press it, and “City” mode is switched on, which makes the steering wheel even lighter and easier to turn, which can be a boon when you are trying to park in a tight spot.
While the Punto Evo is hardly radical, it is a smart-looking car which is good to drive and offers comprehensive equipment levels at competitive prices. Combine these attributes with low fuel consumption and running costs and it makes a very attractive proposition which is well worth considering next time you change your car.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Fiat Punto Evo Eleganza 1.3 Multijet 95bhp.
RANGE: From Active 1.4 3dr (£10,985) to Sporting 1.4 MultiAir 3dr (£15,175).
ENGINE: 1248cc, 95bhp four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 5-speed manual gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 110g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 111mph. 0-62mph in 11.7 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 53.3mpg.
Fuel tank: 45 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 13.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.