No matter how much we scoff at sluggish and meek performance of Grande Punto; there is no denying that it wins you over instantly with its stunning beauty and aesthetics. Even a casual look at Punto attests the fact that Fiat engineers has got it spot-on in terms of Punto’s styling and demeanour. Everybody at ecardlr loves the sophistication with which Punto has been sketched by Fiat and is one of finest examples of somebody successfully managing the extremes of masculinity and feminine virtues. With a design that has hit a sweet spot with customers; Fiat presumes it has already overcome one big barrio. And even we are not in mood to contest this cosy feeling Fiat is hanging around with but then overcoming tangled market like India only on basis of beauty could prove to be a fallacy for this Italian manufacturer with dire consequences. Assuming styling as its cherub that hopes to wave its magic wand and grant sales wish of company is a miracle that at least we don’t think can actually materialize in highly discerned market like ours. Success in Indian small car category requires an optimum mixture of carefully selected and perfectly complementing ingredients. Even if you outperform competitors on one particular aspect; you have to at least deliver good results on other to convert your offering into value-constellation that people can’t resist. So whether Grande Punto is indeed an appetizing and tempting constellation or it’s just about a beautiful looking car? How Punto fares on other critical match-winning competencies which are already excelled by likes of Swift, i10, Leva etc.? Will Punto be successful in dispelling clouds of doubt hovering over its sky? Read on to find this and much more in this exclusive road test of Fiat Punto.
Punto is one on the most stunning cars on the Indian roads as of now. It turns head everywhere it goes. Simply this Italian master piece is gorgeous to look at and no other small hatchback in India is as attractive as this wonderfully designed car is.
Stretched nose of the car along with unique wave like line restricted between headlamps gives a unique front face to the car. Leaf type headlamps have very Italian flair of design; so hasthe square-ish grill. Bonnet as well as front windscreen is heavily raked so driving in congestion is quite a task.
Side profile is characterized by muscular wheel arches as well as a strong shoulder line. 14” alloy wheels complement the raised stance of the car i.e. 185 mm of ground clearance. Window line is high and Punto still comes with old Grab-type door handles.
Rear of the car contains generous glass in terms of windscreen and tail lamps too merge brilliantly with the design theme. Loading lip is wide and just right in height. Overall the perceptible change on outside, in addition to the new shades of colour, is taller stance of the car; Punto now has enhanced ground clearance of 185 mm on top end versions and 195 mm in base model.
Overall Fiat strikes gold on aesthetic front as for most of us Punto seems like a celestial creature that very cunningly blends in air of sophistication and fluidity. The whole design has strong undercurrent of gorgeousness that is sure to yield positive impact on prospects.
Though the changes outside are very subtle in nature, inside differences can be spotted very easily. A new two-tone colour scheme; black-grey wrapped the whole interiors. Rear AC vents are now standard feature, even in base variant and panel gaps have been tightened.
All this enhances the overall appeal of the interiors, but we still have some grouses. Dash board looks dull and very old fashioned without any design flair. Similar feeling is associated with the center console though these feel solidly built and hardwearing. Steering wheel is chunky and so are the stalks on either side of steering wheel. There are provisions of cubbyholes between console and transmission that comes quite handy option for liquid-lovers.
Front seats are large, have wide squat though bolstering could be better. Driving view, though not commanding but the convenience of height adjustment provision comes to rescue. Rear bench has good amount of knee room and legroom though head room is at premium, especially for long persons. Bench, though adequately support your thighs, is set very upright; thereby making comfort an issue over the long journeys. Three persons abreast can be fitted comfortably but only for short journeys as high transmission tunnel obstructs the convenience of middle passenger.
Boot capacity is rated at 280 litres that is although adequate for knick-knacks but ask it to accommodate even weekend trip luggage; trunk starts showing signs of sulking. One reason behind this reluctance is heavy intrusion of suspension towers which severely affects the usable inside space. Boot lip is wide enough to serve the purpose though suspension intrudes heavilyinside like the old model. We expected Fiat not to make these silly niggles though it seems company has focused its whole attention on designing front. These small practical touches though not seem to be important ones from outside but then indeed play decisive role in making or breaking overall fortunes of an offering.
UNDER THE HOOD
Punto comes with both petrol and diesel heart capable of generating power of 68 PS and 76 PS from hearts displacing 1.2-litre and 1.3-litre respectively. Also driving enthusiasts can choose from 90 PS and 93 PS option available in petrol and diesel respectively. We however after being flooded with enquiries from our esteemed readers pick 1.3-litre multi-jet diesel engine for reviewing purpose.
Fiat’s multi-jet diesel technology (MJDT) is world famous in India as it has been in high demand across the manufacturers including country’s leading car maker Maruti-Suzuki. MJDT uses modern twin-cam architecture consisting provision of 4-valve per cylinder. The whole heart of this engine displaces 1.3-litres of cubic capacity with 4-cylinders continuously repeating reciprocating moment by sipping diesel and air through total of 16 valves. The output of motor freezes at 76 PS of power and 197 Nm of torque at 4000 and 1750 rotations per minute of crankshaft.
Idle of the engine is refined but not as much as we have witnessed in Hyundai’s machines. Still it is above average and not a contentious issue; especially sitting inside car. Moving from standstill, Punto shows alacrity with even slight throttle dabs. Drivability of the car is good in 1st and 2nd gear though shifting to 3rd is sure to curtail this feel. Punto moves head and shoulder with its competitors in low gears though it tends to lose steam once you up shifts as turbo takes ages of spool time that is definitely a cause of concern.
And this cause of concern readily transpires into irritant factor as we hit the highway. It is here on open tarmac Punto disguised meek character becomes amply evident. Even after peddle to metal, Punto takes ages to build up momentum and even after turbo spools up engine feels to run out of breath quickly. High revolutions are hoarse and engine seems to be on revolutionary path against the accelerator commands. We have found that tuning done by Maruti-Suzuki and even Tata Motors in their respective iterations of MJDT is far better than Fiat. It’s really a pity to feel see Once you mesh the throttle, the rev doesn’t built in enthusiastic way. In contrast, the tuning done by Maruti and Tata is far better. In fact new models must have come with more powerful or eager engine option so as to enhance the performance aspect.
ROCK & ROLL
Dynamic model of Punto comes with 14” alloy wheels shrouded with 165 mm wide rubber. Up front Punto uses independent wheel suspension with McPherson strut while at rear torsion beam do the duty to suspend the wheels.
Punto has already acclaimed for its best ride and handling compromise. Now even with the raised suspension, Punto rides with brisk confidence. Though there is some hint of firmness at slow speeds but as the whack increases ride almost become unfazed.
At high speed, somewhat stiff setting of suspension helps in keeping the composure of car intact all the time. Ride is almost flat at high speeds and Punto takes all what is thrown at it with aplomb. Handling of the car is in its own league. Though there is hint of body roll due to raised suspension, it is not at all matter of concern. Brilliant and supple chassis allows you to venture into any urgency move with confidence. Still with raised suspension, Punto retains its crown related to ride and handling characteristics.
Range of Punto diesel stretches between Rs 5.03 lakh for base version Active petrol to Rs 7.38 lakh for its high end 90-HP edition (ex-showroom Delhi). Punto has great visual appeal and in hypothetical situation where crowning being done on beauty aspect; Punto would be a clear winner. But then there are other crucial and critical areas that weigh equal in importance. Interiors quality, overall space, comfort and convenience and strong heart are something that has to be present optimally to make a car a good all-rounder. Unfortunately Punto, even after performing exceptionally well on design and dynamic front, severely lags in other important parameters of assessment. One can live with ill-finish or average interiors but then lack of grunt especially on highway is one of the most contentious issues that Fiat has to overcome in order to get back in competition. There is need to think seriously and comprehensively for Fiat echelons that they have to have addressed these drawbacks head-on before they start dreaming about conquering a hyper-competitive market like India. Wiping the slate clean and starting with afresh with special focus on weight reduction and enhancing grunt can turn tables for this beautiful Italian beauty.
Style & Substance 4.5/5 Ride & Handling 4.5/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3/5 Safety & Equipment 3/5
Power & Transmission 2.5/5 Fuel Efficiency 3/5
Value for Money 3/5