True to the spirit of its new nomenclature, Punto Evo symbolizes the evolution of Punto hatchback that has struggled a lot in hypercompetitive hatchback segment of Indian automobile industry. Now the responsibility to make Fiat’s mark rests on shoulders of new Punto Evo; thoroughly revisedversion of outgoing Punto. Fiat has devoted a quality time in order to iron out deficiencies of older Punto and as a resultnew Punto Evosuccessfully makes a solid first impression. Comprehensive makeover of frontage and rear helps this Italian beauty to carve its own separate identity while completely redesigned cabin laced with quality and precise stitching make Evo far more desirable than its predecessor. Thankfully the very balanced and proportioned profile of Punto has been carried over with Evo featuring a similar eye soothing and flattering side view. What else are same; well the power-train options and all mechanical hardware have been carried over from older Punto without any specific retuning on either of these aspects.
Keeping in mind the unchanged hardware, especially on powertrain front it is nothing but obvious to have reservations about the drivability of new Evo; something that its predecessor was heavily criticized for.But even more crucial than criticism is the fact that whether Fiat will be able to successfully takes on fiercest competition only on grounds of upmarket looks and quality? What will and how severe be impact of ignoring real contentious issue of lackluster performance on market fate of new Punto Evo? We unravel all these tangled issues through road test review of new Punto Evo.
Drop Dead Gorgeous
One look at Punto Evo and one can’t help but notice its face similarity with Avventura. In fact the frontage of Punto Evo is split image of Avventura crossover that is also gearing for its India launch in upcoming months.
Coming back to Punto Evo, Fiat has tried to infuse more contemporary feeling to face of Evo and addition of chrome in grille and chin is a deliberate attempt to whip up the overall premium quotient of car. Chrome affair continuous on fog lamp housings with its use more perceptible here than on chin and nose of Evo. Tear-drop headlamps of older Punto has been stretched backwards a bit in new Punto Evo and are indeed one of the design highlights of this new Fiat. Bonner bulge in Evo, usually restricted in its use to high-end SUVs’, adds some character to the frontage of this Italian beauty.
Side profile remains unchanged as Punto Evo carries forward the very proportioned and balanced dimensions of the older Punto. Except the addition of new 15” alloy wheels the profile view of Evo remains similar to its predecessor. Another noticeable thing is massive ground clearance to the tune of 195 mm in 1.2-Litre petrol variant and 185 mm in all other variants that Evo comes equipped with. Such a high belly is capable to give even SUVs’ a competition in this particular aspect.
Rear of Evo comes with new tail lamps that although similar to older Punto design now features LED strips elements. The effect of replacing the older elements with LED is huge and especially at night, these just look awesome the way LEDs’ twinkle. Further the rear bumper has got its share of alteration and now houses pair of reflectors surrounded by chrome. Joining these reflectors is another strip of chrome that runs across these important safety elements.
Revamped Quality Cabin
One of the most severe criticisms heaped on older Punto was for its low-grade interior quality and patchy fit-finish. Initially Fiat tried to wish this away by adopting incremental improvement approach though result was far from desirable. Though now it seems Fiat has finally taken the plunge as Punto Evo comes with all new cabin and interiors. Rather than calling it as revamping, we would like to address this interior change as reengineering that happened courtesy to new interior style of new Linea.
Fiat has searched deep into parts-bin of new Linea and equipped new Evo exactly with the design and high-quality interiors of its elder cousin. As a result new Evo’s cabin feels refreshingly superior with twin-colour dash board that in fact liven-up the whole interior ambience. Piano-black centre console with aluminium inserts further up the premium feel of the cabin.
Not only the quality has taken a leap forward in new Punto Evo, also the overall fit-finish of the car has improved massively over its predecessor. Panel gaps are now tight and evenly distributed. There is ahrdly any rough edge visible and soft-touch feel of material feels quite hardwearing in nature. The only grouse is the erratic stitching in some of the plastics feature in steering area and around key-hole. Here the memories of poor finishing of Punto rekindle and Fiat should have sorted this out in Evo.
In terms of space, Punto Evo attains a middle rank amidst the consideration of all the other options available in market. Front seats are large, wide and well-built. Bolstering is also good though fabric is softer and in long journeys these could jeopardize the driver’s comfort factor. Rear bench is wide though sitting three abreast will sure to feel the squeeze. Leg room and knee room is just about average and head room is available at premium. Further the emotion variant comes with single air-con rear vent though we suspect its effective cooling impact in peak summer seasons.
Boot space of Evo is rated at 280 litres and is well carved out. Loading lip is though a tad high making loading-unloading manoeuvres a bit of painful job. However the parcel shelf and 60:40 rear seat split make Evo quite a practical hatchback. Further rear seat back comes with metal cladding that minimizes the intrusion impact of luggage.
Punto Evo treads the same path of Punto in terms of power-train department as there is total of 3 engine choices to choose from. Two petrol engines: 1.2-litre & 1.4-litre and 1.3-litre multi-jet diesel engine. In line with the market prediction, we decided to have a spin in Evo’s diesel variant that is also touted as our national diesel engine now. With total displaced capacity of 1.3-litre, this multi-jet direct injection diesel engine churns out 76 PS of power along with 197 Nm of torque while in sportier version these figures climbs to 93 PS and 209 Nm.
Our test car comes with 76 PS version of multi-jet diesel and we started the proceedings from the city driving. Things have not changed much as we feel frequently to downshift though now the frequency of shift-requirement has gone down a bit. Still once you slow down there is no other way than to slot back into first gear to keep up with the pace. The extra-weight the Punto Evo carries is one of the main culprits behind this average performance of the car. Drivability of Punto Evo remains poor and amidst the other very-drivable rivals, Punto Evo is unlikely to put up a brave face. Fiat has done nothing to shave off the extra kilos from Evo and even a bit of effort could have made a huge difference in driving manners of this Fiat.
On open stretches however Evo tries to assuage with its turbo prowess that wakes up only once driver crosses the mark of 2000 rpm. Only after crossing barrier of 2k mark, turbo spools up and strong progressive shove from behind can be clearly felt. Highway driving is much more enjoyable in Evo than in-city crawling as extra-stability of the car acts as an extra add on to its highway abilities.
All the engine options in Punto Evo come mated with 5-speed manual transmission. With no improvement on mechanical front, slippery and rubbery gearshifts have stayed put in the Punto Evo, just like its predecessor Punto. The gearbox is nowhere near the benchmark set by some other segment offerings like VW Polo, Maruti Swift etc. There is not even a bit of slickness in shifting and the whole experience is soggy. And making this whole experience even worst is the poor drivability of Evo that forces the driver to have his left hand engage all the time.
On the one hand we have we have very average engine-transmission combo of Punto Evo and on the other, there is equally exceptional dynamic characteristics this Fiat shows on the road. If the cars were bought on the aspect of their road-manners only, Fiat would have flooded with booking orders. So competent is Punto Evo on the road that most of the time it eludes you whether you are driving it off the road. Any kind of tarmac poses absolutely no challenge to this Fiat as Evo glides effortlessly over all kind of surfaces. Massive ground clearance further aids the peace of mind as one can approach even the tallest speed-breakers casually.
And not only speed creases, even driver can throw the Evo around the corners to get back only a precise response. Punto Evo treads its line with impeccable precision and never feels unsettled by any adventurous move of chugging, hurling or flinging. Power steering weights up nicely at corners and kind of feedback it offers simply put it even above the benchmark standards. Brakes are fine too and unlike Punto we feel them more reassuring in Evo.
Punto Evo comes across a thoroughly revamped product over its predecessor. Even though facelifts are more of a nip and tuck job in Indian market, Fiat has put in quite an effort to really raise the bar through Evo. Not only Evo comes with heavily revamped exteriors but also with a completely new interiors and cabin. Therefore on these two fronts’ full marks to Fiat though company could have come with even more better offering than actually Evo is. Even in its latest avatar Punto Evo is still marred by some critical deficiencies like rear seat space and ill fit-finish. Further the biggest culprit of outgoing Punto i.e.poor drivability remains intact in new Punto Evo too as there is hardly any perceptible change in the way new model differ from older one. On pricing front Punto Evo with the retail range stretching between Rs 4.56 – 7.20 lakh; landing it right into territory of premium hatchbacks that is filled with more capable and complete offerings than Evo. So though Punto Evo is definitely a huge leap forward by Fiat, it still lacks some of the critical ingredients that are mandatory to conquer the punishingly competitive Indian auto market.
44Style & Substance 4/5 Ride & Handling 4/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3/5 Safety & Equipment 3/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 3/5 Fuel Efficiency 3.5/5
Value for Money 3/5