Driven – Fiat Punto Sport 90 hp Diesel
Ashwin Ram N P, Ashwin is a guy with a slightly unorthodox perception of everything. His struggle to choose a career path, between art and automotive engineering, has landed him in the field of auto journalism, where he has paved way for himself to practise both.
If you remember clearly, we drove the Fiat Punto 90hp petrol and we were not impressed with the power delivery of of the 1.4L FIRE petrol. The car was quick but just not quick enough to qualify as a hot hatch. The power delivery was too linear and consistent. It could only warm the cockles of our heart and not set it on fire as it should have.
Since then we have been on a quest of finding a hot hatch in the market. Something really interesting caught our eye from Fiat’s stable. We decided to review the Fiat Punto Sport which was recently unveiled at the Fiat Caffe in Pune.
Why are you reviewing a car with some stickering on it?
Yes, I understand that the Fiat Punto Sport is essentially just a Punto 90hp Diesel with some accessories slapped on to it. But that is the whole point!
How is the Punto Sport different than the Punto 90+?
The Fiat Punto Sport was unveiled at the Fiat Caffe in Pune for a price of 7.36 lakhs (ex-showroom, Delhi). It is only available in three colors Red, Black and White. We got the stunning white one for the review.
First thing that you notice are the sporty body decals on the side and the rear of the car. It also gets chrome door handles and chrome exhaust tip to add to the bling factor of the Punto. The OVRMS are also painted in red to go with the color scheme.
On the inside, we see sporty metallic pedals and red stitching on the seats and gear knob. The door sills also have ‘Punto’ written on it. This pretty much sums up all the ‘Sport’ part of the Punto Sport. Now, let’s get on to the real deal!
What powers the Fiat Punto Sport?
The Fiat Punto Sport is powered by a 1.3 litre Multi Jet diesel engine that produces 93PS @ 4000rpm and 209Nm of torque @ 2000rpm. Of course, the 75 hp version of the same engine is also available in the Fiat Punto but it is extremely inadequate. This version of the MultiJet, and I am spilling the beans right now, is PERFECT!
Crank the engine and it silently comes to life. No shake, no judder no drama at all. Slip it into first gear and you will realize that the clutch is very light to operate. Once you are rolling, you notice that there is a considerable amount of lag below 1500 rpm. Though the Punto 90hp gets a VGT (variable geometry turbo) than an FGT (fixed geometry turbo), you can’t feel anything below 1500 rpm. Generally, VGT is a way to overcomes the turbo lag problem but in the Punto, there is still a lot of evidence of the lag
But once you are past 1500 rpm, you are presented with a mountain of torque to play with. Past 1500 rpm, the Punto 90 is one of the best accelerating on the market right now. At around 2,200 rpm, you are literally the king on the road.
Keep the engine boiling and you will think that overtaking is the best ‘sport’ (no pun intended) one can ever play. Despite of being a diesel, this engine can rev all the way to 5000 rpm.
To quantify the performance, the Punto 90hp is 3.8 seconds quicker to 100 kph than the regular 75hp car and it is 10 kph faster than the regular car.
The key problem with the regular Punto is the weight. At 1145kgs, the Punto is a heavy car. The 90 HP does true justice to the Punto in every sense of the word. The weight of the Punto plays in its favor on high speeds where it feel extremely planted through straights and corners.
Fiat has also played with the ECU of the Punto 90hp to improve the drivability of the engine. The extra power of the Punto is a blessing on the highway when you want to cruise at lower rpms. The city driving is considerably better thanks to the low end availability of torque.
Another marked improvement is the NVH levels. Fiat has provided the Punto 90 with additional sound and vibration insulation.
One major complaint is the gearbox. Somehow the gear gates are not perfectly aligned and it is very easy to mis-shift. There was a major problem with the second gear which refused to slot in the first attempt every time. Otherwise, the gear ratios are perfect. The third and fourth gear are really strong when overtaking and cornering.
How is the ride and handling?
Perfect! It is indeed perfect. The Punto is one of the best handling car on sale today and the 90hp version is no exception. Punto’s suspension suits well for Indian road conditions. Especially, the fact that the Punto ground clearance is now raised to 185mm, you can really take her across any bad road stretch without any worries.
The Fiat Punto 90 hp suspension set up consists of the traditional McPherson Struts, Helical Springs, Double acting Telescopic dampers with Stabilizer bar at the front and Torsion beam, Helical Springs and Double Acting double dampers at the rear. Adding to that, the Punto gets a hydraulic power steering which weighs perfectly at any speeds. Furthermore, the fat 195/60/15 Tubeless tyres grip the road like a toddler to its mother’s hand. It is quite obvious that we have the making of a car that can corner like cheetah.
Thankfully, the increase of GC has not disturbed any settings of the Punto’s driving dynamics.
What about fuel economy?
Here is the best part of a performance car with a diesel engine. The Fiat Punto easily returns at least 15kpl even on full-throttle driving. According to ARAI, the Punto 90 could offer 20kmpl if driven sensibly.
What about safety?
The Fiat Punto 90Hp has a long list of safety features such as:
- Fire Prevention system
- Coded Immobilizer
- Speed sensitive door locking
- Front airbags
- ABS and EBD braking
What did I not like about Punto 90 Sport?
Very few things actually:
- Leather seats should have been given as standard.
- There is no exhaust note at higher RPMs, just a very boring diesel drone.
- Punto’s typical ergonomics are more suited to tall people. Short or averagely heighted people will find it difficult to be comfortable.
- An all four disc brake set up would have much appreciated
The Fiat Punto 90 Sport is a perfect hot-hatch package on sale right now on the Indian market. The fact that it is high performance diesel itself means that it will give you true driving pleasure without burning your wallet. The only competition right now is the Volkswagen Polo 1.6L which unfortunately is a petrol powered hot-hatch.
If you are in the market for a fast hatchback your options are limited – in fact there is only one that makes sense to head as well your heart. And guess what - its Italian ;)