With a full-fledged exclusive dealership network in place, the Fiat Punto Evo marks the start of a brand new Indian innings for the Italian automaker who is currently struggling to make headway with market share in the very same country which it dominated once with the Premier Padmini (Fiat 1100).
One would have ideally expected Fiat to take another stab at India with the new B segment products (like the 500L Touring and the Fiat 500X) lifted off the global portfolio but the company is choosing to play safe by starting with a revamped Punto and moving forward with an India-spec instant crossover, the Avventura.
So, what is new in the Fiat Punto Evo and has it got what it takes to put the brand back in the game? We find out in this review.
Penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the almost-decade old original Punto had always been a looker. The Punto Evo gets a new India-specific front fascia and rear bumper which give the car a modern aura with a bold character.
The larger peeled-back headlamps and chrome-lined grille do a very good job of hiding the hatchback's age. The bumper has a sharp chin air-splitter and houses a wider secondary airdam. The prominent chrome topped foglamp enclosures gel well with the rest of the elements. A subtle power bulge on the new bonnet adds to the sporty character of the revamped front end.
The silhouette of hatchback has been retained which is a good thing considering that the Punto is still one of the best looking hatchbacks around. The wing mirrors now accommodate integrated LED turn indicators and the new top-end Sport variant has been bestowed with 16-inch alloy wheels.
Coming to the rear, the Punto Evo's taillights are tastefully detailed with outer LED tubing and clear lens indicator bulbs. The most noticeable change however comes in the form of a massive chrome ornamentation that runs across the width of the car and hosts reverse lamp (left) and red foglamp (right). The Sport variant also gets a roof mounted spoiler and the new 'Punto Evo' badge sum up exterior changes.
Whereas the old Punto lagged behind the competition in the interior department, the new Punto Evo manages to stay at par by borrowing its dashboard from the Linea facelift.
The Sport employs a full-black theme while the other variants offer a dual-tone black-beige treatment. The centre console is finished in a glossy black. The new multi-dial instrument console gets an amber backlit multi-info display.
The dashboard certainly uplifts the cabin ambiance and the build quality has improved by several notches. Overall ergonomics is decent but when it comes to driving position, some would feel that the steering wheel angle is a bit too upright, even after positioning it at the lowest possible level. That said, the Punto is a comfortable car to drive with the seat offering right amount of cushion, thigh support and side bolstering, even for a tall person.
The rear passengers now get an AC vent which is located between the front seats and the air circulation is impressive. The rear bench is comfortable for two and just like the front seats, offers adequate cushioning and thigh support but the leg and knee rooms are in short supply. Tall passengers upfront would really put the rear seat occupants in a fix.
While on the move, the cabin does permit some amount of wind and tyre noises to filter in.
Engine and Gearbox
India's best selling 1.3-litre MultiJet engine is available in its 90 bhp (92.72 PS) avatar only in the top-of-the-line Punto Evo Sport. With a peak torque of 209 Nm available from 2,000 rpm, the motor continues unchanged. The familiar engine is reasonably refined for its segment, getting a bit noisy only under hard acceleration.
Despite breathing via a VGT (Variable Geometry Turbocharger), moving off the line is not at all brisk as the first hint of acceleration can be noticed only when the tacho needle nears 2,000 rpm, the point of peak torque. Post that, the progress is swift but nothing too dramatic. The Punto Evo Sport weights 1,198 kg and it shows in the way it gathers momentum.
The pronounced turbo lag and hence a feeble low-end mean managing the engine in city environment proves to be quite a handful. Frequent downshifts are simply inevitable. While the motor compromises heavily on tractability, it compensates with a good ability to cruise at highway speeds.
The gear shift quality is decent for the most part but slotting into second lacks enough feedback. We felt the same with the petrol variant as well. Slightly shorter lower gear ratios would have helped counteract the huge turbo lag. The higher gears let you achieve commendable highway speeds, that is when you keep the throttle foot down long enough.
Performance and Fuel Efficiency
The 90 bhp Punto Evo is claimed to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 14.33 seconds and has a top speed of 165 km/h.
The on-board fuel economy calculator indicated an overall fuel economy of 13.5 km/l under spirited and city driving conditions. At 20.5 km/l, the ARAI rating is same as the older car.
Ride and Handling
The old Punto is widely acclaimed for its riding and handling package and it continues to be the car's main USP. The spring stiffness and suspension damping are spot-on, resulting in terrific straight line stability. Ride quality is best-in-class.
The Punto Evo readily changes direction without much of a body roll and the steering system which is one of the last hydraulic units in the segment, justifies its continuance with just the right amount of weight and an excellent feedback all the time.
Safety & Equipment
The Fiat Punto Evo Sport comes with dual airbags and ABS. Brakes are adequate for normal driving but enthusiasts would have liked more initial bite. Not surprisingly, given the suspension is well sorted, stability under braking is quite impressive.
16-inch alloy wheels, rear wiper, roof mounted spoiler, front and rear foglamps, power windows, automatic climate control, ambient lighting on the dashboard and audio system with Blue&ME (Bluetooth Telephony) with voice command, are our feature highlights.
Fiat will launch the Punto Evo in the first week of August. The prices are expected to range from INR 5 to 7.5 lakhs, ex-showroom.
The Fiat Punto Evo is a huge improvement when it comes to what meets the eyes but is very much the same under the skin which is good and bad. It is good when it comes to ride and handling, and not so as far as the 90 HP engine's drivability is concerned (we are yet to test the 76 PS diesel variant).
The promise of better ownership and service experience by the exclusive Fiat dealerships make the Punto far more attractive than before. Now, it all comes down to the price.
Fiat Punto Evo - Spec Sheet
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