FIAT likes to keep us on our toes. We were always fine with the Punto badge. Then Fiat decided to call the handsome thing it launched in 2005 the “Grande Punto”. Then, in 2009, it became the “Punto Evo”. But just three years later, we’ve come full circle and returned to “Punto”.
So far, so Italian. Thankfully Fiat has been doing something other than navel-gazing over names. It has plumbed the technically brilliant two-cylinder TwinAir engine, previously found in the 500, into the Punto. But can such a small engine power such a generously cut car? Downsizing engines is one ways to improve a car’s efficiency, but there comes a tipping point where the engine is just too feeble to haul the car about with any verve, which means that economy suffers as drivers are forced to leather the thing about at all times. So does the 875cc engine in the Punto make any sense at all?
It would appear to. Fiat’s entry-level 1.2-litre engine fronts up with just 68bhp, so the additional 16bhp of the TwinAir lends it a little in reserve and the fact that it generates a fairly meaty 103lb ft of torque at just 2,000rpm will allow it to step off the line briskly enough. The baby twin has an in-built balancer shaft but, to finesse refinement further for the Punto, it gets a dual-mass flywheel, sits on a new design of engine mount and is surrounded by extra engine bay sound proofing. It’s a clever piece of technology, with an electro-hydraulic valve propulsion system, which cuts pumping losses and improves efficiency by around 10 per cent. While it’s no ball of fire, the Punto TwinAir is capable of hitting 60mph in 12.3 seconds and runs onto a top speed of 107mph.
The Punto is already one of the most handsome small cars on sale and the latest developments pare back a few of the excesses of the previous Evo model. The bumpers have been re-profiled and are now body coloured across the entire range. The interior looked quite good to begin with, so radical surgery hasn’t been required. The control systems are easy to fathom and particular mention should go to the elegantly sculpted three-spoke steering wheel.
The Punto is one of the larger cars in the supermini sector and comes with a spacious interior. The 275-litre boot isn’t outstanding for its class, but rear leg and headroom is very good indeed.
At just over £12,000 for the three-door model and a £600 premium for the five-door car, it’s hard to argue with the Punto TwinAir’s value proposition. For the price of many tiny city cars, you’re getting a spacious and good looking supermini with a level of sophistication some way removed from your usual shopping hatch.
It’s not the most lavishly equipped supermini, but you do get air conditioning, an MP3 compatible CD stereo, Dualdrive power steering, privacy glass, 15-inch TwinAir alloy wheels and twin front and window airbags. You’ll need to pay extra for side airbags, ESP stability control and sat nav.
There’s been some controversy over the smaller Fiat 500 TwinAir’s published fuel economy figures, with many owners struggling to get anywhere near the claimed consumption numbers, so until we see some independent testing, I’d be inclined to take the reputed 67.3mpg figure put forward for this Punto TwinAir with something of a pinch of salt.
The key quality this car boasts is simple likeability. It’s good looking, the TwinAir engine sounds characterful and the pricing is competitive. The Punto might have evolved in a seemingly haphazard manner, but the stars have aligned in a very positive way for the birth of the Punto TwinAir.
CAR Fiat Punto TwinAir
PRICE From £12,100-£12,700
PERFORMANCE Max speed 107mph; 0-62 12.7secs
MPG 67.3 (combined)
CO2 EMISSIONS 98g/km
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North