Abarth Punto review
Hot hatchback Abarth Punto supermini has plenty of performance, but the boy racer image won't be to all tastes
There are a number of hot superminis fighting for class honours, but that means the Abarth Punto is somewhat overlooked. It’s based on Fiat’s ageing Punto supermini, but tuning firm Abarth transforms the three-door model into an entertaining machine. The boy-racer looks won’t be to all tastes, and the figure-hugging Sabelt bucket seats are set too high in the poor quality cabin, but the Punto’s 165bhp 1.4-litre turbo engine is a gem, and the chassis has quite a forgiving set-up, too.
Our choice: Abarth Punto 1.4 T-Jet Esseesse
There’s no question that the Abarth Punto turns heads. It’s been given a racy makeover to separate it from the Fiat Punto range, with the addition of bigger bumpers, side skirts and a roof spoiler. It’s offered in white, red or black, and Abarth badges adorn the nose and tail, while buyers can add racing stripes to make it stand out further. All of these add-ons are a bit boy racer, and the theme continues inside, with a body-coloured flash across the dashboard and a pair of figure hugging Sabelt race seats added up front.
Get past the boy-racer looks, and the Abarth Punto is a fun car to drive. It’s not as sharp as a Renaultsport Clio 200, but competes with the Vauxhall Corsa VXR and more fun to drive than the similar Alfa Romeo MiTo Cloverleaf. Like the MiTo, the Punto has a switch on the centre console to change throttle and steering response to suit your mood. The Sport setting is best, as it makes the most of the punchy 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine. Abarth offers an Esseesse kit, which boosts power to 180bhp, adds racing brakes and stiffens the suspension further, and is even more fun to drive. But whichever version you choose, the Abarth is fairly comfortable when you’re taking it easy.
The Abarth Punto is hand finished by the firm’s technicians, so should be more reliable than the standard Fiat Punto. However, that’s not really saying much, as Fiat doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability. In order to address this, Fiat has only made 24 of its Fiat dealers official Abarth stockists. The Abarth Punto comes with electronic stability control and cruise control as standard.
You don’t buy a hot supermini for practicality, and the Abarth Punto is only average for the class. It’s only offered as a three-door, so access to the back seats is tricky. And when you’re there legroom is poorer than in the standard Fiat Punto because of the bulky race seats in front of you. Up front, those seats can be a pinch for people with wide hips, and they’re set high, so you feel like you’re sitting on, rather than in the car. A boot of 275 litres is average for the class, and the folding rear seat doesn’t have a split in it.
The good news is that the Abarth Punto undercuts most of its rivals on price. The basic car is around £2,000 less than the Renaultsport Clio or Vauxhall Corsa VXR, but adding the Esseesse pretty much cancels out the difference. Considering the performance on offer, the Abarth Punto is surprisingly economical. The 1.4-litre turbo engine comes with stop-start as standard, which helps it to return 47.1mpg and emissions of 142g/km. That’s very competitive, especially when you consider the Renaultsport Clio returns 44.1mpg and 190g/km, while the Vauxhall Corsa VXR returns 38.7mpg and 172g/km.