Fiat Punto review
Dated design and poor driving experience leave the Fiat Punto trailing behind its supermini rivals
The Fiat Punto has been around for donkey’s years – since 2005 in fact – and it shows in almost every facet of the car’s design and performance. It’s rather bland looking, is not particularly competitive with newer rivals for emissions or economy, and its engineering and technology feels past the ‘best before’ date.
While the Punto’s relatively practical packaging, reasonable safety credentials, decent kit list and a smooth ride have some appeal, they ultimately fail to compensate for the car’s lacklustre handling and dated underpinnings. Superminis may be mostly bought for their practicality and cost-effectiveness, but the best ones are also good fun to drive – and the current generation Punto just isn’t.
Gone are the days when the Fiat Punto was the default first car choice. It arrived in the UK in 1994 as a follow-up to the incredibly successful Fiat Uno, and was an immediate triumph, beating the VW Polo to the European Car of the Year award in 1995.
As well as mainstream 3- and 5-door Punto models, Fiat also enjoyed great success with the fun to drive Sporting and GT versions, and there was even a convertible too.
An all-new Punto arrived at the turn of the century and was pretty successful in its own right, but by the time the current generation Punto arrived – all the way back in 2005 – the writing was on the wall. Competition had hotted up, with new versions of the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo coming to dominate the UK sales charts at the Punto’s expense.
While its rivals have kept growing-up, the Punto is almost unchanged since it’s 2005 launch. There have been slight tweaks to the styling and engines, but the fact remains that it’s somewhat off the pace compared to modern-day competitors.
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Fiat’s even tried changing the name from Grande Punto to Punto Evo but now we’re back to plain-old Punto. The current range consists of just two trims – entry-level Pop+ and the better-equipped Easy+. Special edition Jet Black II and GBT models may also be available from your local dealer.
In terms of kit, all cars get air-con, power steering, alloy wheels, a trip computer, electric front windows, remote locking and four airbags, but it’s worth stepping up to the Pop+ if budget allows. Those cars add 16-inch wheels, automatic climate control and even sat-nav.
The engine range is even less extensive, comprising a pair of 8v petrols. Buyers are restricted to a 1.2-litre or 1.4-litre unit with 68bhp or 76bhp respectively – neither of which are particularly perky, and by contemporary standards they’re not very efficient either.
Engines, performance and drive
The city is clearly the Fiat Punto’s preferred habitat. Parking is stress free thanks to the light steering and decent visibility. The turning circle could be tighter, but all things considered, it’s fairly easy to manoeuvre.
On the open road, the lack of feedback from the feather-light wheel can be disconcerting. Neither engine is particularly responsive either, so overtaking requires a degree of preparation. Things are not helped there by an occasionally awkward gearshift mechanism, which makes it too easy to miss a slot unless your gear change movements are quite slow and deliberate.
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Disappointingly the Punto also displays shoddy body control when cornered hard and that means more dynamic rivals like the Ford Fiesta feel a class above, too. The brakes are over-sharp but at least the suspension soaks up bumps and ridges comfortably enough. You can also cruise quite comfortably on the motorway, where the Punto’s progress isn’t so often interrupted by the need to steer around corners.
In short, if you drive everywhere slowly and not for fun, the Punto is a passable means of transportation. But the lack of any handling brio is disappointing considering the Punto’s ancestry.
Fiat used to offer the Punto with turbocharged TwinAir petrol and MultiJet diesel engines, but these are no longer available – probably because the model is getting to the end of its usable life.
You’re left with a choice of two 8-valve petrol engines, in 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre capacities making 68bhp and 76bhp respectively. The 1.4-litre version isn’t unpleasant, and indeed feels quite refined and smooth.
However a 0-62mph time of 13.2 seconds is hardly thrilling, and the 14.4 seconds recorded by the 1.2-litre is even less so. On the positive side, at least neither engine will encourage you to explore the limitations of the Punto's chassis.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
One selling point the Fiat Punto has over its rivals is its price, undercutting the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio when compared like-for-like. Prices start at less than £11,000, and all cars get alloy wheels, electric front windows and air-conditioning. If your budget will stretch, though, we’d go for the better-specced Easy+ car.
With the removal of Fiat’s TwinAir petrol and MultiJet diesel from the Punto range, buyers are limited to a pair of slow and sluggish 8v petrol engines.
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The smaller 1.2-litre engine will do 52.3mpg and emit a fairly unimpressive 124g/km of CO2. That equates to a £110 annual road tax bill – a lot for such a small car these days. The larger 1.4 is a bit quicker, but as a result fuel economy drops to 49.6mpg and emissions jump to 132g/km for yearly tax of £130.
Insurance should be fairly cheap though, and servicing is relatively affordable.
Insurance will be pretty cheap for the Fiat Punto, with all models attracting a group 8 rating. If you’re looking for the ultimate economy, many rival superminis manage to score ratings that are a few groups lower – but if you shop around a little harder than usual for quotes, you can probably even out the differences.
While the Fiat Punto is a cheap car to buy new, it won’t feel that way when you come to sell it. Used car valuation experts CAP reckon all versions of the current model will retain just 28 per cent of their new value if you sell at three years/36,000 miles.
To put that prediction into cash terms, if you pay something over £12k for the most expensive 1.4 five-door in Easy+ trim you’ll be left with not much more than £3k in your pocket after driving the car for three years. Mind you, a £12k Fiesta 1.25 Style will only do a couple of points better.
Interior, design and technology
This is the third generation of the Fiat Punto and despite a series of facelifts things have remained largely unchanged since it first emerged as the Grande Punto in 2005.
New headlights or a few extra paint choices can’t disguise its dated design, and the Punto looks bland next to more head-turning rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and Kia Rio. In fact, cars like the Honda Jazz are now being overhauled for the second time – making Fiat’s Punto look really rather old. It’s a shame, considering how fresh and innovative the Punto looked when first introduced in the early 1990s, but Fiat owners looking for something more fun and funky have various versions of the 500 and Panda to choose from.
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There are two specs to choose from, Pop+ and Easy+. The basic model is still fairly poorly specced, though all cars do get alloy wheels, body coloured door mirrors and remote central locking. Easy+ models add larger wheels, front fog lights and darkened headlamps.
Neither is particularly exciting to look at though, and the Punto’s drab personality continues inside. Cheap plastics, a tiny gearlever and the cabin’s overall flimsiness make the cheaper Fiat Panda look like a luxury car.
Top-spec Easy+ cars are better equipped and for an extra £1,100 add TomTom sat-nav, climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The entry-level audio package in the Fiat Punto is a basic radio with MP3 compatible CD player, but you get steering wheel controls and six speakers including a pair of tweeters. Bluetooth connectivity for your phone is also standard, or you can use AUX or USB inputs to stream music.
The portable TomTom sat-nav is only available on the Easy+ model, as it requires a specific set-up for the audio system.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Up front in the Punto the driving position feels a bit high, but there’s still sufficient headroom, and visibility is good as a result. There’s a decent range of adjustability in the seating too, which means most will find a comfortable setting. One additional plus point in the Punto’s favour is a good level of noise suppression, which makes travelling longer distances quite relaxing.
It’s also an easy car to drive and manoeuvre around town, although you can have optional parking sensors at the back if you want them. There’s plenty of space for bits and pieces in the cabin too, with a large glovebox and four cup-holders in the front.
As the Punto is only available with a five-door hatchback body these days, access to the rear seats is fine.
The Fiat Punto is 4,065mm long, 1,490mm high, and 1,687mm wide. That makes it a little longer than the five-door Fiesta which is 3,969mm x 1,495mm x 1,722mm.
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Leg room, head room & passenger space
Space in the rear seats is acceptable, too, with decent head and legroom for full-sized adults. Two should be comfortable – unless they’re long-legged – but although the seats are configured for three, it will definitely feel like a squeeze. A 60:40 split-fold seat with ISOFIX child seat mountings is standard on the Easy+, but you need to pay extra if you want it on the Pop+.
In terms of outright boot space, the ageing Punto loses out to some of its more contemporary rivals. With 275 litres, it's 10-litres down on the Vauxhall Corsa and 20 litres down on the Ford Fiesta. However, with the rear seats folded, the load space opens up to an impressive 1,030-litres, which transforms the hatchback’s carrying ability. The Volkswagen Polo can only muster 952-litres, for example.
The seats fold flat in the Punto too, but there is a bit of a lip to haul things over. There’s no standard spare wheel either, as you’re expected to rely on Fiat’s optimistically named Fix&Go puncture repair kit. You can buy an optional space-saver or full-size spare wheel with both trim levels though.
Reliability and Safety
Fiat came 24th in our 2015 Driver Power survey for reliability and consumer satisfaction. While that may not sound too good, it’s actually a three-place improvement on the previous year, and a big jump from its rock-bottom finish in 2012.
There’s still lots of room for improvement though, and the brand will need to make strides in the performance and ride quality stakes if it wants to take more steps up the ladder in 2016. Practicality and seat comfort are also areas for development.
The Fiat Punto should be relatively safe in spite of its age though, as driver, passenger and knee airbags are standard on both trim levels. The supermini also managed four-stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
Back in 2005 when it was crash tested the percentage ratings for categories had yet to be introduced. Instead, the Punto was awarded five stars for adult occupant safety, and three stars each for child occupant and pedestrian safety. While that means it’s hard to make direct comparisons, it seems reasonable to assume that more recently designed rivals will crash more safely. The chances are they’ll feature more on-board safety tech too.
In terms of standard or optional safety kit, the Punto falls a little behind its more up-to-date rivals. You do get ABS, ESP and a hill-hold system as standard, but there’s no Emergency Brake Assist, lane-keep assist or blind-spot warning – even on the options list. Cornering fog-lights are standard on the Easy+, but there’s not much else to boast about.
The Fiat Punto comes with the Italian manufacturer’s standard three-year/unlimited mileage warranty cover, which is better than some rivals who impose 60,000-mile limits. Others push the boat out further of course, and Hyundai offers five-year cover with unlimited mileage, while Kia offers an impressive seven years.
As it’s a relatively low-end competitor, dealers for the Fiat brand should offer pretty reasonable service rates. The Punto itself has 18,000 mile or two-year service intervals, whichever comes first.