Fiat Punto review
Dated design and poor driving experience leave the Fiat Punto trailing behind its supermini rivals.
Gone are the days when the Fiat Punto was the default first car choice. Competition has hotted up in recent years, with new versions of the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo coming to dominate the UK sales charts.
While rivals have grown up, the Punto is almost unchanged since 2005. 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.
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 a air-con, alloy wheels, a trip computer, electric front windows and four airbags, but it’s worth stepping up to the Pop+ if budget allows. Those cars add 16-inch wheels, 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 can do 0-62mph in less than 13 seconds. They’re not even particularly economical, either, with even the lesser 1.2 emitting 126g/km of CO2.
In general, decent safety credentials, decent kit list and a smooth ride fail to compensate for the Punto’s lacklustre handling and dated underpinnings.
Our choice: Fiat Punto 1.4 8v Easy+
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.
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.
The Punto 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.
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.
The smaller 1.2-litre engine will do 52.3mpg and emit a fairly unimpressive 126g/km of CO2. That equates to a £110 annual road tax bill – a lot for such a small car. 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.
Interior, design and technology
This is the third generation of the Fiat Punto and despite a series of facelifts things remain 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.
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.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
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.
Space in the rear seats is acceptable, too, with decent head and legroom for full-sized adults. Up front, the driving position feels a bit high but visibility is good as a result.
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 room for improvement though, and the brand will need to make strides in the performance and ride quality stakes if it wants to see an improvement in 2016. Practicality and seat comfort are also areas for development.
At least the Fiat Punto is safe though, as driver, passenger and knee airbags are standard. The supermini also managed four-stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.