Fiat Punto Evo
Can sporting name, fresh look and hi-tech new engine help keep supermini in contention with Fiesta and Polo?
* Price: £12,500 (est) * Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 105bhp * Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive * 0-62/top spd: 10.8s/115mph * Econ/CO2: 50mpg/134g/km * Equipment: Electric windows, ESP, stop-start, Bluetooth and USB, leather steering wheel and gearknob, 17-inch alloy wheels * On sale: January 2010
The latest Fiat Punto shares a badge with sporting legends like the Mitsubishi Lancer and Lancia Delta Integrale. But it’s no hot hatch – instead, increased efficiency is the name of the game for the Evo.
This revised version of the firm’s best-selling supermini goes on sale early next year, starting at around £10,500. It benefits from a fresh range of MultiAir petrol and JTD diesel engines, incorporating stop-start, as well as an upgraded interior. The Evo will be offered alongside the current Grande Punto – which will have its model range and price tag cut back.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Fiat Punto
That leaves the newcomer to take on VW’s new Polo and the Ford Fiesta. So, is it good enough to beat two of the best superminis ever? The Punto Evo certainly stands out, with a larger front grille and new badging, as well as redesigned headlights and wraparound bumpers front and rear.
Our car came with Sports trim, which adds 17-inch alloys, side sills, a rear spoiler and an uprated exhaust – all of which provides more presence, without detracting from the Fiat’s pleasing lines.
Inside, there’s been a big leap forward. The dash is completely redesigned, and now features softer materials, the dials are bigger and the seats get fresh upholstery.
Our car was generously equipped, with Fiat’s intuitive Blue&Me TomTom package, which comprises a USB port for MP3 players, plus Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and sat-nav. Also fitted was the clever eco:Drive set-up. This downloads data on your driving to a USB stick, which you feed into a PC. Fiat’s software can then provide tips on improving your efficiency.
Petrol fans have a choice of a 77bhp 1.4 and two new 1.4-litre MultiAir units, with 105bhp or 135bhp. We tried the 105bhp model, and were impressed by the MultiAir technology. This sees the camshafts and valves replaced by an electrohydraulic management set-up, which gives better control over combustion. The result is a boost in power, to the tune of 28bhp, but reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
On the road, it makes the Evo feel much more punchy and smooth than the base Grande Punto 1.4. Plus, it returns 50mpg combined (up from 47.9mpg), and puts out 5g/km less CO2, at 134g/km.
There’s also a pair of Multijet diesels, delivering 75bhp and 90bhp, while all new models get Fiat’s latest Start&Stop system. This works in the same way as rival set-ups – turning off the engine when you come to a halt and select neutral, and firing it again when you press the clutch – and is smooth in operation.
As with the Grande Punto, the Evo’s steering is very light and doesn’t provide much feel, but the car coped well with the corners on our twisty route, resisting body roll. It delivers a smooth and comfortable ride, too. Plus, a hot Abarth version, with a 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo, will join the range.
Is the Punto Evo good enough to topple the Polo and Fiesta? Not quite. It can’t match the bulletproof feel of the VW or the Ford’s sparkle. But it’s an excellent supermini that looks better than ever, drives well and shouldn’t cost much to run.
Rival: Ford Fiesta The best model in Ford’s excellent range, the Fiesta scores with a blend of sharp looks and low running costs. What really defines it, though, is the strongest driving experience in the supermini class.