Fiat Grande Punto Hatchback review (2006-2011)
Great to look at, agile and fun to drive, the Punto Sporting has a lot going for it. It's well equipped too, and offers a fine blend of performance, economy and refinement.
Driving: With 17-inch wheels as standard, the Sporting lives up to its name on the road and offers excellent grip and good stability under braking. The suspension isn't overly firm yet still feels well controlled, striking a good balance between comfort and handling. However, the damping doesn't cope as well at low speeds, where the wheels patter over imperfections and transmit knocks into the cabin. The steering is light and doesn't offer huge feedback, but turn-in is crisp and the Punto is adjustable on the throttle. It comes with stability control as standard, and the electronics aren't too intrusive, while traction is very good. The 1.9-litre MultiJet diesel is smooth, proving a swift, capable unit that delivers its ample torque in a very measured way. It's therefore a shame the gearbox is slack and the clutch springy.
Marketplace: The standard Punto's lines already impress and, thanks to its lowered ride height and deeper side skirts, the Sporting model looks sharper still. There's even a passing resemblance to more illustrious members of the Fiat family - the shape of the headlights and front bumper has similarities to the Maserati Coupe, for example. For now, the Sporting offers just a single three-door bodystyle and 130bhp 1.9-litre MultiJet engine, and takes on models such as the Skoda Fabia vRS and VW Polo TDI 130 Sport, both of which use the same 1.9-litre TDI oil-burner. Ford also offers a diesel version of its semi-sporty Fiesta Zetec-S, and there's also a diesel version of the Peugeot 206 GTI.
Owning: The Fiat's long wheelbase helps rear room, but the three-door bodyshell and front seats that don't slide far enough forward mean access to the back is tricky. The driving position is spot-on though. There's a huge amount of reach and rake movement on the wheel, while the seats are comfortable and supportive. The dash layout is clear and logical, but some of the switches look old-fashioned, and unfortunately the materials feel hard and brittle. Cabin stowage is also in short supply. And while the doors close with a hefty clunk, giving a feeling of solidity, there were a couple of bits of loose trim in our test model. At least it's generously equipped, which is impressive considering the good value list price. Standard front, side and curtain airbags, as well as a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, mean safety is a strong point too. Furthermore, insurance is low, economy high, service intervals lengthy and retained values very promising indeed.