Fiat Grande Punto Hatchback review (2006-2011)
With a real dose of Italian style, the Grande Punto is not only one of the largest superminis, it's also one of the best.
Driving: The Grande Punto's steering may lack feel on the open road but, in its natural city centre environment, the electric system's City mode is great. It lightens the wheel and makes it easy to drive. The ride is absorbent when cruising, but ironically deteriorates a little at low speeds. Generally, the Punto drives ell when pressing on, with impressive stability in bends and strong brakes. But petrol engines lack power, with even the 1.4-litre not offering much to get excited about. Diesels are better, with more useful response to the accelerator, though all models share a loose gearshift. Refinement of every Punto is excellent.
Marketplace: Fiat has a long and illustrious history of building small cars, and doesn't seem to have lost its touch with the Grange Punto. Fresh, clean lines and a bold, Maserati-style nose provide plenty of visual appeal. The biggest model in its class, the Punto is available in three- or five-door guise, and a wide range of five trim levels and six engines is offered. Interestingly, four of the engines are diesels. The Punto is temptingly priced compared to rivals, but some of the petrol engines lack power. Fiat is set to challenge supermini front-runners for sales; they include the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio, Peugeot 207 and VW Polo.
Owning: It's a large car, more Honda Jazz and Renault Clio than Toyota Yaris, but a long front overhang (to boost crash safety) means the passenger compartment is not as large as you might hope. Adults in the rear will find their knees brush the front seatbacks, while access to the rear of the three-door is tight. Still, headroom is plentiful and the bench comfortable, even if the boot is unexceptional and saddled with a high sill. But up front, the driving position is great and the good-looking seats are supportive. Doors shut with a solid thunk and there are none of the rattles or squeaks found in some rivals. A distant, steeply raked windscreen and clear, logical dash enhance the big car feel. Small-car fuel economy and insurance ratings are a key attraction, though, while service intervals of 18,000 miles are very generous. The Punto even retains a high percentage of its list price on the used market, while a five-star Euro-NCAP crash result is backed by the highest score of any supermini. It's therefore a shame Fiat's warranty is mean; only two year's manufacturer cover, with a third year supplied by the dealer.