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In-depth reviews

Fiat Punto (2012-2018) review

Old school engineering and a less than thrilling drive make the Fiat Punto hard to recommend

Overall Auto Express Rating

1.0 out of 5

  • Cabin refinement, decent safety, low running costs
  • Tired design, cabin build quality, sloppy handling

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.

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• Best small cars

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.

The Fiat Punto for sale today has little of the lustre that its predecessors attracted. When the model first landed at UK dealers in 1994 it was an instant hit, and then it went on to trump the Volkswagen Polo by clinching the European Car of the Year Award.

Over successive years Fiat made hay with standard models and fun versions like the Punto GT and Punto Sporting, but as competition in the supermini sector hotted-up it all started going a bit wrong. By 2005 Fiat had its knickers properly in a twist, confusingly naming versions of the third generation car the Grande Punto and Punto Evo, before seeing the error of its ways and reverting to simply Punto again in 2012. Even Punto Abarth versions had failed to return the magic, and as a result the Punto 2017 range is a shadow of its former self.

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• Best first cars

In spite of its name changes and various facelifts, the current Punto’s engineering is still firmly based on a car developed in 2005. With rivals like the Ford FiestaVauxhall CorsaCitroen C3, Hyundai i20, Renault Clio, Peugeot 208 and Skoda Fabia all getting great reviews, the Punto’s inadequacies are all too obvious.

Fiat, which is doing so well with its little 500 city car and various spin-off models, seems to have lost a bit of appetite for the Punto too. Nowadays you can only buy it in the UK as a five-door hatch, in a choice of just two trim levels and two engines.

The entry model is called the Punto Pop+ and while it may not be a class leader from a technical point of view, it does look reasonably well equipped. This cheapest Punto spec includes a CD and MP3 player with steering wheel controls, air conditioning, electric front windows, driver’s seat height adjustment and a 60:40 split folding rear seat. Outside you get 15-inch alloy wheels and body-colour mirrors, but not much else.

Move up to the Punto Easy+ and things improve a little, with dual zone climate control, integrated sat-nav, 16-inch alloys and dark tinted headlamps and windows.

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.

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