Abarth Punto Evo

Fiat's in house tuners aim to give this Italian supermini even more sting - without compromising everyday useability.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

It’s hard not to be won over by the Abarth’s eager engine and stylish looks. What’s more, at this price, it’s a tempting buy, too – offering a softer alternative to more focused rivals, such as the Renaultsport Clio. The ride may be a little stiff, but with decent long-distance ability and a spacious cabin, it’s a real everyday hot hatch. While these changes are unlikely to boost sales greatly, buyers will be getting a car that’s guaranteed to be more exclusive than most of its rivals. Those after a more hardcore hot hatch experience should wait for the 180bhp + Esseesse version, due out in November.

It’s update time for the hottest Punto. Following the launch of Fiat’s revised and rebadged Punto Evo, tuning arm Abarth has now got its hands on the motor.

But with only 247 examples of the previous Abarth Grande Punto hot hatch sold in the UK last year, has the Scorpion-badged brand done enough to boost its desirability?

Well, it certainly looks aggressive. The front bumper has twin air intakes to help cool the brembo brakes, while at the back there’s a spoiler and diffuser.

The suspension has been lowered, and 17-inch alloy wheels fill out the arches neatly. The red side stripes and door mirrors fitted work out as a £160 option, but look great.

The heart of any Abarth is its engine, and the Evo has a 1.4-litre MultiAir unit, now fitted with a Garrett turbo, pushing power to 163bhp. Yet it’s the 250Nm of torque that you notice most on the move.

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The Punto pulls strongly above 3,000rpm and feels quicker than its performance figures suggest, with strong in-gear punch backed up by a raucous exhaust note.

Inside, the new Jaeger-designed instruments are picked out in the traditional red and yellow of the Abarth shield, and colourful stitching on the leather trim provides an extra dash of flair. There’s plenty of equipment, but material quality could be better, and the seat squabs are slightly too short.

Of the two driving modes to choose from – Normal and Sport – most owners will opt for the latter, because this frees up extra torque and adds weight to the accurate but numb steering. The Abarth grips strongly, and a clever traction control system operates on the inside wheel to reduce understeer into corners.

The ride is stiff in either mode, though. Posting 47.1mpg on the combined cycle and emitting only 142g/km of CO2, thanks to the Start&Stop system, this is a hot hatch that should be cheap to run.

Overall, the tuned Punto is a fun drive, but it’s a shame Abarth’s engineers didn’t iron out some of the car’s rougher edges.

Rival: Clio Renaultsport 200 Hardcore Renault sets the benchmark in this class. It’s much more involving to drive, but cheaper Punto’s extra torque makes its performance more accessible on road.

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