Fiat Punto Evo – Detailed Test Drive Review
Over the years in India many companies and cars have come and gone. Some came and found their place in the market and stayed while others who couldn’t find their feet left. One company who did manage to stay through the years is FIAT. Fiat has always been accompany which brought some of the best driving cars in India and over the years they have been in India they never did any less. However in recent years the company’s image faded as did their popularity in the Indian Market. Some of the main reasons for this decline were due to their poor after sales and service quality and availability of spares due to the company being coupled with TATA.
Fiat needed to branch out by itself in order to grow and it did exactly that. Last year the company ended its relationship with TATA to venture out by itself. From that time to now the company has done nothing but grow. From establishing a large network of showrooms and service centre’s across India (there are more to come as well), to improving its customer relationships and experience. FIAT is on the fast track to improving its company image and popularity in India. The final piece in that puzzle however was revamping its lineup. They set about doing that at the start of this year with the launch of the face lifted FIAT LINEA which was much improved in the places that needed improving and refreshed in many others. The launch of the Linea saw its place among its competitors rise and make it one of cars too look at.
Now Fiat has decided to change things once again. This time however in a different segment. Fiat other car in their current lineup is the FIAT GRANDE PUNTO. It too was quite old now and suffered from more or less the same issues as the old Linea did. So without anymore delay let me introduce Fiats solution. The FIAT PUNTO EVO. The Punto Evo couldn’t have come any sooner. With its competitors as well launching new cars (Hyundai with the i20 and Volkswagen with the Polo, there are rumor the Skoda is going to release a new Fabia as well) the Punto Evo now puts Fiat as a firm contender in the Indian Market (few more launches of new cars and fiat will most defiantly be a top contender). With this new car Fiat looked to improve the car wherever its predecessor faltered. So now let’s see if they actually succeeded.
The old Punto was one of the most beautiful cars in its segment. Yes I did say beautiful if you were wondering. It wasn’t aggressively or didn’t have any bold/sharp lines. All it had was smooth lines and a very curvy shape. Classic Italian Design. This is what made the car so damn attractive to look at. It had a very subtle presence and would defiantly catch your eye and somehow even if you didn’t find it that appealing. In my opinion the exterior was something that didn’t need to altered that much but FIAT felt the need too so they did. At first glance the new Punto Evo comes across as extensively modified on the outside especially at the front. But on closer inspection you will find the besides the front end of the car most of the car is relatively the same. I say relatively because although the car retains is lovely shape and curves along the side and at the back most of the components like the rear tail lights and bumper have been updated.
So let’s start from the front. This is the part of the car which has gone through most changes. There are new swept headlights, a new grille, new bonnet design, and also new bumper design. The whole design approach at the front now gives off a more Modern Italian Design feel rather than the Classic Italian Design the old Punto radiated with but none the less it still quite attractive to look at. Due to this change in philosophy the front now looks more aggressive and slightly more muscular. The subtly of the old car is lost a bit with the new front end but its not lost all together and Fiat has to be given credit for that. Sometimes when car goes through a revamp on the exterior there is chance that some of the things that made the old car very attractive are lost but in this case FIAT decided not to meddle too much. The bulges on the hood of the car give it that muscular feel.
As you move along the car you will find that the side and rear of the car is relatively untouched in terms of shape of the car. It still retains the smooth curves and lines along the car and also the curvy roof line. The high ground clearance of the car is very much seen from the side. Fiat boasts of the highest ground clearance of 195mm (only on Active Variant, others get 185mm). The 15” diamond cut alloy wheels look good and suit the car well although the 16” Sporty Alloys which come with the 90HP Sport Punto suit the car better. As you move along to the rear there are a few more updates you will notice. There are new tail lights which retain the same shape as the old but are updated in terms of their looks. When the lights are switched on there is a strip which looks like a fiber optic strip you find on much higher end cars but on closer inspection you will find it to be an LED one. None the less it looks very good and makes the car looks modern. There are chrome stripes which surround the rear fog lights and reverse lights. Speaking of Chrome this car actually has a lot of it. Both on the front and back of the car you will find chrome strip after chrome strip. With certain colours like black it goes really well but some people may find it a bit much.
The overall build quality of the exterior is one of the best in its class. Although you will find a few panel gaps here and there the panels feel very solidly put together and feel like they can take some impact as well. Although it is a known fact that FIAT cars are prone to a bit of rust as time goes on it is left to see how well this car fairs in that respect but as of now this car feels like one which will last a while. Overall is a really good looking car with a lot if not more of the Italian flair the old car had and in areas surpasses the old one in terms of build quality.
Take a look inside and you will be in for a bit of a treat. The interior is of the Punto Evo is all new compared to the old car. It shares the same design as the new Linea and frankly I don’t see it as a bad thing. The interior is a step above from the old one and that you can tell just by looking at it. The plastic quality of the dash is much improved over the old car and the general fit and finish of the interior is improved. The washable fabric section of the dashboard also adds a nice feel to the interior as a whole and is also very nice too touch but it is susceptible to pen marks so try to keep your pens and other ink products as far away as possible else you might be facing a tough time getting the ink out. Most of the models follow a black and beige interior scheme but the Punto Evo Sport gets an all black interior which looks very attractive.
There’s an all new music system in place which goes with the all new interior. It’s been given a shiny piano black finish which looks quite up market. The system itself is easy to use in some ways but not that much in others. It’s easy to switch between modes but the intricate sound settings take a bit getting used to adjust. The buttons on the system however are nice soft touch ones which feel very nice when you press them. I prefer this over all the touch sensitive screens coming nowadays in the new cars like in the Honda City and such. These buttons allow the user/driver to know what their pressing without them having to take their eyes of the road and hence I feel is much more user friendly. The music system now comes with AUX capabilities as well and also allows you to play songs via Bluetooth making life quite easy. The Air conditioning controls are located below the music system. The climate control system is easy to use and the screen is clear and precise. The air conditioning itself is quite powerful and matches up well with its competitors.
The instrument Cluster of the New Punto Evo isn’t exactly the same as the one on the Linea. There are a few differences in trip display and font sharpness as well as well as in the analogue dial fonts. None the less the instrument cluster looks very nice and is quite easy to read. The steering can be adjusted only in rake and not reach which is a bit of a letdown considering some of its competitors like the new i20 allow the driver to adjust it in reach as well. That said Fiat have still placed the steering very well but then again it depends on each individual. The steering also contains the controls for the audio system as well as the Blue&Me Bluetooth system which is more advanced and easy to use than the Bluetooth systems in the competitors. The buttons themselves are well integrated into the steering wheel and feel nice to use. The front seats are very supportive and hug the occupant very well. The side bolsters of the seat are quite large and can give a sensation of sinking into the seat. Although for broad shouldered people it can be a bit uncomfortable. The driver seat is height adjustable as well. The head room is ample both at the front and the rear even with the sloping and curved roof line however legroom at the rear isn’t as good as some of its rivals. The seats at the rear are quite comfortable and supportive which lend to fewer stops to stretch and adjust on long drives.
There are sadly a few areas which are to be noted. The plastic on the door panels are still quite hard and as well as on the sides of the centre console. Also it would have been nice to have an central arm rest for the driver its makes life much more comfortable and this is another feature which is slowly appearing in this cars competitors.
Overall the interior of the Punto Evo are much improved in almost every way and is quite a lovely place to be in. It may not be the most modern or well equipped but its put together much better than before, feels much higher quality and boasts enough features to keep most people happy.
Engine & Driving Dynamics:
As everyone knows everything said till now about this car is something which can be done with the car just standing still. So lets get to the main reason for taking this car out for a spin and seeing what its like on the road. We drove the top of the line petrol as well as the regular and sport diesel variants.
So lets begin with engine specs what do these cars have under the hood. Both variants of the diesel Punto Evo come with FIAT’s world renowned MULTIJET engine, more specifically a 1.3litre Multijet engine. The engine is turbo charged and is a 4 cylinder motor. The main reason for the 2 different power outputs is because the 92hp engine makes use of VGT (Variable Geometry Turbocharger). This allows more efficient operation of the turbo and hence the greater power output. The lesser powerful engine puts out 75bhp@4000 RPM and 197NM of torque @ 1750 RPM. The more powerful engine has had a bit of a tune up from the old one but it’s a very minimal one. There is now 92bhp to play with and this comes in @ 4000RPM and 207NM of torque@2000RPM. The differences don’t stop with just the power ratings. They behave quite differently on the road. The 75bhp engine delivers both torque and power more linearly and there is slightly less turbo lag than the 92bhp.But the engine lacks some serious punch. There’s nothing about the 75bhp variant which will get you excited and make you want to push the throttle down just that little more. In that respect the 92bhp engine which is only available with the Punto Evo Sport variant is much more exciting. There is more turbo lag which is a bit disappointing because you are left waiting a while for the revs to build past 2000RPM and in truth all though the specs say Max Torque come at 2000RPM from the driver seat you can feel that surge of torque around about 2300-2500RPM. But no mistaking once the torque comes in the car does get a move on quite nicely. Personally I would prefer a bit more power say around 100bhp but for our Indian cities 92bhp does quite well. However on the highways it does feel a tad underpowered. One thing this engine excels in is the throttle response. I’ve so far haven’t driven a diesel car with the sharp a throttle response. It responds to even the slightest of movements.
The petrol engine is Fiat’s FIRE engine. Its a 1.4 litre naturally aspirated 4 cylinder motor which puts out 89Bhp@ 6000RPM and 115Nm of torque @ 4500 RPM. This engine is lots of fun and refined at the same time. Its like to rev and has a good punchy mid range which helps when overtaking on the highways. The idle is quite silent and you don’t feel much vibrations in the car however once you pass 2500RPM the engine does become very vocal but the noise is nice and exciting. You will find yourself having to down shift 2 gears instead of 1 on the highways but in the city the engine is nice to use. If I had to pick an engine I would first look at my daily use. If my daily use covered anything up to 35KM a day I would pick the petrol anymore the diesel would be my pick. However if it took me on the highways as well I would still pick the petrol as it is the more predictable of the engines.
The gearbox is a 5-speed manual. The throw of the gear leaver is a bit long but each gear change is very smooth and it is a joy to use. There is a bit of engine noise which comes through to the cabin but it’s not up to a level where you would call it loud or noisy its actually quite silent for a diesel from the inside. As for the overall refinement of the car its quite well insulated. There’s isn’t much road noise which comes into the car and the sound of the car going over bumps was minimal.
When it comes to ride and handling of their cars FIAT has in eyes been tops in this category for quite some time. The Punto is by far the best handling premium hatchback available right now. Even with its high ground clearance body roll is minimal and the just hugs whatever corner comes your way but don’t expect it to corner flat like a supercar! This superb handling is also one of the reasons I feel this car would be better with more power. It has the capability to handle it with aplomb. The suspension has been tuned near perfect for Indian roads. It rides the bumps well and soaks it all up. There was a rare occasion or two where the suspension felt a bit stiff but those moments are forgivable. One more reason for the great levels of grip are the perfectly sized tires. The Standard Emotion variant gets 195/60 section tires on 15” Alloys and the Sport Variant gets 195/55 section tires on 16” Alloys. They offer great stability at high speeds and allow the Punto Evo to be top of its class when it comes to handling. The brakes are another area where the Punto Evo is really good. The brake pedal feel is really superb and the brakes themselves are quite powerful.
Another area where the Punto Evo is better than any of its competitors is the steering. The Punto Evo makes use of a Hydraulic Power Steering which in my eyes makes a world of difference. Yes the electric power steering systems in some more expensive cars are really nice as well but the sheer driving pleasure the hydraulic system gives is really another level. The steering is defiantly not one of the lightest but that may not be such a bad thing. The weighting in the steering allows the driver to judge how much input he is giving and on the highways this is something which really helps. The main area where the steering excels over the others is the feedback. The sheer amount of feedback from the tires through the steering wheel is tremendous and you get to know exactly what the front wheels are doing. The steering is also very precise and allows you to place the car exactly where you want it. This car is a real driver’s car. This car really inspires confidence in the driver and that what a car should do. With all this grip and handling capabilities it does make you feel that this car can handle a lot more power and leaves you wondering what would that be like?
Areas of Improvement:
– There still are a few areas in the interior which can be improved. There still are hard plastics used in the door panels and along the side of the center console.
– There is no issue with the engines themselves but at times they do leave you craving for a bit more power.
– It isn’t the most feature full package available on the market right now but it does have a few standouts in that department which make you appreciate the car all the more.
Firstly, We here at Turbozens would like extended a special thanks to the staff at RDC Fiat Chennai for allowing us to test drive the car and being very communicative, supportive and welcoming.
Overall the New Fiat Punto Evo is a very desirable car. Its oozes that Italian flair that most fiat cars are known for and it’s got the capabilities, features and much improved interiors to make it one of the top contenders in its class. There is no doubting Fiat is on the up and up and this car proves just that. The Punto Evo is a must look at in my eyes if you are searching for an amazing drivers car for that price.