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Old 26th February 2012, 17:44   #1
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Default Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

FIAT GRANDE PUNTO

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What you'll like:
  • Timeless design still turns heads
  • Best in class ride and matured handling
  • Improved driveability and in gear acceleration
  • Solid build quality
  • Improved GC, aircon and turning radius make the car easier to live with
  • Fuel efficient and proven multijet diesel engine
  • The evergreen high speed dynamics and stability
What you won't:
  • Average outright performance and gearshift
  • Lacks the build precision of competitors
  • Rear seat feels cramped. Flawed driver ergonomics
  • Engine noise at high RPM
  • Niggling issues reported by existing punto owners
  • Fiat's dicey after sales service and resale value

Last edited by sidindica : 26th February 2012 at 18:34.
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Old 26th February 2012, 18:29   #2
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

POINT AND SHOOT

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Its Kalyug.

A person's life is like a pendulum.
Every morning, he wakes up, gets ready to work, comes back tired, enjoys the cozy family dinner time with his wife and kids, goes to bed only to assume whats in store for tomorrow. Thats the best way we can describe many working class Indians. We are more practical, forward thinking and enjoy life to the fullest without even knowing that whats in store for the future. Yes, future can often be predicted, but its a case of luck by chance. It can be true, or...at sometimes, untrue.

Case in example-the Fiat Punto.
Its always been a car that has different personalities and mindsets. Like a pendulum.
Launched in India in 2009, the success at best can be descibed as average. It sautele bhai-behen, the Vista, ritz and Swift have all been sales stars and ongoing competition from the Micra and Figo only dented its fortunes in this keenly contested Indian car market.

It had everything that an Indian small car buyer demands: Looks, sturdy suspension, ride and handling, comfortable interiors, proven fuel efficient multijet diesel engine and improved service network. Perfect recipe for a winning formula. But what went wrong?

While the concept was right, it was its execution that sealed its fate from day 1. The product was not bad per se, but like every Fiat's launch which always create sky high expectations, it did its best to initially impress but disappoint at later stage.
Niggling faults, poor interior ambience, sluggish performance and refinement, sub par part quality, unwillingness of sales personnel to promote fiat and dicey after sales competency only led to more people turning aay from the brand rather than accepting it. Moreover, Fiat's image as an engine maker ather than a car manufacturer only dented its chances of success unlike in Europe where this very same car was responsible for Fiat's successful turn around.

Knowing that the Fiat brand has a rich heritage and a strong fan following in India, the company did try to make amends by constantly evolving the product and improving it, though many prospective customers kept on shying away from it, especially the 90 HP MJD which is a sales dud. But still, majority of owners who have bought this hatchback are very well accustomed to the broad range of talents that it exhibits.

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Come 2012, Fiat has relaunched and reengineered the punto based on what it says "feedback received from customers on how to make a good car better".
There have been a host of changes like hike in ground clearance whch stands at an SUV rivalling 185 mm, improved and shorter close gear ratios aimed at improving driveability and refinement, a softer clutch, improved brakes, improved interior ambience and most importantly, bringng the Fiat brand closer to the people by opening a couple of caffes and starting with seperate showrooms and workshops in tier 1 metro cities (20 planned initially.)
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Old 26th February 2012, 19:06   #3
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

STOP STARING, PLEASE....

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In my life, I never had a single committed girlfriend for reasons unknown to me. But the Italians surely know how to design cars to impress the girls. Designed by the legend Giorgetto Guigiaro of Italdesign, the car was a stunner when it came out 7 years ago and continues to be one, with the classic design looking much better than the European EVO or TwinAir snouted versions. At the central park, The minute I got out of the car and started clicking pics, I did see many heads turn.

The car looks stunning and well proportioned from every angle unlike today's confused and cartoonish designs. Its a design that continues to be understated and timeless. Every angle you look at it, its a stunner. the new oceanic blue looks best along with red, though the fox trot azure pictured here is a more practical option considering the Indian climate and roads in mind.

Based on Fiat's C platform shared with GM, the car rides on a Independent McPherson Strut with Helical Springs and a Stabiliser Bar at front whereas the rear is suspended with a torsion beam with helical springs and Fiat India has raised the height of shock absorbers to achieve a high road clearance of 185 mm (195 mm for 1.2 petrol variants). The raised stance is obvious and the gaps at the wheelwell look like an eyesore with the 15 inchers looking puny to the relation of the body proportions. Build quality over the years has improved and the car still maintains its solid and heavy body (1130 kg) though the build precision still has to climb some more ladders before it can match the VW/ Hyundai quality. Panel gaps are still pretty inconsistent, though tolerable and quality of rubber parts and few ancilleries still feel a notch down, especially considering the 6.8 lakh asking price of this emotion D variant.

Fiat sells the GP currently in 6 variants. The active and dynamic in 1.2 petrol and 1.3 diesel and the emotion in 1.4 petrol and 1.3 diesel. The model rejig in the name of logistics has seen in rebranding of vaiants and a simpler line up. Airbags for driver and passenger are standard on emotion and ABS is made available on all emotion and 1.3 diesel dynamic variants. The VGT 90 HP punto is currently available on order and has the ld interior colour scheme, only the GC has been raised. Talks are on for an upgraded "sporty looking" model that will be formally launched in April.

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Tear drop headlamps continue to impress and gel well with the perfectly contoured front end.

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Last edited by Mpower : 29th February 2012 at 21:35. Reason: typo
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Old 26th February 2012, 19:37   #4
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

...TILL YOU COME INSIDE.

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Open the vault like door which opens and closes in three stages, climb inside and the interior feels airier, courtesy a lighter shade of grey used on the dash, door trim fabric, roof lining and carpets. Much has been crticised about the interior ambience and fit/ finish and fiat has tried to address these issues. The dash and door trim plastics still feel a touch rough compared to the fabia, polo and i20, the way the parts have been fitted now is much better though some inconsistency like the much talked about misaligned glovebox (the lock in the TD car was broken) and the ignition console are still present. The interior ambience still doesn't feel "premium" enough and things would have impoved considerably if the Linea's interiors made their way on the punto.

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The new fabrics on the seats and door trim go a long way in disguising the flaws and the seats themselves are pretty comfortable. The softer cushioning and good under thigh support makes journeys comfortable but the car still has por ergonomics. The steering wheel is still positioned "at your face" and still doesn't feature telescopic adjustment (would have been so much better); the power window buttons are placed way too far of reach and the seat reclining lever is placed way too backwards. Finding a driving position is challenging and constant adjustment of seats and steering is needed for various human frames.
Legroom and width are on par and the seats have a long travel range so taller drivers should not have a problem.

Climb at the rear and its a different story. Legroom and width (for 3) are in short supply considering the car's length and wheelbase and cars like the jazz, vista and i20 are much more spacious. the seat base is low though cushioning is again on the softer side but the angle of inclination and the position o the headrests can be pretty tiring at long drives.

Boot space is more than adequate for a small family and I love the idea of Fiat's nifty attention to safety in the form of a solid metal seat back which prevents luggage from intruding into a passenger compartment at the event of a crash.

Fiat equips its emotion variants with "blue and me" (with a USB port and steering mounted controls) which connects the car's audio to your mobile phone via bluetooth and even copies the phone book, makes you to take and receive calls, dial a specific number, read out an SMS and even change music tracks via a voice command. Same cannot be said about the quality of speakers which continue to be utter rubbish and distort on high volume. All active and dynamic variants make do with a CD-only MP3 player with 4 speakers.

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Last edited by Rudra Sen : 27th February 2012 at 11:26. Reason: spelling
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Old 26th February 2012, 20:14   #5
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

GOT HEART?

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Fiat sells the GP with 3 engine options-the 1.2 SOHC 8V petrol, the 1.4 DOHC 16V CVCP petrol and the 1.3 multijet diesel that makes up for a big chunk of the sales. Pictured here in 76 HP FGT guise, the engine gets mechanical tweaks and refinements to make the punto a overall better car to drive.

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Start the car and the clatter is obvious. The engine at idle is noisy at cold but when warmed up, the noise becomes less. With the windows wound up, the noise is less but compare it with the U2 engine and K9K, the quietness is not there. What HAS improved, is the way the engine responds to the driver's commands. The clutch, still having a long travel, has become much, much softer and response in city is much more apparent. The ford 1.4 TDCI and K9K still feel a class above when it comes to throttle response, but teh engine does not stall when driven on second gear at 10 kmph. The outrght acceleration is still blunted due to the engine being caliberated for mileage and the car's heavy weight being the culprit, but acceleration through the gears is much more strong andmuch more better than the hesitent Gen 2 swift (which needs to be accelerated hard to get the turbo working) or the i20 (ponderous due to turbo lag).

Turbo lag is present but the drive feels that Fiat has retuned the turbo's characteristics to suit more low rpm applications (requirements as per the Indan market) and at 4th gear, driving at 40 kmph at 1600 rpm, the engine again didn't stall. I drove the car for a few minutes slowly making it to try to stall but it kept its best not to. Its only when throttle is pressed hard and gears used correctly then you can extract maximum available performance from the engine. The K9K equipped cars still perform fast despite their meagre power output and its the tuning of the turbo thats a masterstroke. Power delivery is linear but the engine runs out of breath post 4500 rpm. There's no point revving beyond that as it would yield no rewards. Best is to use the engine between 1800-3000 rpm and make use of the peak torque.

Engine noise post 3000 rpm is high and can be quite annoying and you get a feeling that Fiat has skimped on the sound deadning material under the firewall. The 90 HP version feels much more quieter and smoother. In its current form, Fiat has made sincere efforts to make the engine more user friendly and have succeded, but still improved sound insulation would have made the package an icing on the cake.

The gearbox feels average and first two gears slot smoothly, but the rest 3 gears feel pretty rubbery to use. The 2012 model's gear ratios are pretty much shorter and the motor is tuned more for driveability rather than outright acceleration.
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Old 26th February 2012, 20:54   #6
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

DANCING QUEEN

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Dancing to the driver's tunes has always been the Punto's forte and the 2012 model continues to impress. Riding on 195 size tyres, the car with its raised GC simply smothers all bumps, potholes and speedbreakers alike. Some minor jerk under spirited driving does get transmitted but passengers don't get tossed around like in other hatches. Simply put, the GP continues to be the best riding hatch today in the Indian market. The middle circle had 3 speedbreakers where I took the car at high speeds and the car didn't lose its composure.

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Compared to the older punto, the raised stance does result in slightly more body roll but the perfectly caliberated power steering deserves a special mention here. One of the few hatches to sport hydraulic units, the grip is amazing and handling is well sorted. High speed stability hasn't affected much and the car continues to be a star on an long open road. For older punto owners, Fiat is offering a retrofitted GC upgrade kit which upgrades the shockers, front stabilizers and bushes to the new design at a cost of 11-12000 odd plus labour and taxes. Yes, the swift does feel sporty but for matured handling and body control, the punto still takes the cake despite riding on a 7 year old chassis.
Equally impressive are the updated brakes. Pedal feel is well caliberated and the brakes provide fantastic stopping power unlike the poor brakes of the swift V or the micra/ pulse.
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Old 26th February 2012, 21:21   #7
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

THE SHOWREEL

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Fiat has addressed the weaknesses that have been received from the owners and has improved the car overall to make it better to own and drive. Sure, some things like noisy motor, interior ambience and better outright acceleration could have made the product even better but key points like improved build precision, engine refinement and response and above all, the visiblity of brand fiat are things that have been made as sincere efforts and the staff at Fiat Caffe are very knowledgeable to the core ad are pushing for Fiat's sales increase.
More than that, Fiat needs to address four critical things:
  • Logistics management for parts availability based on reqirements and regions. The cost of ownership is OK, but many owners still make their concern about spare parts availability.
  • Change in dealer attitude and service quality, more importantly training of technicians and service advisors so that the key is to identify the problem at first place. This will only result in postive ownership experiance and word of mouth.
  • Tightening of quality control and making the cars feel more premium so hat niggles do not happen in first place.
  • Increased focus on advertising and seperate brand visibility.
Fiat's efforts are there in positive direction but as far as that level of perfecton has to be achieved, some climbing is still to be done.

A Fiat only showroom/ workshop is coming by may at Okhla in Delhi and hope this improves the ownership experiance of owning a Fiat.


For those in the market for a diesel hatch, the 2012 punto is now a worthy contender despite its balance of postives and negatives. To experiance the talent this car has, one really has to DRIVE it and then decide.

Now its over to Fiat to rebound its act and promote it well. There is huge market still untapped.

Hope its not a case of too little....too late..


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Old 26th February 2012, 21:24   #8
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

And to top it off, whats a test drive without a dose of Italian cold coffee?

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Old 26th February 2012, 23:21   #9
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

Note From Team-BHP Support-Team: Thread moved from Assembly Line to Test Drives & Initial Ownership Reports section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 26th February 2012, 23:37   #10
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

Nice report Sid. Thanks for sharing. Did you take the TD from the Caffe? Did you get to drive the 1.4 as well? If so, any changes in acceleration in that vehicle?
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Old 26th February 2012, 23:38   #11
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

Nice review @sid!

By the look of the interiors, I guess song/folder changes on the USB are still only via the steering controls - no button on the center console. IMO, that is the biggest safety flaw of this car. Imagine going through the menu to change & select a particular song while you are driving on a highway, or even worse, through city roads. Yes, the voice menu option is there, but a clean button on the console would have helped.

Hope the minor changes do help in increasing the sales of an absolutely gem of a hatchback.
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Old 27th February 2012, 01:02   #12
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

@sidindica when you said "build precision" you meant fit and finish cosmetically alone right? or is there some thing on the mechanical side and others too? i/we so would like to know, so please do tell us.
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Old 27th February 2012, 01:26   #13
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

Excellent review Sid !
Thanks for sharing.

Punto is one potent car and needs some strong backup to get back to the competition.
Why are they not highlighting the 90HP variant?
They should rather promote it more aggresively. It is the more complete Punto of all.
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Old 27th February 2012, 05:52   #14
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

Congratulations on buying the Punto, its surely a good looking, and drivers car. You past relationships (with girls) did not last but this one would surely last, Wishing you many happy miles and trouble free ownership with it.
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Old 27th February 2012, 07:26   #15
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Default Re: Fiat Grande Punto 2012: First Drive

Thanks Sid for the review. Short and very well worded. A good reference for those who are in the market for the 2012 Punto.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mayankjha1806 View Post
Congratulations on buying the Punto, its surely a good looking, and drivers car. You past relationships (with girls) did not last but this one would surely last, Wishing you many happy miles and trouble free ownership with it.
Mayank, I donít think he has bought the car. What I gather is, this was only a test drive report
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