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|18th June 2009, 20:42||#1|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jun 2007
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(Disclaimer: This review is based on my testing and perception and is not meant to offend any other brand's car owners/ buyers. Based on entirely my group's perception. Your preferences and perceptions may vary and differ according to your requirements.)
Fiat has Grande plans for the punto by targeting the yuvrajs of this country with smashing styling, decent pair of engines and equipment and class-leading safety and security (at least on paper). Will it be third time lucky?
Vehicle: Fiat Grande Punto
Model: Emotion pack 1.3 diesel
Colour: Exotica red
Date tested: June 18, 2008
First verdict: the best all-round diesel hatch in India.
Ever since its launch in Europe in 2005, at the time Fiat was bleeding with cash, it was perceived as a make or break model and it single handedly revived the company from shambles and provided the path to success and return fiat into profitability.
In India, too, if you recall, the punto was first displayed at the 2006 auto expo when the critical tata-Fiat alliance was announced and the public gave it a thumbs up.
2 years again, at the 2008 expo, the punto was there in hot red colour with a even hotter babe standing next to it and it looked that Fiat will be back with a bang.
18 months later, after extensive testing and making some changes speciic to Indian model (exclusive dashboard for our market from the linea, caliberation of engines to run on our poor quality fuel to return optimum fuel efficiency, chopping off the rear bumper to reduce length by 37 mm to qualify for our "small car" excise duty norms and armed with new contemporay tata-fiat showrooms, expectations are high, in fact very high, as seen in tbhp forums.
Can this car deliver?
Today i got the opportunity to conduct an extensive road test of the punto for 45-60 minutes by a Dealer in Delhi (cannot disclose the name and even if you guys can make the guess, by the location in the photographs, do not mention the name in this thread) and here's what i had to say:
Looks and styling:*****
In a sea of controversial tall boys and "small cars" which have overly creases and curves, back ends smashed, high set rear windows, excessively flared fenders which make the car wider but actually is not, front ends looking like frogs and goofy-eyed headlights in many cars, some cars making shape more complicated by the use of "mouldings in the bumper and side" and other design after thoughts etc this car comes as simple, contemporary no-frills design which will appeal to everyone from 6-60 and beyond.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. Thats what I describe when i saw the car in flesh. Simple, plain lines and the car which looks like a proper 2-box without any design gimmics are the things only Italians (styled by Giorgetto Guigirio) have perfected.
Any angle-front with those gorgeous maserati-like mercury drop headlights, side with clean, timeless hatchback shape and rear-with those gorgeous taillamps and simplicity of lines and curves easily make i the most simplistic and best looking hatch in the country this side of Fiat 500.
To me, all other 2-box cars, even though they claim to be futuristic by posing in "weird shapes", look like designs gone wrong.
Interior design and ergonomics: ****
The curves of the superbly moulded dashboard give yo a feeling as if you are in an aircraft cockpit, especially after looking after the waterfall tilt centre console with superb best in class ergonomics. The relation of drivers to the controls is superbly optimised save for the USB port in the glove box which is disastrously placed. You have to search for it and literally bnd down inside the glovbox to look for it, it is hidden on the right hand side on the upper part inside the glovebox.
In active, dynamic and emotion, the dash comes with 2 gloveboxes and in emotion pack, the extra glovabox is omitted and replaced by front passenger airbag.
Interior storage: ***
the glove box is pretty big, there are some good storage spaces around the gear liver which has 2 cup holders and generous door pockets, but th design of the door pockets is a bit too thin for magazines to stay intact. space above dashboard is wasted and the extra glovebox is no that big either.
The rear seats are double folding in active and dynamic, and split 60:40 in emotion models.
Superb boot space for 2 full sized suitcases and 1 medium sized.
Front seats have huge travel and are height adjustible with height adjustible front seat belts in emotion models which offers superb and sporty driving position.
Overall, interiors are more tough and functional rather than luxurious.
Plastics quality is not so good at least in apperance where black plastics shine after being polished, making them look downmarket but feel tough and built to last except for some flimsy bits like door lock handles and some lower plastics under the seats.
Front seat comfort:****
As said earlier, the front "body hugging seats" are extremely comfortable, even for short drivers. They have high travel and space at front is superb but the lower end of the dashboard in the left side (co-driver) eats a bit into the knee space. The driver's seat is adjustable for height (in emotion models) and with tilt steering column, it is easier to find an optimal driving position for all human frames, even for vertically challenged drivers. The under thigh support is fantastic and curves of he seats perfectly fit with my body profile. In a word, one of the best designed front seats inn a 2-box.
Rear seat comfort: ***.
If I was harsh, I would have given it half points less, but in reality I have to see this car as both a family car and lifestyle hatch. When front seats are pushed back, the seats are cramped, but not as cramped as some of its "small" rivals. It is actually the interior colour (black and dark gray) that gives you a feeling of claustrophobia which I felt it too. When the front seats are fully pushed front, there is enough legroom for a chauffer driven owner to travel comfortably for a long time. However, when a family of 5 travels together, rear seats are short on space for 3 adults and the seats though are comfortable, are set pretty low. So, for those who are accustomed to the high set seats of the tall boys, be prepared for the opposite on this car.
Swift. Dzire. Palio. Indica Vista. 500. Linea and now the Punto.
7 cars. 1 engine. Multijet. Fiat must had a tough time caliberating the engine for the punto since in the Tata Fiat showroom, 3 cars will fight for customers with the same engine.
On paper, the engine looks promising with 16V DOHC, 76 PS@4000 rpm power and 197 Nm@1750 rpm torque(best in category for a 1248 cc MJD hatchback with FGT). But remember the car also weighs 1190 kg. The reason? Modern safety standards are making cars, especially European ones, heavier. So how does it transform into the road?
Initial pickup: ***
Fire the engine and it settles to the familier idle characterized by the engine that powers the other cars mentioned above. The well insulated cabin makes for almost Zero vibration through the peddles and gearbox. However, as in all fiats, the A/C (ACC in emotion pack) blower fan is a bit noisy.
Now comes for seeing the acceleration. The engine is a it sluggish under 1000 rpm but after that, it gives a surprising good acceleration for a car weighing 1.2 tonnes. You feel the thrust between low and mid range, just like an aircraft taking off, not like drag racing, the entire torque coming into play. Its an extremely tractable engine with optimised gear ratos (shorter for 1st and second and taller for 5th) which making driveability in city very easy and responsive.
The engines user friendly torquey nature also makes it to potter along on 4th gear in town without havng to downshift so often, all goes for its powerful mid range. In fact, I tried to drive in 5th gear at a speed of 30 and there was NO knocking!
The engines comfortably revs to its 6000 rpm redline and has a wide power band for the highway. While no Getz Crdi, the engine is more than adequate for our highways. However, overtaking manouveres need to be planned while out on expressways.
Now coming to mid-range, for the Delhi roads, I found this engine to be extremely responsive and refined. As i said earlier, the gear ratios are said to be optimised for fuel efficiency and driveability rather than outright performance. In this count it excels. You can potter all day long in 4th gear at 2000 rpm with all that peak torque coming into play for superb fuel economy.
5-speed manual with overdrive fro 4th and gears compliment the engine pretty well. However, the shift action is a bit rubbery and baulky as compared to light gearboxes of its 2-box jap and Korean competitors.
The suspension-independent in front and torsion beam at the rear with unique spring and damper rates gives you a superb ride quality, as wit all Fiats. Low speed ride is a bit jiggly but you cannot get tossed around like in other jap/ Korean small cars/ super hatches and it gives you a feeling of safety and security and not getting tossed around.
The higher the speeds, the better the ride gets. In fact, the ride quality for a 2-box car is simply best in class, better than even the fabia and the chassis does not get tossed around like other lighter hatches.
This is a mastery only the Europeans can do it.
At front seat, the ride is extremely pliant, comfortably and the suspension is not too soft or not too stiff, just optimized well for our roads.
However a the rear, the suspension is a bit stiff to cope with the additional load of passengers and luggage and to avoid bottoming out in our himalayan speed breakers, the rear springs and shockers are pretty stiff, resulting in the low speed ride to be jiggly in rough roads. HOWEVER, increase the speed, and the ride, even with those low pro 60-profile 195/60 R 15 tyres is superb without passengers getting tossed around.
This car has stabilizer bars in front and back, not present in some 2-box cars' rear suspension and it acts as a key to the car's superb stability at high speeds.
As with most of the European cars, the steering is a bit on the heavier side at high speeds but at low speeds, it is perfectly weighted with a good amount of feedback and feels connected to the wheels, willing to change directions with a finger-tip.
Fiat has caliberated the steering ratio superbly and combined with light clutch and drive-by wire technology, it makes for a extremely user friendly urban diesel supermini.
Except for perhaps the fabia, other cars do not even come close when it comes to handling and fun-to drive factor of the punto. The steering is Hydraulic tilt rack and pinion.
The one Achilles heal: awful 5.4 metre turning radius make the shortest u-turns a 3-point ones.
Another less than stellar point in the car is its spongy-feel brake pedal, even though the car has ABS standard on emotion models.
The brakes are superb and wheel locking is all but absent but the ABS kicks in early than expected for safety purposes.
However, It seems that the brakes are prone to fade after a series of repeated stops. This is one area where fiat has to do extra work, in my perception.
Build quality and durability:****
As with all fiats, the punto is built like a tank and feels built to last and even 5 years down the line, the bodyshell promises to withstand the extensive abuse of Indian roads.
the 3-stage door openings and closings are superb attention to detail and the door sounds with a satisfying thud giving it a solid build.
Fiat and Finish:
Exterior finish is excellent. The car feels superbly screwed together with superb paint gloss and finish and you get an impression that you have got more than what you have paid for.
However, the interior plastics could be better. even though they are better than the linea and feel tough and hard wearing, the appearance and shiny black plastic trims look downmarket and make the interiors claustrophobic.
The interior at first glance looks sporty though.
Buying and owning:***
Starting from 3.99 lakhs for petrol and 4.85 lakhs for the diesel, there is a punto for every budget, needs and wants. However, compared to its diesel rivals, the car is a bit expensive but better build, finish and a feeling of stability, safety and security that only fiat can provide makes money well spent.
On the other hand, buying a product is one thing, getting it properly serviced and maintaining is another thing altogether and fiat still has to do a lot of work in improving the ownership experiance.
Though the company claims to be improving on this, it still has a long way to go to match the standards of Maruti and Hyundai.
It may be important to not that not all workshops are good. Some fiat workshops are even lacking basic infrastructure and diagnostic tool and equipment to service cars like linea and punto, which are equipped with new age high tech electrical gadgets.
Moreover, the company has to make sure that parts are available at all times, the fiat customers are not treated like Tata/indica customers and most important, dealer attitude in all needs to improve drastically along with ensuring quality control in manufacturing processes so that small niggling and electric faults that fiats are notoriously infamous for, do not happen again.
Case in point- some linea owners having painful after sales experiences with tata-fiat dealers.
Yes, fiat recommends 15,000 km service intervals which makes workshop visits almost rare but small niggling problems like parts falling off, small electrical glitches etc are a result of poor quality control at fiat which the company has to take care of, so that customers enjoy more of their Italian beauties on the road rather than workshops waiting for parts to arrive and work to be carried out.
I hope that punto is not an opportunity gone lost. Wake up Fiat!
Yes, I am very happy with Fiat's latest attempt to bring back the lost magic of the brand Fiat in India. This is a car which does all things right and very few things wrong. It is not the fastest, yet it feels like a cruiser than an autobahn burner.
Coupled with a solid crash-tested chassis and great blend of ride, handling, looks, interior space/comfort and features for the asking price, it takes the best ingredients from all cars and blends it into a wonderful solution of optimality, and that what counts in our country. Value.
You ask, it delivers as a workhorse. Do not expect too much out of it.
This car is perfect for an average Indian household which has money to spend and can have an every day car which withstands to all the rigors of the demanding Indian families.
Now its upto fiat to get its act together and sell and service it well.
I want this car to succeed in our country. Are you listening, fiat?
GP fuel economy figures.
MODS: Kindly put these pics in the first post of this thread.
Last edited by khan_sultan : 20th June 2009 at 09:08. Reason: As requested
|18th June 2009, 20:58||#7|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Thanked: 15 Times
Any thoughts on the petrol versions. How is the 1.2 - given the fact that its from the Vista - have they made any changes to it? I think for its features the 1.2 base variant represents good value.
|18th June 2009, 21:00||#8|
Join Date: Jul 2006
Thanked: 566 Times
Amazing review Sidindica. Excellent write up and Great pics. You always manage to get the scoop on Fiat and Tata products.
|18th June 2009, 21:02||#9|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Mumbai - The city of Sea Link!!!
Thanked: 312 Times
Excellent review Sid. I think this car will make Fiat a serious player in the market and contender for the Car of the year! Fiat has always been committed to Indian market and now it shows.
Way to Go Fiat!!!!! This is indeed a BOLD move.
|18th June 2009, 21:04||#11|
Join Date: May 2009
Thanked: 239 Times
That is one awesome review !!!
Thanks a ton sidindica.
Will post my ownership review pretty soon
|18th June 2009, 21:04||#12|
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Jaipur, RAJ
Thanked: 303 Times
This is one hell of a review befitting the scoops you have provided regarding this car in the past.
I guess FIAT has played safe with this car. Everything has been presented to a price and a price that is set by customers more than production team.
I forsee this car to do well.
|18th June 2009, 21:08||#13|
Join Date: Sep 2005
Thanked: 0 Times
slurp...slurp...she is a beauty.....just what the doctor ordered for fiat india. now fingers crossed that fiat dosent make a mess out of this one.
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