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Old 21st June 2009, 03:32   #1
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Arrow A Fiat Enthusiast's Punto Review

Fiat Punto 1.3 MJD Emotion Review

First of all I would like to apologize for not writing for long due to my professional commitment. I will try to write more often on the board.

With two Fiats in my garage (Fiat Palio 1.6 GTX and Fiat Petra 1.6) for last five years and an Auto Lancer for three years, I think it was reason enough to consider another car buy. The inclination was towards an SUV since I had all flavours of cars, Palio for fun drive and city traffic drive, Petra for highways (and it has not disappointed me in whatever roads I threw at it including several Mumbai-Delhi, Badrinath-Kedarnath-Auli, Dharamshala, Dalhousie, Kasauli, Mukteshwar...the list is endless) and an auto for my office commute.

I test drove Safari (multiple times), Xenon, Grand Vitara (2.0 ltr, both AT and MT), Endeavour and Outlander. Safariand GV were the only ones within my reach and 4x4 was a must for my SUV. I liked GV auto but it was under powered, Xenon excellent outside, cheap plastic inside and not even an ABS forget about airbags, Outalnder...very convincing but can’t afford a brand new. To cut story short I did not wanted to invest in a second hand so I ended up delaying my decision indefinitely. The only option was to wait for new 2.4 litre GV launch (in July) and Toyota Fortuner.

On the other side since my wife is doing about 120-130 KMs a day (Since kids’ school is at one end of expressway and our home at other end and kids have different pickup times). I tried my best but could not convince her for driver (with Innova or Safari). This was partly also because of the fact that she enjoyed driving GTX or Petra everyday on expressway. Fuel was not a concern since she managed 14-15 with AC from Petra and 12-13 with Palio. Anyways, since I was concerned about her daily commute without ABS or Airbags, I was pushing her for a new car. She test drove Swift, Desire, Cedia, Fabia and even Palio 1-3 MJD!! but she wrote off all cars as compared to her Palio/Petra with some reasoning or other and I had to give up each time.

I jumped with joy when Fiat launched Linea and I immediately arranged for a 1.3 MJD emotion pack test drive. I first drove the car myself. Space appeared cramped in front, pick-up was lousy but I was floored with safety features (ABS/Airbags) and gadgets. But since she was the one to primarily drive the car it was important that she took the decision. I did not wanted to land in a similar situation as earlier with multiple ipods, one blackberry pearl, one blackberry curve which I bought for her but she never used them because she loves her ipaq 500 voice messenger (and this is supposed to be best smart phone ever!!).

She test drove Linea and her feedback was: Front cabin space less as compared to Petra, Extremely underpowered, much more body roll on high speed (100-120), poor plastics and finish for a car of 9 Lacs and not same solid feel as Palio or Petra. I agreed on the power front that 86 PS was not enough for a car weighing 1291 KGs. And it was mutually decided that no hard feelings but this car could only be considered if Fiat ever launches a 1.6 MJD or a 1.6/1.8 Petrol. Though a little disappointed, I kept my chequebook back in the wallet and wished the guy accompanying the test drive vehicle all the very best. Well, she was not wrong with price reasoning also, the discount has started (I don’t want to quote a figure here since I have been requested not share discount figures openly) and Diwali/Navratra should see good bargains. But again for both of us engine upgrade is more important. I reached out to Fiat India with complaint of an underpowered engine and exact response I got was “We have not made this car for Mr. Rishi Kapoor or Fiat enthusiasts but this car is meant for masses” though somehow a little dejected at response but I accepted that they were right. They really needed big profits and not enthusiasts like me who don’t count in their big scheme of things. Right now it’s time to move on...

Now let us fast forward to June first week, with confirmation of Punto launch on 17th, I could hardly wait, started to countdown. In the mean time our good old friend Gautam reached out to me asking if I wanted invite for launch event but unfortunately it was late and his acquaintance from Fiat never called me. You see my connections at Fiat have faded in last 3 years!

An old friend from whom I bought my first Fiat 1.2EL 7 years ago and now they are not Fiat dealers anymore, may be because Fiat did not wanted good service and sales dealer but money making machines (Remember, they don’t make car for enthusiasts anymore!!). Anyways, my oldest Fiat sales guy and now a good friend arranged for a test drive for me right next day from a Tata dealer using his recommendation. I just could not wait with excitement. I was hoping to get another Fiat home after five years. I was confident that 86 PS engine would be responsive with a car 100 KGs lighter (I was not aware until this time that Fiat has detuned engine in Punto to give 76 PS instead of 86 PS in Linea).

TEST DRIVE –PUNTO 1.3 MJD Emotion
-------------------------------------
The Car arrived for a 60 KM test drive. The first look was stunning. I had not seen a better paintjob on any other car ever in my life; in fact it was comparable with my NY ride. I drive a BMW 750 Li in New York when I am there every second month.

Superb smooth flowing lines, tall instance, beautifully sculpted head lamp with maserati like front which simply melts in a beautiful grills flowing down to impeccable glossy bumper. Sides were also appealing though windows looked small. The rear was a little let down for me because of small rear windshield but again overall car looked beautiful and a true Fiat design lineage.

Boot space is more than adequate for a short trip for four. Engine bay was neatly laid out and had a lot of space between radiator fan and engine, I guess even a 1.9 litre MJD can fit there.

The moment I stepped inside the excitement got a little diluted with reality. The interior plastic quality was bad considering a 6 lacs tag (compared with Linea). Door fabric trims were outright cheap and power windows switches were tacky. Steering was very good with moulded space to keep your thumb on. Horn was not as crisp as earlier models. Headlight and wiper stalks were not homologated for India (right hand drive), I had experienced this earlier on Linea also. Grey interiors were dull and black seat fabric pattern was also not very appealing. Roof lining was grey and was very cheap quality. The plastic passenger grab handles appeared very filmsy and cheap plastic.

The instrument cluster looked classy with amber display and the overall positioning of dashboard to sort of tilt towards drive was very thoughtful. I loved the feature that instead of just indicating “door open” it also indicates which door is left open. The music system was average with four speakers and 2 twitters (they call these 6 speakers). Air conditioner was chilling and very effective but blower noise was inherited from older models. The air volume controllers (like in Palio/Petra) were missing in Punto. This car did not had “Blue and me” but I had experienced this earlier and of course that is one of the best feature.

The moment I started the car I knew it is diesel, though the noise was much less as compared even with Linea but the diesel clutter exists. I was disappointed when sales guy told me that this is only 76 PS as compared to Linea which is 86 PS. I slotted the first gear and found gearshift to be very spongy. The car moved eagerly as I released that clutch but ran out of breath as soon as I pressed accelerator, I shifted to second which did slightly better job but real fun started with third gear. I could go as slow as 20 kmph to as high as 70 kmph in third gear. Fourth and fifth gear had over drive and were very drivable. I could go as slow as 30 kmph in 5th gear and engine did not take any hiccup. The driving position was very cramped and was not roomy as Palio.

The positioning of clutch, brake and accelerator appeared uncomfortable to me since they are too close to each other. The dead padel is narrow and is very close to clutch. I found driver and co-driver seat to be much better in ergonomics then Palio/Petra. While driving a felt a little claustrophobic because of following:
1. Clutch/brake/acc very close to each other.
2. Uncomfortable dead padel.
3. Right Door cladding almost rubbing my elbow.
4. Left hand kept brushing with co-driver.
5. Rear view mirrors were too small and cover much less then Palio.
6. Rear windshield is too small and leaves lot of blind spots which are very uncomfortable.

Though reaching 100 kmph appeared forever but I discount this since I am a Palio GTX guy. The car was impressive in its handling on expressway, the steering gave just the right feedback. Braking (ABS) was very impressive 120-0 in straight line. It reached 120 at 3000 rpm but somehow it really struggled beyond that to reach 140. The car was firmly planted on road, the body roll was almost nil and it cornered slightly better than Palio. It is a truly a car made for highways with a reasonable ride in city (due to linear acceleration and good braking).

The ride was very smooth, I think suspension is more tuned for comfort and is less rigid then Palio. Overall very good ride and handling. Though Engine is just enough.
I reached home from office for my wife to continue the test drive. And it was time for me take a back seat for a change.

I sat in back with my two sons aged 5 and six. The leg space was cramped but shoulder and elbow space was worse. Roof height was comfortable. I am convinced that this car can only accommodate two pax at back, third (even a kid) would be uncomfortable. Here is a picture with co-driver seat pushed all the way to front:

My wife was uncomfortable with driving position right from the start, she tried height adjustment, steering adjustment but somehow was not convinced. She kept complaining about the dead pedal and controls being very close to each other etc. But with some pushing from me she started concentrating more on driving.

She too drove for about 25 KMs (including a little rough patch). Her observations were:
1. Driving position not comfortable.
2. Space is less in front as well as back (she also sat in back when I did speed test).
3. Cheap plastic feeling of interior.
4. Interiors are very dull, including seat fabric which was average like 3 lac rupee car.
5. Car looks stunner from outside.
6. Engine is much better and responsive then her Linea test drive. Though she would still prefer to drive Petra for enjoying the drive.
7. Diesel engine noise is less in cabin as compared to Dezire and Linea.
8. Braking is superb, in fact impressive.

So after the test drive it was time for decision. I asked her if I should go ahead and book, she said she needs to drive some more before deciding and I respected that. So I got off at my office and she continued to drive another 30 KMs back home.

I was excited with the thought of Blue&Me and all new gadgets that I missed sorely since last so many years on my Fiat. I spoke with her once she reached office and she asked me to go ahead and decide whatever I wanted and she conveyed her decision was neutral to book Punto.

I decided with my heart, pulled out my chequebook and called up the sales guy to stop by my office and collect cheque for booking Punto Multijet Emotion pack. He promptly came and collected the cheque and I told him that I would call him next day to confirm color so far it is tentative “minimal grey”.

24 hours passed and I found my wife to be a little quite, I too was busy looking for reviews and saw Punto being compared to i20, i10, Ritz, Swift etc. Finally in evening she told me that she is felt bad to burst my bubble but she is not convinced with Punto.

Somehow I too felt that I was overlooking a cramped interior just because of my enthusiasm and I booked the car only because my heart overruled my head.
I personally feel 7 lacs for a small car is not what I want to spend which I would have to sell for 1.5 / 2 lacs after 3-4 years (Please strictly note that this is my personal view), I would rather spend 2-3 lacs more on 1.6 MJD Linea and use it as replacement for Petra.
Somehow Mr Walter’s words kept coming back to my mind... “We have not made this car for Mr. Rishi Kapoor or Fiat enthusiasts but this car is meant for masses”. May be he is right, this is not for me. So it’s time for me to listen to my head this time and cancel my booking tomorrow morning. I feel sad but I don’t want to buy a third Fiat for which I would have to hunt for buyer 3 years from now and I don’t know if Fiat would be able to maintain a decent resale value.

I would continue enjoying my real Fiats (Palio GTX and Petra 1.6) till I would find spares for them and till good people like Mr. OP Sharma would maintain them as good as new for me.
I wish Fiat and Punto all the best!! I feel this is one of the best cars that Fiat has brought to India and I am sure this would sell due to its excellent price range and appeal. Though Fiat/Tata would have to provide better service support so that confidence is restored in brand and re-sale value becomes reasonable.

PS: These are my personal views and are not meant to influence anybody’s decision to buy Fiat products.

A quick comparison
Linea Punto Palio
Length 4560 3987 3827
Width 1730 1687 1620
Height 1487 1495 1440
Wheelbase 2603 2510 2373
Boot 500 280 260
Kerb weight 1291 1190 1065
Ground clearance 161 171 170
Fuel tank capacity 45 45 47
Turning radius 5.55 5.55 5.1
Max torque 86/4000 76/4000 75/4000
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Old 21st June 2009, 08:19   #2
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If I have to buy this car, it will be in blue in color. It looks the best in Blue IMHO.
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Old 21st June 2009, 09:15   #3
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@Rishi:

Exhaustive and a nice write up there with some nice pics. Would only say the 1.6Ltr engines have spoilt your appetite( Your wife's too) and the fact that you live in India only compounds matters for the manufacturers.

If i were to look at it more objectively, the product makes a good value for money proposition bearing in mind the price at which it is available when you look at the competition. It appears atleast on par with the competition if not better.



I am sure that all cars in that range have to cut some corners in quality to price it competetive.

Fiat needs to to do this to be in the game and i feel they have done a good job at it.

The dead pedal and the cramped levers arrangement are something they could have done something about.

How about a Punto D with a Performance Kit. Would atleast give you that additional boost that you are loking for.


Next year you might see powerful MJD engines from Fiat for the Lineas ( Hope the enthusiast part of a fiat fan is taken care of)


The VW Polo might also appeal to you as it may be launched soon.

Keep writing.
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Old 21st June 2009, 09:31   #4
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Beautiful review RK. Even I TD'd the punto yesterday, and was not too impressed. The engine just feels too underpowered, and the interiors are scruffy. I think you made the right decision in cancelling the booking, and waiting for the 1.6 versions. The current car would disappoint you, after the GTX.

But what I'm really shocked is Fiats reply to your mail. I thought the company had improved its attiture, but this statement from them clearly shows that they haven't.
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Old 21st June 2009, 11:19   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muni View Post
@Rishi:

Would only say the 1.6Ltr engines have spoilt your appetite( Your wife's too) and the fact that you live in India only compounds matters for the manufacturers.
Being a fellow Fiat owner who drives a car with 100 horses, I will completely agree with Muni here. Any car having less than 100 horses seems underpowered in the B/B+ segement. Even in C segment. And that's the reason I have not even test drived Linea, Jazz, Ritz, et al. I am not interested in the current version of the Punto as well.

However this may not be true for people who have been driving cars that never had 100 horses. How many in B/B+ segment actually drive a Palio? Very few and even fewer drive the Palio/Petra/Adventure that has 100 horses. I see more MJD face lifted Palios on the road then the 1.6 brethren.

Just arriving at a decision on BHP available, would be doing great injustice to a great product like Linea and Punto. An enthusiast would also give a lot of consideration to factors like Ride & Handling, High Speed Dynamics, Safety. Punto is far ahead of competition in all these areas as most of the reviews suggest. Safety is also top notch with a 5 star rating for Punto. The Honda India website says that Jazz is 4 star. So I feel Punto is still VFM and makes great sense.

Coming to BHP thing, we have this mental block. I would suggest if you don't want to wait, you can give a shot at test driving Ford Fiesta 1.6 Sports. I test drove it last week and it's absolute delight to drive. It may not beat the Fiat but it's almost as good and has the safety features that our old 100 horses lack.
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Old 21st June 2009, 11:20   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muni View Post
@Rishi:

If i were to look at it more objectively, the product makes a good value for money proposition bearing in mind the price at which it is available when you look at the competition. It appears atleast on par with the competition if not better.

I completely agree with you on this but also consider resale value. I have two cars for which I paid over 5 lacs onroad, they are in mint condition with expansive accessories but the price offered is meagre as compared to others.

Also 1.3 was not that major issue but finally what made me gave up was interior space.

I am not giving up on Fiat, I would be the first few to book as soon as Linea is launched with 1.6 and or with Automatic transmission.

And since I already have a Saloon, Sedan and Auto...I think an automatic SUV (read 2.4 litre GV or Fortuner) would make more sense right now then a seven lac hatchback.

Last edited by khan_sultan : 21st June 2009 at 11:28. Reason: fixed quotes
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Old 21st June 2009, 11:56   #7
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:


Quote:
Originally Posted by akbaree View Post
Just arriving at a decision on BHP available, would be doing great injustice to a great product like Linea and Punto. An enthusiast would also give a lot of consideration to factors like Ride & Handling, High Speed Dynamics, Safety. Punto is far ahead of competition in all these areas as most of the reviews suggest. Safety is also top notch with a 5 star rating for Punto. The Honda India website says that Jazz is 4 star. So I feel Punto is still VFM and makes great sense.
I agree with you, but frankly my decision was not based on BHP, this was based on the fact that my wife (who would be actual user) was not comfortable with interior space, control levers and above all blind spot due to C pillar.

Palio/Petra/Punto already have a huge blind spot due to wide A pillar but now a blind spot at C pillar made it worse. I feel a long ownership report would do more justice to my observation.
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Old 21st June 2009, 11:59   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayD View Post
But what I'm really shocked is Fiats reply to your mail. I thought the company had improved its attiture, but this statement from them clearly shows that they haven't.
Am I missing something here? What mail?
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Old 21st June 2009, 12:42   #9
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Interesting observations from both sides of the fences.
In the pre FIAT-TATA JV, FIAT used to dish out power horses with sturdy build quality. The flip side was that these cars were less fuel-efficient.

Post the merger with TATA & assuming a better understanding of the Indian market, it looks like FIAT is consciously going in for lower thump engines(as compared to it's reputation in the past but pretty close to it's competition in the same segments). This has increased the fuel efficiency.

The gamble has played off & this is evident with the Linea sales & the huge response that the Punto is getting. The fact is, if you are looking for volume selling in India, you have to have lower powered engines with high FE. From what I understand, there are plans to launch greater HP engines with the Linea & the Punto 8-10 months of their formal launch.

If this is true, FIAT is actually coming to terms with the Indian market & trying to cater to the junta first & to the enthusiasts a bit later down the line.

Does anyone see anything wrong with this?
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Old 21st June 2009, 20:08   #10
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Hi Rishi,

The review was crisp and elaborate for a prospective buyer like me. Thanks for the neat review. In the mean time have you test drove Getz CRDi or Vista? What about your views on Getz CRDi? I think it has all the components (rear leg room, power 110 bhp and a good handling) that were missing in Punto. Now I am really confused to go with punto for which i was waiting for more than 6 months. The recent offer from Hyundai for Getz (5.41 OTR-Chennai) is slightly moving me towards Getz.
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Old 21st June 2009, 21:03   #11
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lets wait for the HP engines to be launched first... I hope they do because the current crop of engines offered on the Linea and Punto are nothing exceptional
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Old 21st June 2009, 22:11   #12
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GTO's review was complete, comprehensive and ensured that it covered all aspects..maybe not.. It just needed a little FIAT love and obsession which is now complete with Rishi.

Excellent review!! from a true FIAT fan.

I just completed my test drive today morning on a Red Color Fiat Grande Punto Emotion Plus pack (Petrol version)

Compared to the Fiat Palio 1.6, that I owned
- Car lacks the emotional thump it used to add as the engine revs climbs
- It feels a little muted, but is no way a poor performer, I kept hitting the rev limiter in all the gears (somewhere around 6300 RPM)
- Plastic quality was a lacklustre feel

Looks wise, the car is a stunner. I love the looks.
Steering feels chunky, would like a little finnesse added to it.

Over all, GOOD .. infact great car for the masses. Not the perfect car for me.
I however, wish FIAT the very best.
I am hoping that the success of GP would enable it to bring the 1.6 TPetrol (150 BHP) and the Abarth versions to India.

Last edited by raajks : 21st June 2009 at 22:13.
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Old 21st June 2009, 22:50   #13
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Mr. Rishi Kapoor,

A very well written review indeed.More so because from this and many other posts i have read, all point out to the fact that it is better not to change the palio 1.6 for the grande punto.for various reasons.

True a car cannot be judged only on Bhp.especially in a state like Kerala where i may be using only 60% of my car's true potential.but its always nice to know that there are extra horses underneath just in case the need arises.also once when someone gets used to driving the gtx its difficult for anything less than 100bhp to satisfy you!!

Anyway the 1.6linea mjd is coming out-i confirned from the dealer in cochin though it will take some time.

What JayD observed is very true-did Fiat really send such an arrogant reply?if so, then,well,some things never change!!!
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Old 21st June 2009, 23:43   #14
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I can understand and relate to what you feel like. Although I drive a Palio Multijet, somehow I find the older 1.6 GTX much more appealing! I hope you find a good ride soon, whether or not you take delivery of the Punto.

P.S. It's good to see another set of Fiats maintained by the venerable Mr O. P. Sharma. Believe me, he was the guy because of whom I felt that owning a Fiat may still make sense in today's time, after my initial traumatic days with the wonderful oldest dealer who sells the maximum Fiats in Delhi.
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Old 22nd June 2009, 07:22   #15
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I wish 3 years from now the TJet petrol engines will come down to mainstream level. I'm happy with the diesel Multijet as of now but I am dreaming for a TJet petrol engine in my next car. Can Fiat develop an excise duty version (<1200cc) of such an engine for the Grande Punto? For my style of driving 70bhp/tonne power is decent.
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