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Old 14th July 2010, 16:22   #1
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Default First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP

A Bold(er) new drive

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05201.jpg
What you will like:
  • gorgeous Italian Design, proportionate from every angle
  • The same vault like build quality
  • rock solid sturdiness at high speeds
  • high calibre ride and handling combination
  • improved overall driveability and refinement
  • Lesser NVH as compared to 76 PS FGT
  • extremely rev friendly torquey diesel motor
  • Linear power delivery
  • front seat comfort
  • equipment levels on offer-Blue and Me, My car
  • 15,000 km service interval, 50 month warranty and roadside assistance
What you wont:
  • Atrocious interior plastic quality and finish with inconsistent panel gaps
  • not much improvement in flat out acceleration
  • inconsistent gear ratios and rubbery shift
  • turbo lag below 2,000 rpm
  • cramped rear
  • awful turning radius
  • red stitching looks tacky and not to everyone's taste
  • inconsistent quality of service
  • potential high asking price
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05199.jpg

Last edited by sidindica : 14th July 2010 at 16:24.
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Old 14th July 2010, 16:32   #2
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Nice pics SID as always, any news about the pricing front please let us know and could you please confirm if 90HP comes with standard black painted top as in the pics.
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Old 14th July 2010, 16:38   #3
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Introduction:

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05145.jpg

When Fiat launched the punto way back in June 2009, expectations were mixed, yet high. This is the very same car that single handidly saved Fiat from going bankrupt in Europe when it was launched in 2005.
Much of Fiat India's woes and making a stable yet sensible alliance with tata has ensured that the punto deserves the same level of success in India as well.
Not going too much into detail, it was just an average sales numbers gainer for Fiat India with numbers hovering between 900-1200 units per month. Good enough for a brand that already had a tarnished reputation in the Indian public's perception and was rising from ashes. the car already offered much to some extent for what the Indian public demanded-sensational styling, outstanding ride and handling, safety, comfort, fuel efficiency and a competitive price to begin with.
The public had high expectations considering the huge investment made by fiat in this JV with tata which included sharing of engines, assembly lines and manufacturing of Fiat's 1.2, 1.4 petrols and 1.3 diesels MJD in different state of tunes for both Tata and Fiat vehicles.
When the car finally hit the showrooms, response was cold yet cautious. The public in general liked the car overall yet reactions were mixed.
Complaints like below average performance and awful interior quality along with inconsistent quality of service were topmost.

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05146.jpg

Fiat India introduced a number of initiatives like 50 months extended warranty and roadside assistance, many Fiat first branded service initiatives and free check up camps across the nation which worked a lot to improve public's perception about the brand, yet ultimately improvements in product formed the topmost priority in the company.

Based on customer feedback and to get the fledging punto back on track, Fiat has finally plonked in the Linea's engine which substantially ants the power up to 93 PS (90HP) and marginal improvements in torque. Fiat also claims to have improved the overall finesse and polish in the car, but is that enough?

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05148.jpg
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Old 14th July 2010, 16:38   #4
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So only visible difference is black roof and chrome door handles like Linea E PK.
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Old 14th July 2010, 16:46   #5
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The design:

Lots of discussions have been made on how the car looks and people still go ga ga over it. Designed by Giorgetto Guigiaro of Italdesign, the car still manages to turn heads and looks positively masculine in a good way. It looks proportionate, clean and most importantly, is a design that will prove to be timeless, unlike the boring Polo or Confused I 20.

While not much difference is visible, the 90 HP comes only in emotion pack so all the bells and whistles like the gorgeous 15" alloys with 195/60 R15 tyres are standard, it also gets an additional feature-chrome door handles from the linea and a discreet "90 HP" badging on the tailgate to distinguish from its cheaper sibling.

Front 3 quarter profile: simply stunning.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05198.jpg

Clean and simple side with characteristic window beltline aiding character.
Black Painted roof NOT STANDARD.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05197.jpg

rear end with gorgeous high mounted taillights looks great.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05196.jpg

15" alloy wheels give the car its imposing stance.
Standard on 90 HP E-pack.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05202.jpg

Mercury drop headlamps and Maserati like grill timeless.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05200.jpg

Wicked rear again.
"No wonder you are behind me" statement is misleading.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05195.jpg

Last edited by sidindica : 14th July 2010 at 16:50.
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Old 14th July 2010, 16:48   #6
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The black roof looks tacky to me! I am generally a fan of black roofs but not this one.
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Old 14th July 2010, 16:49   #7
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Good work Sid. Hope to see more info coming from this thread. Liked the caption on the back - "No wonder you are behind me. I am the most powerful Diesel Hatchback"
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Old 14th July 2010, 17:10   #8
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The inside story:

Get inside and the same love it or hate it interior of the standard punto greets you.
Now comes the big question that everyone asked-has Fiat really worked hard to improve the interior environment?
The answer is yes, but only marginally. Still a car costing north of 7.5 lakhs (est. OTR, Delhi) doesn't deserve this type of quality and fit plus finish.

Demo car woes aside, the interior is the singularly the biggest Achilles heel of the Punto. The plastics are now soft to touch, yes but the overall quality and most importantly, the fit and finish is just below par, way too atrocious. The car has many misaligned panels and doesn't really reek of quality anywhere. Look here, and the lack of it pops out. Clearly, this is a huge opportunity gone lost.

But the car does have some great touches like the dimples leather steering wheel, amazing to grip and perfectly contoured for palms, the superb front seats with amazing lateral support and good lower back support, good easy to find driving position with a combination of seat height adjustment and a tilt steering wheel plus gizmos like automatic climate control, standard bluetooth connectivity, the superb "MY CAR" settings to play with and a USB port with steering mounted controls as standard.

The front is spacious and comfortable with support marked at all the right places, though under thigh support could be better. Instead of white stitching, this particular model gets red stitching on the front and rear seats with red "P" logos, which, to me, looks quite like an afterthought and does not gel well with the overall grey and black interior theme.

Besides that, the white on black dials look lovely and read with absolute clarity and are exclusive to the VGT. Th seat travel is above average but suits all sizes of human frames.
Ergonomically, the dashboard placement is a bit too close to the knee level and pedal placement could have been far better, their long travel not withstanding. Its overall better than the I20 CRDI and Polo TDI, though. (perceptions may vary).

Coming to the rear, the seat comfort is improved and feels more cosier but, only for two at best. Seat width is not in the league of the Indica Vista and sitting 3 abreast can be cramped, especially with the shortage of legroom on offer. Again, not the very best overall.

The boot space is large by hatchback standards and decent enough to carry two-three medium sized luggage containers. High loading sill can be a hinderence though.
The inclusion of a safety plate at the backseat to prevent luggage intrusion in the event of a crash is again superb attention to detail.

Pictorial description:

AC worked superbly in high humid Delhi weather, automatic climate control standard.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05151.jpg

passenger side airbag. Soft touch plastics but overall feel still downmarket.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05152.jpg

huge gap when glovebox closed is certainly not what you want on a car costing 7.5 lakh (est)plus
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05153.jpg

atrocious plastic quality used in the steering column.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05154.jpg

steering mounted audio controls plus controls for Blue and me standard.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05155.jpg

typical punto glitch-huge gap on ignition console-remains as ever.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05156.jpg

the Mp3 CD audio system from Blaupunkt sounds god awful, would rate 4/10 for sound quality. That is package wrap bwtween the console and the steering wheel, which I took off later.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05157.jpg

rubber beading came off in a brand new car, quality anyone?
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05158.jpg

inconsistent panel gap under the steering column
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05159.jpg

dashboard design looks sophisticated, yet let down by quality, feel and finish. No air volume adjustments even on 90 HP.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05160.jpg

Look at the steering wheel horn pad and ignition console-HUGE gap.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05161.jpg

A closer view of the horn pad-quality control? or lack of it?
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05162.jpg

door pockets are disappointingly small. All four power windows operate auto down, only driver's side auto up. Power adjustible mirrors standard, manual retract.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05163.jpg

white dials look lovely and upmarket with great fonts and amazing clarity.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05164.jpg

good boot space marred by high loading sill.
First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05172.jpg

Last edited by sidindica : 14th July 2010 at 17:20.
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Old 14th July 2010, 17:15   #9
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Gee Sid, Thanks for beating me in posting the 90 BHP Punto Review onboard . That said, I'm sure your review will be as insightful as our official test reports. Waiting for the full driving post from you.

Honestly, my expectations were high for this car and I'm disappointed. There is like hardly any difference at all in outright performance. Sure, the driveability is marginally better, and the mid-range highway performance has improved. But overall, WHERE HAVE THE 15 HORSES GONE?

Fiat, do us a favour and learn how to tune your engines. Your competitors do it better. This car has a lot more potential than you've discovered.
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Old 14th July 2010, 17:24   #10
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I dont know whats wrong with these guys at Fiat India. They seemed to be masters of screw-ups. They took what could have been the best hatch and made into an average hatch. Like GTO mentioned, where are those extra horses! Compared to the I20 the punto is lighter (i20 is 1222kgs while punto is 1190kgs I think), so they cannot say its the weight. When hyundai can do it, why can't fiat???? They have been in this business far longer than hyundai.
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Old 14th July 2010, 17:30   #11
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Great review SID. Just one question to you gurus. The estimated OTR INR 7.5. is worth paying over the normal GP MJD available? What i mean to ask is, for normal driving routines, for e.g. 70% city - 30% highway, is it worth paying that extra for those 15 horses.

Thanks in advance.

P.S. I dont mean to initiate a debate here, just a doubt that came into my mind and thought of getting it clarified.
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Old 14th July 2010, 17:51   #12
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Great initial report Sid! Sorry but here are some questions:
What is the 'MY CAR' feature?
Is this something that is being provided only on the 90HP Punto?
Is it really a 90HP Punto or 93 like the Linea?
You mentioned the Black Roof is optional. Is there any other things on the options list?
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Old 14th July 2010, 17:54   #13
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Engine, gearbox and performance:

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05165.jpg

Now comes the biggest question that all have been asking for- Is it really worth the extra cash and effort that Fiat has spent on making the punto a better car to drive in terms of overall performance, driveability and refinement, after getting brickbats from current owners who complained of sluggishness in terms of performance and overall refinement?

The answer lies in driving it and on paper, 93 PS @4000 rpm as compared to 76 PS and 20.7 KG-M @1750 rpm torque as compared to 20.4 KG-M@1750 rpm sound like a huge improvement, given the 1248 cc displacement of the legendary Multijet engine powering umpteen number of cars around the country.

This increase in power has been made with the addition of a variable geometry turbocharger, which works consistently at varying RPMs and reduces turbolag and aids driveability, as well promises to increase performance, fuel efficiency due to less stress being laid on the engine and at the same time, being also environment friendly.

Sounds like a winner on paper? Yes.
But while driving it, if you expect a quantum leap improvement, then be prepared for a rude shock.
Sorry Fiat, its an opportunity gone lost. That statement on the rear windshield is honestly, not what you expect after swearing to tell the truth after putting that hand on the Gita.

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05205.jpg

There are positives, namely big improvements in NVH at idle and overall mid range driveability. But the feel in overall straight line acceleration will leave you disappointed.

Start the engine at idle and the smoothness will impress you, much improved over the stock old FGT motor, in fact revving at its 5200 rpm redline, it felt much smoother and comparatively less gravelly to its cheaper sibling. But the good news ends there.

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05194.jpg

Select first gear, and turbo lag is huge and annoying and very persistent. Yes, all the torque works for city but its only at 2100 rpm that the turbo really kicks in and you get a dose of some performance build up. The second gear is ridiculously tall and driving at 60-80 kmph with the engine spinning at 3,000 rpm is not what you expect from a high torque diesel. Progress builds up well between 50-80 with a strong mid range and then the engine simply struggles between 80-100 in 3rd gear.
Surprised? To me, it came as a shock and I thought that the engine has lost its top end and the car is about to stall....

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05204.jpg

0-100 can take an estimated 15.7-16.2 seconds (not accurate but estimated) and the differences in horses is not really felt to an average driver. Only at the open highway at 4th gear the engine comes out at what it does best-cruising miles.

Strangely, the linea feels much quicker despite being 120 odd Kgs heavier. The 5th gear is again for aiding top end but its best to keep the engine between 2,200-4,000 rpm to extract the best performance out of it.

The gearbox is marginally better but the ratios are not drastically altered, save for the bit taller 5th gear aimed at cruising speed and aiding fuel economy. The shift action is vague and rubbery, especially the second and 4th gears which sometimes hesitate to slot.

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05168.jpg

I had high expectations and came out again, disappointed. Actually I had more fun revving the polo TDI even if it lagged behind in performance stakes being a 3 cylinder motor, though the i20 CRDI stays the benchmark in overall performance and refinement for this class of premium hatchbacks.

Last edited by sidindica : 14th July 2010 at 17:57.
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Old 14th July 2010, 18:00   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Honestly, my expectations were high for this car and I'm disappointed. There is like hardly any difference at all in outright performance. Sure, the driveability is marginally better, and the mid-range highway performance has improved. But overall, WHERE HAVE THE 15 HORSES GONE?
.
How would you compare it with the I20 CRDI with respect to outright performance? Frankly i felt I20 CRDI also lags in this aspect given they also have 90HP diesel engine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
I had high expectations and came out again, disappointed. Actually I had more fun revving the polo TDI even if it lagged behind in performance stakes being a 3 cylinder motor, though the i20 CRDI stays the benchmark in overall performance and refinement for this class of premium hatchbacks.
Ok got the answer here now. But i felt Swift VDI is much better in outright acceleration compared to I20.

Last edited by arunkk : 14th July 2010 at 18:07.
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Old 14th July 2010, 18:13   #15
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Ride, handling and Braking:

First Drive: Fiat Punto Multi Jet VGT 90 HP-dsc05189.jpg

Perhaps, thankfully the one aspect that Fiat has kept intact is the optimal ride and handling combination that the Punto is known for, of a very high calibre. In this model, Fiat has reduced the steering effort at parking speeds and the feel is sometimes inconsistent. But thats about it.
The steering feel and grip are again, of a very high calibre and the wheel feels perfectly connected with the chassis and the car darts the way you want it to, especially on twisties. In the interiors of the Okhla Industrial estate, we got numerous opportunities to test its handling and the car came out triumphs with superb and secure handling.

Body roll is there but well controlled and the car feels secure at aggressive turns. The higher you go, the stability and handling further improves wit the wide tyres and superb chassis feeling glued to the road unlike many Asian hatchbacks which can become potentially scary.

One major grouse is the huge turning radius, another Achilles heel. Simple U-turns require a reverse and can become painful and sometimes, embarrassing especially after seeing many bikers making you deaf with their horns and "chal bai, jaldi nikal" slogans on the area photographed above.

Now comes another lovely aspect of this car-the ride quality. Fiats have always been known for their high caliber ride and the punto 90 HP is no different. The pic shown above is an approach to the backside of the okhla sabzi mandi, which has enough potholes to make a brand new maruti 800 get a suspension overhaul job if abused heavily. Not so to the punto.

Even at 60 kmph speeds, ride was a bit harsh but nothing that can get passengers tossed around. However, an unwanted thud noise from the rear suspension was often heard perceiving that was very stiff.
Low speed ride is extremely avantgarde with no minor imperfections unsettling the car. the higher you go, the better the ride goes as the car simply smothers any potholes that it goes over, save for huge ones which can cause front overhang to bottom out and scrape.

Tire and suspension noise is pretty well controlled but at high speeds, it unduly intrudes into the passenger compartment, but not that much to cause a complain.

Braking again is superb with standard 4 channel ABS and EBD powering the ventilated discs at front and drums at the rear. The car stops straight on it toes but pedal feel is pretty spongy and can be much better.
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