|20th June 2009, 16:36||#1|
Fiat Grande Punto : Test Drive & Review
What you'll like:
• Stunning design. Easily the most stylish hatchback on our roads today
• Solid build quality
• Fuel efficient diesel
• Mature & superb ride quality
• Outstanding high speed dynamics. The new benchmark (amongst hatches)
• Perfectly calibrated & weighted power steering. Deserves a mention here
• 5 star safety, ABS & airbags (even on the diesel variant)
What you won't:
• Rear bench space. Cosy interiors by big hatch standards. Not an Indica Vista
• Interior fit, finish and quality are strictly average
• Low FE of the petrol
• Lack of outright performance (diesel). No high powered engine (a la Palio 1.6 100 BHP)
• Engine noise at speed (petrol and diesel both)
• Service network not a match of say, Maruti or Hyundai
The Abarth Punto:
• Link to Report
• Link to Report
The 2014 Facelift:
• Link to Report
Reported Fuel Efficiency:
• 1.3 Diesel : 13.6 (City) / 17.1 (Highway)
• 1.4 Petrol : 9.7 (City) / 13.5 (Highway)
• 1.2 Petrol : 10.4 (City) / 13.8 (Highway)
Last edited by GTO : 25th November 2015 at 10:53. Reason: Link to Abarth
|20th June 2009, 16:36||#2|
Did you know that the Punto is the worldwide successor of the Uno? For Fiat India, the Grande Punto wears the same responsibility as the Uno did in ‘97. The Linea may have been their comeback car, but it’s the Punto that Fiat hopes will fetch the volumes home. Simply put, this is Fiat India’s make-it-or-break-it hatch. The Tata-Fiat Ranjangaon facility bears an annual production capacity of 2,00,000 cars; numbers are of paramount importance to Fiat India and explains the competitive pricing. Everyone’s rushing to the “B” segment of the market….the only one that’s clocking consistent MOM / YOY growth (More information here (May 2009 : Indian Car Sales & Analysis)).
This is the 3rd generation Punto and has recently received a global face lift. The platform is shared with the Linea. IMHO, Fiat’s launching the Linea before the Grande Punto was a smart move, similar to how they launched the Siena ahead of the Palio a decade ago.
The mini-Maserati front end is the highlight of the car, the tear drop headlamps looking striking. Flared wheel arches are well integrated and add a bit of muscle to the car's profile. 15 inch wheels and a wide 195 patch tyre (mounted on 12 spoke alloys) give the Emotion variant a particularly balanced stance. The alloys themselves are not to my taste, but these are a li'l better than most OEM alloy wheels. The rear looks neat & tidy, thanks to the C-Pillar light arrangement. The Grande Punto wears an overall proportionate design and looks particular smashing in red or black body colours. Clearly, the Italians know a thing or two about style. In some ways, the Grande Punto does come across a modern sibling of the Palio. To me, the Hyundai i20 was the best looking hatch on our roads, until I saw the Punto in the flesh on wednesday.
Build quality is solid, the steel clearly that of a high tensile grade, and the car feels sturdier than most of its Asian competition. Yet, and surprisingly, the doors don’t shut with quite the Palio “thud” (if you know what I mean ). To its credit, the Punto has received an impressive 5 star safety rating in the NCAP. Exterior fit and finish are good while the paint job quality is superb. The Indian-spec Punto has had its length (or more precisely, the bumpers) cut short to fall within the 4,000 mm excise-benefit range.
NOTE : All the smaller pictures are thumbnail impressions. Clicking on them will open up a larger version of the picture (in a new window).
|20th June 2009, 16:37||#3|
The doors open / shut in three stages (typically European) and once sealed, external traffic noise stays out. Step inside and there is adequate space for 4 adults (with an occasional 5th passenger thrown in). However, this is by no means a very spacious hatch. The Indica Vista is in a league of its own when it comes to interior space, I even remember the Palio’s interiors as being more accommodating. The Punto feel cosy on the inside, partly also due to the dull black & grey interior tones (Linea comes in beige, why not here?). It's more spacious than say a swift, albeit by big hatch standards, the rear legroom can best be termed as adequate. Space utilization & packaging are not overtly intelligent.
The dual tone Linea dashboard looks fantastic. Chrome-ringed dials & the awesome instrument console by itself is a sight for sore eyes. Of special mention is the meaty steering wheel that has contours to rest your thumbs. This is amongst the best steering wheels our side of 20 lakh rupees. The steering is tilt adjustable on all variants, though I felt that it didn’t tilt low enough (upward adjustment was fine, downward wasn't). The driver’s seat has height adjustment too, so finding your driving position is only a couple of settings away. The center console is subtly angled toward the driver. On the flip side, the footwell is very cramped and the dead pedal integration is awkward. This definitely takes getting used to and those with a large shoe size will keep rubbing their left foot against the partition. Some ergonomics are so obviously designed for long-armed Italians (e.g. you have to reach out for the front power window controls as well as that of the ORVM adjustment). The air-con vents feel old and Palio-like. No independent air volume adjustments on the blowers.
While fit & finish are good on the outside, it's a different story on the inside; Nice in few interior areas, average in most and absolute rubbish in some (glue coming out of joints, odd paint on the glass, misaligned fittings etc.). Some interior parts are good, most are strictly average. Seat support was satisfactory up at the front (large seats giving you a mild hug) and the rear bench. I liked the seat fabric and it feels durable too. The thick A pillar + C Pillar do create some blind spots. Attention to detail is found lacking in some areas. There aren't any bottle holders in the slim door pockets. And the cup holders really can't hold a medium sized cup / soda can (Italian cappuccino takeaway cups must be real small). The upgraded-for-India air conditioner did a fantastic job of keeping us cool, even without sun film in the stinging North Indian summer.
The wide tail gate makes loading easy, and the high loading bay a little difficult. Boot space is respectable by hatchback standards (280 liters) while the rear is a 60:40 split folding seat (for additional cargo).
The top-end Emotion variant is loaded : Dual stage front airbags, electric mirrors, climate control, Blue & Me, 6 speaker MP3 audio system with a USB port, multi-info display, height adjustable driver seat, rear wash & wipe, front fogs, 195/60/15 tyres + alloys and ABS + EBD (a MUST in my opinion).
Neat silver finish center console. Old school vents (sans volume control):
Empty boot with parcel tray up:
With parcel tray in place:
Not the widest rear view:
|20th June 2009, 16:38||#4|
Fiat sells the Grande Punto with three engine options. The best seller will undoubtedly be our national engine : The now ubiquitous Fiat 1.3 multi-jet diesel (also available in the Swift, Ritz, Indica Vista, Palio, Dzire etc.). Fiat expects this engine to account for 65 - 70% of Punto sales. Power delivery is more linear than in the Swift (no sudden surge), but the Swift’s superior power to weight makes the Maruti noticeably quicker. 1st & 2nd ratios are short, urban driveability satisfactory and gear changes within the city are minimal. Mild turbo-lag can be felt. On the open road (and highways), this engine is more a cruiser than a scorcher. Outright performance is average, partly due to the massive 1,190 kerb weight of the diesel Punto. The MJD's useful revv band is between 2,000 - 4,100 rpms. There's absolutely no point revving beyond there, though if you insist, she will go to just above the 5,000 rpm mark. The diesel's engine noise protrudes significantly on the inside, more so on the highway (drone when working through the gears). Expect respectable fuel efficiency (ARAI certification = 19.2 kpl) as is inherent to this engine.
The 1.4 liter DOHC 89 horsepower petrol needs to be worked to perform (115 nm @ 4,500 rpms), and it's a heck of a lot of fun to. The petrol is smooth and revvs freely all the way to its 6,600 rpm redline (ain't no Palio 1.6 100 BHP machine though). Driveability is better than in the Honda Jazz 1.2, the 2nd gear pulling clean from 10 kph (with 3 passengers & full luggage onboard) all the way to 80 kph, and proving to be a vital tool within the city. Even the 3rd pulls clean from in-town speeds. The engine sounds awesome at high rpms (classic Italian engine sound), however the noise gets unduly loud at speed and regular joes (non-enthusiasts) will find it very annoying. Don’t expect the 1.4 to be fuel efficient either. A 330 km highway run got the 45 liter tank well below the reserve marking while ARAI fuel efficiency rating is only 13.8 kpl (Ritz petrol 17.7 and Jazz 16.1). I love driving hatchbacks and thoroughly enjoyed putting the 1.4 petrol through her paces for 300 fast kms!! The revv-counter is metered till 7,000 rpms without any redline markings
On the open road, the 1.3 MJD starts running out of breath around 120 - 130ish, the 1.4 petrol around 140. Progress is slow after that. The Punto's gearshift quality is long and rubbery - not a match for the slick Japanese variety - and the clutch travel seems unduly long. The clutch, by itself, is light. We didn't get a chance to test the 1.2. With a power to weight ratio of 59 BHP / Ton, I don't think I missed too much. It's only available in one variant (base) and forms the entry level price. I wouldn't go anywhere near the 1.2. ARAI certification for this engine = 14.3 kpl.
The suspension is typically European and exceedingly mature in it's behaviour . At low speeds, you can feel the firmness. As the speedometer needle climbs, the ride quality truly shines. On the highway, the Punto can simply smother the worst of roads without breaking into the smallest sweat. You feel confident and stop slowing down for rough patches. Behaviour is big car like (expected after the Palio experience) and simply put : no other hatch can match! Just like the Linea, this thing loves corners with the chassis exuding its poise proudly. Let's start with the steering : Perfectly weighted & amongst the best hydraulic units I've ever used. The steering is firm at 0 kph parking manouveurs, medium-light within the city and weighs in supremely well at speed. Slight body roll can be felt, not enough to make a big difference. Straight line stability is akin to that of a premium sedan, @ flimsy tall boys : please make way for the leader. Skoda's Fabia was the benchmark for highway road manners till date....that's entirely history now. Or let me put it another way : At 130 kph in my OHC Vtec, I'm on my toes. At 140 kph in the Punto, I'm yawning. I have to admit : the Grande Punto begs for more power. NVH levels at speed are not impressive, road & tyre noise being obvious on the inside. Within the city, expect complaints on the wide turning radius (5.4 meters). Most u-turns within Delhi were three point exercises. Even though the pedal feel in itself is spongy, the braking capability - in the ABS + EBD variant that we drove - was fantastic & confidence inspiring.
This clearly isn't a car you'd buy with your head as much as you'd do with the heart. For the women in my family, I'd choose the i10 (preferably automatic). High mileage urban running for them? Ritz diesel. If you want ample space for 5 or chauffeur-driven comfort, look no further than the Indica Vista. For those who are looking at driving a light chuckable hatch only within the city with high quality interiors, turn elsewhere.
To really enjoy the Punto, you have to experience her brilliant dynamics. Of all the new hatchbacks launched this year, my money would be on a "Red, MJD, Emotion Pack". This hatch pulls the strings to your heart like no other.
Last edited by GTO : 20th June 2009 at 16:54.
|20th June 2009, 16:38||#5|
• Rom's test-drive report of the 1.2 L petrol can be found here.
• T’was a long 650 kms drive (round trip). Covered each type of driving condition - Congested city traffic (Delhi), long empty straights, fast corners, ghat section et al. Even after 650 kms of torture, not a single rattle in the car.
• Mpower points out "Little known fact is that this baby has German blood. Grande Punto is based on the latest Opel Corsa platform (not the regular Punto) from where it probably gets its Autobahn blitzing ability. Happened during the brief FIAT-GM relationship in the early 00s."
• Fiat consciously didn’t get the 1.6 100 BHP engine, as it was this engine that contributed to the Palio’s fuel guzzler image. @ Fiat : Please launch a more powerful version of this car for us enthusiasts. The brilliant dynamics + high speed behaviour deserve a 100 - 120 free revving horses at the least! Fuel efficiency be damned.
• I wish (and communicated the same) that Fiat had launched the Linea-spec 1.3 MJD in the Punto. That additional power would be welcome, and a key differentiator in the national engine market!!
• I’m happy with the wide 195 mm tyres that Fiat provides on the top-end variant! This is pretty much the widest stock tyre on any hatch.
• 2 year unlimited mileage warranty. Extended warranty available (IIRC for 4 years 1,50,000 kms warranty) and highly recommended. Fiat’s way of garnering trust?
• It will be interesting to see how the Tata-Fiat combo handles the Vista & Punto in the same showroom. Either car is of high importance to its respective parent.
• Top variant Blue & Me : Integrates entirely with your phone via blue tooth. Handsfree conversations, reads out SMS and downloads phonebook.
• Tilt power steering + central locking standard across all variants. Power windows too (even entry level variant has front power windows). One-touch down power windows on all doors, one-touch up only on the drivers.
• No adjustments for steering reach or lumbar support. I'd have loved to see this in the Punto. Also, you can feel the steering rack moving (on your foot) if you press the clutch pedal entirely and turn the wheel.
• Ground clearance stats read as 173mm & 171mm for the petrol & diesel variants respectively. With 3 on board & a full load of luggage, we didn't scrape anywhere. However, we didn't encounter XL size speed breakers either. I will hold further comment on this until the owners start reporting.
• Diesel understeers a little earlier than the petrols, thanks to the additional weight upfront.
• Super cool windscreen washer arrangement. All of 6 effective spray jets!
• Starter protection won't allow a careless crank when the engine is already running.
• Rear windows roll down to only about 60 - 65% level (see picture in the next post).
• Another example of messed up ergonomics = Expect to brush elbows with your co-passenger when shifting gears.
• Front seat travel has a vast range.
• Nice horn!
• While we used up almost the entire petrol tank in the 330 kms drive, on the way back, same driving style + distance, the diesel tank was just slightly below the halfway mark.
• I noticed a lot of drivers fumbling when engaging the 5th gear. Certainly takes effort + attention.
• Someone else mentioned that the fuel gauge takes 5 - 7 minutes to show the correct reading, right after a tank fill. I haven't verified this statement.
• Car has mod potential (externally). Nice alloys & subtle body kit = unreal heat! For the MJD, a power tuning box would become a must-have accessory.
• If the Palio has developed a fan club that runs nearly into 10 years, I can only imagine what the “Punto effect" will be like.
• The Palio really ought to be discontinued now. Sales are woefully dismal too. What's the point of having a 10 year old hatch standing next to the modern Linea + Punto?
• Disclaimer : Fiat invited Team-BHP for the Punto test-drive. They covered all the expenses for this driving event.
Last edited by GTO : 20th July 2009 at 18:50.
|20th June 2009, 16:38||#6|
The Smaller yet significant things:
Nice to see a car with a stock lighter:
Left ORVM didn't extend as wide as I'd prefer it to:
The only bit in the car that's not stylish:
That's after a spirited highway run:
195/60/15 tyres. Widest of any hatch:
The max that the rear window will roll down to (approx 60%):
Look closer. There's body paint on the glass!:
Adjustable seat belts. Weird feeling control knob:
A Hyundai i10 smashed into the back of this Punto. The Hyundai's bumper + bonnet got bent. The Punto? Only a misaligned bumper:
Red Punto versus Red Vista. Entirely a coincidence (lunch stop):
Kept us company:
Thoughtful light inside the boot area:
Foot rest + Pedal arrangement:
Tell's you which door is open:
Meaty high quality badge:
The "Punto" sign embroidered on front seats. Style, wot?:
Last edited by GTO : 29th June 2009 at 10:47.
|20th June 2009, 16:41||#9|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jun 2008
Thanked: 768 Times
Great review GTO.
Was waiting to hear you point of view.
Now only if I can gather enough trust in Tata/Fiat service to sign the cheque...
Last edited by AbhiJ : 20th June 2009 at 16:52.
|20th June 2009, 16:41||#10|
|20th June 2009, 16:46||#11|
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: B E N G A L U R U
Thanked: 0 Times
Aaha! Now this is what I was waiting for . Fantastic review GTO . Great pics . That is one superb looking Car from FIAT.
Last edited by mnhegde : 20th June 2009 at 16:48.
|20th June 2009, 16:51||#12|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Thanked: 8 Times
Gto, you say the most stylish hatch on Indian roads today, so you have switched your vote from i20 to punto, since till the punto was launched that vote went to the i20.
So Punto seems to be most VFM premium hatch as of today.
|20th June 2009, 16:57||#13|
Join Date: Jul 2008
Thanked: 133 Times
@ GTO - Could you throw some light on how is the MJD's initial acceleration?
1) Does it have the turbo kick that Swift has? or is it linear (read boring) as in Linea?
2) Is the braking adequate without the ABS and EBD?
|20th June 2009, 17:00||#14|
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Margao, Goa
Thanked: 808 Times
-Interior fit, finish and quality are strictly average - Which car have you used as a benchmark here to arrive at this conclusion?
- Low FE of the petrol - How much did you get?
- Lack of outright performance (diesel). - But it's the same engine which people call mind blowing in the Swift.
-No high powered engine (a la Palio 1.6 100 BHP)-Agree
-Engine noise at speed (petrol and diesel both) - Which car have you used as a benchmark here to arrive at this conclusion?
-Service network not a match of say, Maruti or Hyundai - Agree. But with the standards of other manufacturers service going down day by day, Fiat may be on par with Maruti, Hyundai and the rest without actually doing anything.
Nice Review. Was just asking about the benchmark car you compared it to because I compared it to the Swift, Vista and i20 which in my opinion are behind the Punto in these departments. (i20 only for the first point.).
Last edited by pedrolourenco : 20th June 2009 at 17:01. Reason: Gramatical error
|The following BHPian Thanks pedrolourenco for this useful post:|