RAC

Fiat Punto Evo range

Introduction

Fiat's Punto Evo provides more style and greater value for money than supermini buyers might be expecting. June Neary reports'

Will It Suit Me?

When Fiat's Punto Evo arrived on my drive, I was pleasantly surprised. No, it wasn't quite as smart as the Grande Punto model it effectively replaces but it still looked sexy and stylish, as you would expect from this famous Italian marquee. Plus it also exuded a certain presence that many superminis lack these days. The Grande Punto had a bigger car feel than the previous Punto and this Punto Evo takes that a stage further still. With this model, I wouldn't have to keep splashing out on rental vehicles every time I wanted to join my friends on a weekender up-country. This is down to a long wheelbase, which has released impressive interior room. There's also a large glass area - which gives the cabin a light, airy feel. So far so good.

Practicalities

This is one of the bigger cars in its class, one of few superminis large enough to provide a realistic reason not to buy a larger family hatchback. Don't get me wrong: the Punto Evo remains a supermini rather than a hatch, but it does provide enough space inside - at least in five-door form - to make longer family trips a reasonably pleasant proposition. Three can sit across the split-folding back seat, while the five-door's large boot is one of the bigger ones in this sector. Even the three-door's capacity is more than reasonable.

Behind the Wheel

As far as handling is concerned, I'd say that this Fiat is once more at or near the top of the class. It may not feel particularly sporty, but it's easy to place through the bends with the well-weighted power steering. If Fiat's objective was to create a car you could enjoy driving on motorways and back roads, as well as around town, then they've succeeded. As for performance, it will depend on your choice between engines. At present, there are three petrol engine options - a 1.4-ltre 8v with 77bhp, a 1.4-litre Multiair 16v with 105bhp and a turbocharged version of this engine with 135bhp. Plus there are two Multijet II turbodiesels with either 75 or 95bhp 130bhp. I tested the 1.4-litre 16v Multiair with 105bhp and found it to be more than adequate for the weekly chores of school run and shopping. On longer weekend runs to see the family, I found the Punto Evo to be both comfortable and relaxing despite spending up to two hours behind the wheel.

Value For Money

Trim-wise, you'll find that most Punto Evos offer some kind of air conditioning set-up, seven airbags (including a driver's knee 'bag) and various infotainment systems. ESP Stability control though, is standard only on plusher models. On the options list, the Dualogic robotised automatic gearbox is available with selected engine options and depending on the trim level, your car can also come with adaptive cornering fog lights, a hill holder function and the Sky Dome electric sunroof. Fiat is particularly proud of its award-winning Blue&Me system which incorporates Bluetooth wireless technology with voice recognition, a USB and MP3-compatible stereo and the option of Blue&Me TomTom satellite navigation in the form of a removable unit that integrates seamlessly with the car's other systems and can be controlled via voice recognition or buttons on the steering wheel.

Could I Live With One?

I'd say so. Fiat has done a thorough job of evolving its popular supermini, with the interior and engine technology standing out. Other makers will sell you compact cars of this kind with hi-tech engines and plush interiors of course, but not for the kind of money that'll net you a Multiair or Multijet Punto Evo.

There will be disappointment in some quarters when news filters through that the Punto Evo is not some lunatic performance hatchback. In the case of this facelifted upgrade on Fiat's Grande Punto, the Evo branding is meant to a convey a progression in terms of technology, quality and environmental responsibility rather than the supersized spoilers and turbochargers it's become associated with elsewhere. What's important is that Fiat looks to have done a thorough job of evolving its popular supermini, with the interior and engine technology standing out in particular.

There will be disappointment in some quarters when news filters through that the Punto Evo is not some lunatic performance hatchback. In the case of this facelifted upgrade on Fiat's Grande Punto, the Evo branding is meant to a convey a progression in terms of technology, quality and environmental responsibility rather than the supersized spoilers and turbochargers it's often associated with elsewhere. What's important is that Fiat looks to have done a thorough job of evolving its popular supermini, with the interior and engine technology standing out in particular. The 1.4-litre MultiAir engine is a highlight of the Punto Evo range. It's available in 105bhp guise or with 135bhp thanks to the addition of a turbocharger. The clever bit is the MultiAir's electrohydraulic valve management system that will sound like gobbledegook to most but works to optimise the amounts of air entering the combustion system buy controlling the engine intake valves directly. On the diesel side, there's more innovation in the shape of the second generation of Fiat's ever-popular 1.3-litre Multijet diesel. Available in 75bhp and 95bhp guises, this compact common-rail diesel engine is a perfect fit in a small car like the Punto Evo. If you want more pace than that, there's the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel with 120bhp and a 9.7-second 0-62mph time. The facelift has packed in a shade more aggression with the indicators relocated outside the main headlight clusters and the grille dropped lower down the nose but the effect is fussier than before. At the rear, the tail light design is attractive and the bumper insert mirrors the shape made by the grille and intake at the front. Inside, the Punto Evo makes a far more obvious step forward. The quality of the plastics and fabrics used is very impressive and the two tone colour schemes on the plusher models work well.

Fiat's naming strategy where its Punto supermini is concerned can be less than transparent. We'd just got used to calling the car the Grande Punto under the Italian marque's insistence. Now, following a reasonably thorough facelift, we're expected to drop that and refer to it as the Punto Evo. The Grande Punto continues as a budget alternative to the Evo, so it's not as Grande as it once was. The contents of the Punto Evo's engine bay could be its strongest suit. The powerplants are compact but the range-topping units make up for any lack of capacity with some cutting edge technology. The 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre 8-valve petrol engines are reasonably solid and contribute to the Punto Evo's attractive upfront pricing. The 1.4-litre MultiAir engine is a highlight of the Punto Evo range. It's available in 105bhp guise or with 135bhp thanks to the addition of a turbocharger. The clever bit is the MultiAir's electrohydraulic valve management system that will sound like gobbledegook to most but works to optimise the amounts of air entering the combustion system by controlling the engine intake valves independently of the throttle. The result is improvements in things that motorists tend to like - performance, economy and refinement. On the diesel side, there's more innovation in the shape of the second generation of Fiat's ever-popular 1.3-litre Multijet diesel. Available in 75bhp and 95bhp guises, this compact common-rail diesel engine is a perfect fit in a small car like the Punto Evo. A finely controlled combustion process produces high levels of economy and plenty of torque. The 95bhp engine, which features a variable geometry turbocharger, can cover the 0-62mph sprint in 11.7s. If you want more pace than that, there's the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel with 120bhp and a 9.7-second 0-62mph time. The clean, classy looks of the Grande Punto were a definite strongpoint: whether Fiat has managed to retain this with the Punto Evo is something you'll need to decide for yourself. Certainly, the latest look packs in a shade more aggression, with the indicators relocated outside the main headlight clusters and the grille dropped lower down the nose, but the effect is fussier than before. Inside, this car makes a far more obvious step forward. The quality of the plastics and fabrics used is very impressive and the two tone colour schemes on the plusher models work well. The dashboard is sculpted around its consoles and air vents with chrome and gloss black inserts adding to the upmarket ambience. There will be disappointment in some quarters when news filters through that the Punto Evo is not some lunatic performance hatchback. In the case of this facelifted successor to Fiat's Grande Punto, the Evo branding is meant to a convey a progression in terms of technology, quality and environmental responsibility rather than the supersized spoilers and turbochargers it's become associated with elsewhere. What's important is that Fiat looks to have done a thorough job of evolving its popular supermini, with the interior and engine technology standing out in particular. STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front, side and curtain airbags, driver's knee airbag / ABS with EBD

Scores
Performance 7
Handling 7
Comfort 7
Space 8
Styling 7
Build 7
Value 8
Equipment 8
Economy 8
Depreciation 7
Insurance 7
Total 81

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