Our tuned Abarth has drastically cut down my travel time. What was earlier a two-and-a-half-hour commute to the office is now down to just an hour and a half – a whole hour shorter. And the reason is this: I take the train now. Let me explain.
SOUNDS RIGHT: Doors close with a nice and satisfying thunk.
The Punto’s ECU has had some special tweaking done by Peter Chacko of Pete’s Performance in Cochin, and our little hot hatch now puts out 170hp and 270Nm of torque against the stock car’s 145hp and 212Nm. So, yes, it’s fast, but, sadly, not very efficient. Drive it hard, as you naturally would, and the efficiency drops to 6 or 7kpl. Of course, I did see low double-digit figures, but that’s only when feathering the throttle and keeping an eagle eye on revs. There’s no point driving an Abarth like that, so it’s now my weekend car – and boy, what fun weekends are.
OCEAN SWELL: After a little lag, torque comes in strong and just keeps building.
Driving out of Mumbai recently on NH 48 was really the kind of trip the Abarth relished. Dispatching trucks was effortless and no matter what speed I got up to, it always seemed to have more power in reserve. The new engine map has made the torque even meatier; post 2,500rpm it surges ahead like a huge wave pushing you to shore, and it is such a thrill that quite often I found myself letting revs drop only to ride that wave again. Initial acceleration is faster too; we timed the stock car at 9.32sec in the dash to 100kph, whereas our tuned Punto took 8.05sec. But it’s now trickier putting the power down with loads of wheelspin in first, second and third gear too, and this is despite the wider 205 section Yokohama S-drive tyres that we have fitted. Throttle response is nice and crisp but it can catch you unaware; trying to drive it in traffic is like keeping a hyper Terrier on a leash, so it’s best letting it loose out on the highways.
SPACED OUT: Lack of ample storage spaces, and the ones available are small.
What makes the Punto a great highway car is the fact that you seldom have to slow down for ruts and broken bits. The suspension of the Punto is simply brilliant and there’s not much that upsets its planted feel. Of course, being a project car we had a go at upgrading the dampers too – out went the stock units and in came Bilstein B6s (again from Pete’s). There’s less body roll now and a bit more bite around corners but the ride is very pogo stick-like, bouncing along over smaller undulations. So as a weekend family car I’d just go with the ECU tuning and wider tyres. And, in any case, the stock Punto’s suspension delivers a cracking balance of ride and handling.
SHOCK TREATMENT: Faster around corners but stiffer dampers far from comfortable.
I’m certainly in love with this Italian and it’s not just me. I had a Punto (90hp) for about seven years and both, my wife and I absolutely loved it. The Abarth’s won her over too, and as she put it, it feels like home again. But therein also lies the trouble. The interiors feel dated, and then there’s the parent company that’s simply not doing a thing for the Fiat or Abarth brands. But if you can look past these bits and you value the intrinsic characteristics of its planted ride, well-weighted (some may say heavy) steering, and that delightful engine, the Abarth Punto is certainly a car that will deliver miles and miles of smiles. So while I dread the weekday train rides, the weekend trips are complete redemption.
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