The task at hand was to have a look at a few used cars that were for sale and assess their worth for our Used Cars Deals page. The example in question was a Mahindra Xylo located in Thane, a good 35km away from our office in Parel. Looking into the ‘keys box’, I eagerly reached for the one with the Fiat logo on the fob. It has an 89bhp diesel under the hood, big wheels and tastefully executed stripes that make it stand out. I was sold.
An hour-long drive through crawling traffic and a relatively uncongested Eastern Express Highway served as a good simulation of what the car might be like to live with on a daily basis. I was expecting some amount of turbo lag in traffic and, as expected, power comes in after only a bit of a wait at 2000rpm. The short gearing however meant it is pretty good in stop-start traffic. There’s a lot of punch in second and you can even stick it in third if traffic is free flowing. But then we hit the highway, and here the short gearing, especially first and second, proved frustrating. But once I’d got it into third, the Punto 90HP Sport started doing some justice to its red wing mirrors and racing stripes.
A few days later, I made a trip to Aamby Valley in Lonavala for a shoot. This is where I truly realised the Punto’s forte. Unlike many a hatchback, this car feels at home at high speeds. It pulls really well in third, fourth and even fifth, and its ride-handling balance is fantastic for a small car. Long sweeping corners, tight turns and sudden changes in elevation were all easily dispatched by the Fiat’s suspension, which while being firm enough to grip the road, is still comfortable over patches of missing tarmac. Our Punto isn’t a heavy drinker either, it’s returned a decent 15.2kpl on the whole.
Over the last three months, there haven’t been any real issues with the car and I have learnt to drive in a manner where the turbo lag isn’t as bothersome. Pet peeves include a rattle from the rear seat over bad roads (which we are planning on getting looked at soon), steering-mounted audio controls that on occasion need a firm shove before they work, and an odd, ‘steering-too-high seat-too-low’ driving position. But, if I need to borrow a car, it’s always the Fiat’s keys I reach for, and that says a lot.
Price: Rs 8.75 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy : 15.2kpl (overall) Maintenance costs None
Faults: Occasional rattle from the rear seats