On paper, this seems like the right thing to do – take the Linea’s 90bhp motor and stick it in a car that’s a 100kg lighter. The power-to-weight ratio goes up by 12bhp per tonne and you now have a car that, at least on paper, moves like it looks. A quick blast on the roads around the Fiat factory in Ranjangaon in the 90HP revealed if the extra horses have made a difference.
And, as far as heart transplants go, this is an easy one. The Punto and the Linea share the same basic engine, with the only difference being the Linea has a variable geometry turbo while the Punto 75HP has a fixed geometry turbo. The two cars are also based on the same platform, so it was literally a plug-and-play application. That they share the same transmission down to the number of teeth on the gear cogs only helped matters. Fiat tweaked the Engine Control Unit and modified the Noise Vibration and Harshness package and voila, you have the Punto 90HP.
So, what is it like to drive? It starts and settles into a gravelly idle. Snick the gearlever into first, feel the progressive bit of the clutch and you’ll like the way it moves off the line. It feels a teeny bit gutsier than the 75HP on part-throttle progress. The spec sheet says the 90HP makes 20.4kgm of torque at 1750rpm (that’s 0.4kgm more at 250rpm lower than the 75HP). However, you feel this torque kick in only when the engine is spinning closer to 2500rpm. It is when you floor it that you’ll discover a considerable amount of lag. Wait a bit, let it spin to 2500rpm, and then, as the turbo kicks in, you’ll feel a bit more punch in the mid-range. If you keep the engine boiling, it’s possible to make good progress. It performs best when you upshift at around 4500rpm and stay above 2500rpm.
As you can see from the performance figures, the difference the 15bhp makes is when you drive flat out. The 90HP gets to 100kph 1.4 seconds faster, and you’ll hit 120kph a huge 3.7sec earlier than the 75HP. However, the in-gear acceleration times are virtually identical, making it hard to notice the power increase in everyday driving. Also, the engine gets quite audible when revved hard.
Admittedly, the car we drove wasn’t in its final spec, and Fiat has been working hard to improve on the other aspects of the Punto – there’s improved dashboard trim, better fit and finish and a few more features on the way. Fiat is also offering the sporty-looking red stitching we had on this Punto’s seats.
The 90HP will most likely be offered only in the top-of-the-line Emotion and Emotion Pack trim when it is launched in the second week of July this year, and it will be sold alongside the 75HP. We expect it to cost around 15 percent more than its lesser cousin.
The Punto 90HP isn’t that much quicker than the 75HP in the city. It is best on the highway where you’ll find the extra power complements the phenomenal ride and handling characteristics of the Punto. With the extra power and the other improvements to the car, what you can look forward to is a more complete Punto.