The Fiat Punto has evolved and aptly, the carmaker is calling it the Punto Evo. Fiat has given the Punto a brand new face that’s exclusively styled for the Indian market, and it looks more ‘Italian’ than ever. The Punto was always a very good-looking hatch but it had its shortcomings.
The Punto Evo looks significantly more attractive than the standard Punto. Elements such as the new, swept back headlamps, in particular, are gorgeous and, along with the mild power bulges on the bonnet, serve to make the Punto Evo the most striking hatchback in the country. Adding to its fantastic looks is the all-new grille, outlined by a tastefully crafted thin strip of chrome. At this point, you should know that the nose of this new Punto Evo has been designed specifically for India and draws heavily from the Fiat Avventura concept showcased at the Auto Expo 2014. What Fiat hasn’t fiddled with is the basic body shell, which means the near-perfect proportions of the Punto remain intact, and a new set of shoes is the only real noticeable change when viewed in profile. However, at the rear, you’ll find nicely crafted clear lens tail lamps that employ LED elements and chrome insets on the bumper and mimic dual exhaust ports.
In our earlier reviews, we have criticised the Punto’s cabin that it didnt give as contemporary or a premium feel as some if its rivals, especially Hyundai. Fiat has fixed that issue and given the Punto Evo a brand-new cabin that has been borrowed from the facelifted Linea, and the interiors definitely look a lot more upmarket now. Fiat is trying to reinvent its image in India after the Italian carmaker parted ways with Tata. The Punto Evo is a very important car in its portfolio, and depending on the customer response, could help Fiat find a firm footing in our market again.
Particularly great is the tastefully textured soft plastic section on the front of the dashboard. Design wise, the earlier Punto’s angular theme has made way for a much curvier unit borrowed again from the facelifted Linea. The all-black dash you see here is restricted to the more powerful ‘Sport’ trims (both petrol and diesel), while the rest follow a dual-tone black-beige theme. From behind the wheel, the hooded instruments look fantastic and are very easy to read on the go. But, for all these visible improvements, the Punto Evo’s cabin still has a few grouses. The driving position still follows the ‘steering-close-to-chest’ posture and is hard to get right. Before setting off to Lonavala, I found that adjusting the steering to its lowest and the seat almost all the way up gives me an acceptable stance behind the wheel (I’m 5’10"). Also, some plastics such as the ones around the doors are still of the hard variety and general levels of fit are still short of the segment benchmark.
Like earlier, the sportier Puntos get better bolstered and firmer front seats, though comfort is quite good across the board. Unfortunately, rear seat space is still not as generous as rivals but you now get a rear AC vent with an integrated bottle holder. Speaking of features, the Evo gets climate control, Microsoft powered ‘Blue and Me’ Bluetooth connectivity and steering-mounted audio controls.
Under the hood, there’s still two pairs of petrol and diesel motors to choose from. So, you have an option between a 67bhp 1.2 petrol, a 89bhp 1.4 petrol and a 1.3 Multijet diesel in two states of tune – 75bhp and 90bhp. I had a go in the 75bhp Punto first to see how the lower powered version fares during the climb up to Lonavala. Interestingly, Fiat has tweaked the final drive on the 75bhp diesel to aid driveability; makes the first gear a bit taller to reduce the number of brief first-to-second shifts. And I did notice the need for lesser gearshifts while crawling out of the city. However, as the road opens up outside Mumbai, the 75bhp Punto’s mechanical package still lacks punch (especially with four on board) and you have to work the gearbox to constantly keep the engine spinning between 2000 and 3800rpm, where it doesn’t feel completely out of breath. And, it’s more of the same on the 90bhp version as well. There’s not much power to play with below 2500rpm and the lag feels far more pronounced than similar powered motors like the new 1.5-litre Volkswagen Polo’s. And the engine doesn’t do much justice to the ‘Sport’ moniker.Much like the diesels, the petrols won’t get your pulse racing either, which is a bit unfortunate given just how brilliantly planted the Punto feels at speed and around the bends.
Ride and handling remain the forte of the Punto. The Evo carries over the same superbly weighted hydraulic steering and grip levels are simply amazing. And apart from some body-roll due to the massive SUV-like 195mm on the petrol Punto and 185mm on the diesel, the Evo stays surefooted. The 195/55 tyres and well-judged suspension mean the worst of roads don’t faze the Punto; a boon on our roads. So while it isn’t the quickest hatch, the fact that you don’t have to slow down much for every crack on the road means it’s a great tool for covering distances quickly.
By the end of the day, it was clear that the Punto Evo has retained the traditional strengths of the Punto and improved upon almost all of its shortcomings. So, the Punto in Evo avatar looks hot from the outside, quite swanky on the inside and rides superbly well. It’s also reasonably good to drive if outright performance is not high on your agenda. However, what it’s not is the most spacious, premium or best equipped of the hatchbacks. While it’s hard to ignore the Punto Evo’s less strong points, it’s equally hard to argue against the Punto’s sheer appeal.
Now, the price. The new Fiat Punto Evo petrol starts at a competitive Rs 4.55 lakh and goes up to Rs 6.66 lakh for the top-spec variant that also packs a more powerful 1.4-litre engine (in place of the 1.2-litre motor). The diesel Punto starts at Rs 5.27 lakh and goes up to a Rs 7.2 lakh for the more powerful 89bhp Sport trim. While the top-trims may look a bit on the pricier side, the Punto Evo’s stylish design does well to justify the price tag. We only wish the engines packed a bit more punch.