Fiat Punto EVO Review – Diesel, First Drive
Having seen so many spy shots and following progress of a vehicle coming to full disclosure, it is only natural that we expect a lot out of any automobile. It is natural and understandable if so many build-ups about the product in our minds are proven wrong upon first date with a machine. Fiat Punto EVO is one of those cars that proved us wrong, but by exceeding our expectations.
Unlike some facelift cars that require big red circle and a cartoon arrow to point out differences from older model, Fiat Punto EVO loudly announces those by itself and most of them create positive impression instantly.
Exteriors – Starting with the snout, new Punto EVO is more lively and adorable than its predecessor which was also widely admired for its looks in the B segment hatchback space. Pouting front grille with honeycomb mesh is is voguish, especially with thin chrome appliquÃ© highlighting its perimeter. Chrome strip across the mouth makes the grille complete and attractive.
Front bumper though intricately designed, functions just as a tool to hold the fascia in position and manages to pass all credit for looks to other stylish elements. Lower portion of same leaves a wide band of black to accommodate and reserve focus to new round fog lamps and chrome surrounds that go hand in hand with design of grille.
Another attention drawing element is Punto EVO’s headlamps, which manage to reminisce earlier Punto’s units but are actually very different in design. Swept back headlight assembly starts a few inches near front tip of the car and stretches rearwards through two thirds the length of bonnet.
Turn indicators minutely placed similar to caruncle of human eye helps bring out the charm of dilated headlights. Round Fiat badge which was previously placed at centre of front grille, is moved to top of bumper, taking a small bite of the bonnet edge. On sides of same, masculine bulge lines on hood emerge subtly tributing long edge lines of headlamps.
Side silhouette of Fiat Punto EVO is unchanged but minor enhancements like turn indicators embedded on ORVMs, outside door opener surrounds painted in body colour, new sporty 16 inch alloy wheels (only on diesel Sport variant) and roof lip spoiler can be noticed.
Rear facade of Punto EVO is again a place of successful reconstruction of past into future. Boot lid and badging remains untouched but tail lamps on either sides get redesigned insides, with bracket like LED red lights encasing blocks of clear finished brake lights and turn signals. Black tape bordering the units elevate he presence and style of high mounted lamp assemblies.
Rear bumper gets fog lamp (on right) and reverse lamp (on left) in place of sleek reflectors on earlier Fiat Punto. Chrome beeding running around the lamps and bridging the two with a slat is fashionable. Black margin between chrome lines and bumper surface adds to finesse of the craft. Number place recesses is unnoticeably modified. At the risk of sounding like nerd, here we say that font of ‘Punto’ lettering is new.
7 colour options include Exotica Red, Glitterati Gold, Magnesio Grey, Hip Hop Black, Vocal White, Minimal Grey and Tuscan Wine. All colours look premium and carry chrome embellishments very well.
Interiors – Unlike previous Punto which used similar dashboard and panel design as older Fiat Linea’s but were made with less attention to quality and feel, new Punto EVO uses same rich plastics as 2014 Linea’s. Punto EVO Sport variant, highest in diesel version gets full black (actually closer to titanium grey) interior theme including dashboard, door panels and textile seat upholstery.
Dashboard gets two texture finish, fabric feel on lower portion around centre console and AC vents and hard plastic material on second layer extending towards windshield. Door panels are also given similar dual texture treatment. Subtle strip of orange light highlights the seam of dashboard layers ahead of co-driver, visible during dark.
Centre console gets neatly arranged equipment starting with dune-like utility storage on top, standard rectangular grille Air-Con vents beneath, music player with CD slot & pixelated display, and controls for automatic air conditioner with orange backlit display. USB, AUX-in and charging ports are located next to cubby holes on centre tunnel that houses the root of gear rod.
Instrument cluster gets giant twin pot speedo-tacho dials on either side, two small dials at top-centre for fuel and temperature readings and a rectangular monotone (orange) Multi Function Display showing odo, trip, date, time, outside temperature, average fuel consumption, etc.
Steering wheel and gear rod head are tightly wrapped with leather inducing upmarket feel while handling. Steering can be tilted, no telescopic repositioning. Seat comfort is appreciable; height adjust is provided on driver’s alone. Rear passengers enjoy adequate legroom and cushioning, but the bench could’ve been more inclined to offer better thigh support. Adjustable head restraints are offered for all door side occupants, not for the fifth.
Door pockets do not have bottle recess, but are big enough to support smaller ones. There is a camouflaged cup / bottle holder just beneath rear AC vent. Map / utility sack is found behind both front seats. Boot space is sufficient, nothing to complaint there.
Engine – 2014 Fiat Punto EVO comes with four engine options, all coupled with 5 speed manual transmission. We drove the top of line Punto EVO Sport, which gets the national engine, 1.3 litre MultiJet, tuned to produce 92.72 PS maximum power @ 4,000 rpm and 209 Nm peak torque @ 2,000 rpm. Rest of lower Punto EVO trims including Active, Dynamic and Emotion also get same engine but in lower state of tune. They enjoy 76 PS @ 4,000 rpm and 197 Nm @ 1,750 rpm. All diesel variants are capable of reaching 165 kmph top speed. Punto 90 HP is claimed to deliver 20.5 kmpl milage while 76 PS versions are certified to offer 21.2 kmpl by ARAI.
Performance – This is where even the new model, Fiat Punto EVO, behaves out of character. All impressions created by never before levels of sportiness, refinement and premium packaging of new Punto’s physical features are swept under the rug by contemplating throttle response. There is very less sense of acceleration until 2,000 rpm, and when turbo kicks in beyond the mark, you naturally expect a power surge, but end up waiting for it until you figure out thats not going to happen. Engine response is much better at higher speeds, say 3,000 rpm and above, which is practically difficult to experience during city drive. Rubbery gear shifts, especially while slotting to second, does not help in pressing situations where you require swift getaway. In short, there is no change in performance compared to older Fiat Punto.
Steering & Handling – Fiat Punto EVO is probably the best in class when it comes to handling. It is ironical indeed. Punto EVO feels very heavy (as it actually is) and so planted on road, giving driver immense control while steady and agile driving. It is disheartening to see such a capable chassis being under-utilised with a lethargic engine. Suspension characteristics are almost ideal, for city and high speed manoeuvring; body roll is well controlled and unwanted swaying never happens.
Thanks to hydraulic power assisted steering, feel and feedback are so driver friendly. Well balanced steering and suspension tuning will make you want to push harder. Even at very high speeds, the car acts to your commands without fussing.
Ride Quality – This is yet another USP of Fiat Punto EVO. The car glides through rough patches, speed breakers and all usual hurdles Indian roads have waiting for you. Ground clearance of 185 mm and aptly tuned dampers help save underbody from being scraped in most circumstances. Mild off-roading is also welcomed by Punto EVO.
Braking – Bite is not so sharp, but sufficient to shed speed quickly. At high speeds there is slight delay in action when putting the foot down, but its just a matter of getting used to.
Verdict – Fiat got almost all aspects right in Punto EVO. But if you’re an enthusiast, it is likely that you will feel the need for more power in terms of aggressive pickup to live with Punto EVO happily ever after. And we are talking about the 90 HP Sport variant, we haven’t tested 76 PS diesel variant yet. ARAI certified mileage of 20.5 kmpl is not so appealing, but not bad for a car this heavy. We got around 13.5 kmpl during our tests.
Why would you buy Fiat Punto EVO Sport:
Driving pleasure (in terms of handling)
Why would you not buy Fiat Punto EVO Sport:
Inaccessible engine power