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Fiat Grande Punto review (2005 onwards model)
In a world where it’s possible to have a millions of coffee combinations it’s hardly surprising that the car industry is diversifying. So the new Punto isn’t simply Punto, but Grande Punto...
The existing Punto will remain on sale alongside this all new car when it arrives early next year.
Fiat Grande Punto
Now the Italians love an occasion and Turin was bedecked out in Grande Punto regalia to celebrate its launch, the world’s motoring media being entertained by acrobats, wined and dined and given the full-on Fiat experience. What it didn’t give us the opportunity to do however, was experience the car for any longer than a short jaunt around the town’s outskirts. Which is a shame as the Grande Punto looks like a winning combination. It’s got a decent amount of space, being er, Grande, for the class, while the Italdesign-Giugiaro design is fresh and dynamic. Its smart style lends itself to adornment, which should make it a hit with younger drivers wanting to express their individuality, while in standard guise it’s neat and inoffensive without being boring.
After the awful facelift of the current Punto the Grande Punto marks a return to form from Fiat. Even the lowliest entry-level models look good its well-proportioned body is both sporty and solid. It looks particularly smart in three-door guise, but five-door buyers aren’t punished style-wise for the additional practicality on offer.
The interior is a step up in quality, too. Superficially, it looks as good as the best of the competition, however some of the execution isn’t quite as good as it could be regarding fit and final finish. Still, that interior can be had with a splash of colour across the dashboard, either in the body or a contrasting colour, likewise the seats, adding some real flair to the cabin. It’s not clear yet as to how UK cars will be specified, but with its recent Croma Fiat has been very generous with equipment and the Punto Grande is certain to follow. Pricing is set to be very competitive too, with prices likely to start at around £8,000.
Engines & gears
Despite our time behind the wheel being limited first impressions were good. The car I drove was the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel with 75bhp, the same capacity engine available with 90bhp. This small capacity entry output diesel is likely to be one of the bigger selling models, Fiat offering no less than four diesel derivatives compared to just two petrol engines of 1.2 and 1.4-litres. The Multijet 1.3 is an engine that’s used a fair bit in the Fiat range and in 75bhp guise in the Grande Punto it’s no fireball, but it’s more than adequate for the type of motoring most buyers will be doing. What’s impressive is its refinement, even at high speed motorway cruising there’s little noise intrusion at all.
Its bhp figure might be modest, but its torque is more than adequate endowing it with plenty of mid-range grunt. That makes for easy progress and lessens the need to shift cogs which isn’t such a bad thing as the five-speed manual transmission on the car I drove lacked precision in its shift with a rubbery vagueness across the gate. It’s possible that it will ease up with use, but compared to the slicker six-speed unit offered on the more desirable 90bhp and 120bhp and 130bhp 1.9 turbodiesels the five-speed gearbox lacked accuracy.
On the road
That’s not something that can be said about the steering though. Turn in is crisp, the steering nicely weighted. That is unless you press the city button to turn the steering super light to ease slow speed parking manoeuvres. And slow speeds is pretty much all I managed in the Grande Punto with few opportunities presenting themselves to really test the Grande Punto above town speeds. However, the body control and ride at these slower speeds is at least as competent as the best in class, the new Grande Punto potentially offering a very attractive platform for more powerful sporting models.
Those will come later next year, the more sporting versions likely to use turbocharging to extract more performance. The expectation is that Fiat will offer a scorching 220bhp Abarth, while a World Rally Car is also rumoured to be on its way, rallying a good way to boost image. And in this market image is so important. Here the Grande Punto works. Its style is neat yet it’s not at the expense of practicality. Passenger space is adequate in all, and the boot large, though the deep lip and lack of a boot release anywhere on the bootlid is a serious oversight. Crucially though the Grande’s greater size allows it to perform well in the event of an accident, it achieving best in class results in the latest Euro NCAP tests with a five-star overall score, three star child protection and 3 star pedestrian protection, too.
So it’s a smarter looking, bigger, better equipped and now safer, too. That Fiat has achieved this and still provided a car that even on our short route proved fun to drive is impressive. The supermini market is a busy and competitive one, and the Punto has always done rather well because of its style. With the new Grande Punto though that style is now backed up with some real substance.
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