Test driving the new Punto Evo

With its bold new attitude, the Punto Evo is primed to rekindle the love affair that Fiat has long shared with devotees of fine cars

A flurry of new dealerships, a reinvigorated focus on the back-end systems and a whole bunch of new products lined up — Fiat India seems resolute to claw back its lost ground. At present, no other car model gives the Italian brand a better shot at India than the much loved Punto. In its latest avatar, the big hatch is christened the Punto Evo. We took the alluring machine out for a spin, and it had us smitten, as it always has.

Punto Evo
Punto Evo. Price Rs 4.5 to 7.2 lakh

The Punto Evo builds on the Grande Punto, and takes a bolder design route with more elements on its fascia to announce its arrival a bit more loudly. In its newest rendition, the Punto adds to the classic Italian lines of the Grande Punto some chrome to quench the famous Indian thirst for glitter. Visually, the Evo remains the most comprehensive upgrade that the Punto has seen.

The big inverted trapezoidal front grill with chrome surrounds is new, and catches your attention with its horizontal matte black slat in the lower half. The over-sized fog lamp receptors get a generous dose of chrome. The front end looks highly worked upon along with the new peeled back effect headlamps.

The instrument cluster looks fabulous in the dark with its amber backlight and  restyled markings
The instrument cluster looks fabulous in the dark with its amber backlight and restyled markings

The Fiat logo now moves up the nose. The engine hood of the Evo also receives a power bulge. The turn indicators are now hidden on the insides of the headlamps and are barely noticeable until they start flashing. The side profile remains similar apart from the fresh set of 15" alloy wheels, which are different for the petrol and diesel versions. The new LED effect tail lamps look fabulous; the designers at FIAT have executed them in a stunning manner.

The rear fog lamps at the bottom of the bumpers have grown in size and now receive extra chrome highlights. The Evo also sports a chrome strip at the bottom, somewhat connecting the lights. The Punto logo has a received a style upgrade as well.

Like the exterior, the interior of the Punto Evo has also received a substantial upgrade. The two interior colour schemes available are beige-black/gray and the sporty all black. The dashboard has been redesigned with a soft feel fabric in beige. Rest of the dash is a mix of piano black, chrome and black grain surfaces.

The small compartment above the centre console comes with a flip-open lid and can store small articles
The small compartment above the centre console comes with a flip-open lid and can store small articles

The all-black interiors are found on the 90HP diesel version, and exude a sense of sportiness. The beige trim is replaced with what feels like textured rubber/vinyl finish. The seats are black too, with a gray stripe running vertically through their spine. The big, wide seats also offer great lateral support with their body hugging contours.

Front seats are big, wide and offer great under-thigh support and have good bolstering too
Front seats are big, wide and offer great under-thigh support and have good bolstering too

The central console has piano black finish with brushed silver surrounds. A small storage space is available at the top of the central AC vents and can easily accommodate a wallet. The AC controls are similar as the Grande Punto. The amber lighting streak on top of the glove box is a classy touch as well.

The USB port that was earlier nestled inside the glove compartment has now been brought out and moved ahead of the gear lever along with the AUX in port, sporting FIAT’s Blue & Me sticker.

The speedometer console on the Evo is all new with twin binnacle style having brushed silver surrounds. The dials are new and look better once backlit with amber light. FIAT has also provided height adjustable driver seat and seat belts with height adjust.
The space for rear occupants is just about enough and the seats offer a 60:40 split with adjustable headrests. The rear central AC vent does a good job of keeping the comfort level high. The boot space remains unchanged at 280 litre with a pressed steel disc wheel underneath as the spare wheel for emergencies.

Engine and performance
The Punto Evo is offered with the 1.2 litre / 1.4 litre FIRE petrol, the 1.3 Multijet diesel and the 1.3 Multijet diesel with a variable geometry turbo (90HP) versions. The 1.4 petrol engine produces 90PS@6,000rpm and 115Nm@4,500rpm. The 1.3 diesel
produces 76PS@4,000rpm and 197Nm@1,750rpm of power and torque. The multijet diesel with variable geometry turbo produces 90PS and 209Nm of torque. Lowest down the ladder, the 1.2 litre FIRE engine produces a measly 68PS@6,000rpm and 96Nm@2,500rpm.

The LED effect tail-lamps have been extremely well styled by Fiat and make the car look even more special in the night
The LED effect tail-lamps have been extremely well styled by Fiat and make the car look even more special in the night

We drove the Punto Evo with the 1.4 FIRE petrol, and the 1.3 Multijet diesel with 90hp. Let’s talk about the petrol unit first, which is decently grunty, if not the most refined power plants on the market as of now. On paper, the 90PS of power for the 1.4-litre FIRE petrol is decent enough, though the torque output is a bit low for such a heavy car, and also comes in at a higher rpm. The gearbox has an improved shift feel but still retains long throws. The clutch operation is good and isn’t a workout in stop and go traffic. The engine feels a bit sluggish at lower half of the rev band, with responsiveness coming in above 4000 rpm.

The 1.3Multijet diesel engine with variable geometry turbo feels instantaneous in response thanks to the torque which is almost twice as that of the petrol engine. In gear acceleration is brisk, and despite the variable geometry turb'ine setup, the 90HP feels extra eager post 2,000rpm. A special mention has to be made about the ultra light clutch of the 1.3MJD which is a joy to use, although it has long travel pedal action. The 90HP also enjoys a short throw gearbox and better slotting feel through the gates. The wind noise in the 90HP is tad bit pronounced than its petrol engined sibling at triple digit speeds though.

Ride and handling
Fiat cars have always exuded a sturdy, planted feel and the Punto Evo is no different. FIAT has employed hydraulic power steering offering a relatively heavy feel, which is good news for the enthusiasts. Fiat also claims that they have tweaked the suspension for Evo and the difference is evident. While the petrol-engined Evo felt bumpy at low speeds, the ride quality improved with speed. At decent cruising speeds between 80-110 kmph, it feels settled, displaying great composure and minimal vertical movement.

The 1.3 diesel, in contrast, feels better at low speeds owing to a heavier front end due to the diesel engine underneath. Potholes are treated with indifference while driving over broken patches. The 185mm ground clearance offers great peace of mind especially in view of the monsoon treated roads in Mumbai. Coupled with the sure footed handling, the 90HP wins both the battles — whether it’s the city traffic or highway runs.

Our verdict
The Punto Evo, especially with the diesel options, comes across as a promising product. It carries inimitable attitude and has some solid USPs in its handling traits and emotional appeal. With Fiat India finally sprucing up its act and opening exclusive dealerships, the circumstances are apt for the 1.3 Multijet diesel powered Punto Evo’s innings. The 90HP diesel we tested, with its charming looks, refreshed interiors and great dynamic ability is something a true car aficionado would lust after.

Technical specs 
Engine — 1.2 petrol / 1.4 petrol / 1.3 diesel / 1.3 VGT diesel
Power — 68PS@6,000rpm / 90PS@6,000rpm / 76PS@4,000rpm / 90PS@4,000rpm
Torque — 96Nm@2,500rpm / 115Nm@4,500rpm / 197Nm@1,750rpm / 209Nm@2,000rpm

Rs 4.5 to 7.2 lakh. Ex-showroom

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