dates : 8th August 2004
12th August 2004
Punto is the latest in a rather fierce model offensive from
Fiat Auto SA in the past 18 months.
Following on the quirky Multipla MPV and the stylish Stilo
Performance hatch, the Punto is a smaller city car.
In South Africa itís up against the likes of the Renault
Clio, the Opel Corsa and the entry-level Toyota Run-X 1.4.
The Punto comes with a choice of three engines and is offered
in five basic derivatives. These range from the 1,2-litre
petrol-engined entry model, through the 1,3-litre Multi-Jet
diesel versions to a petrol-fueled 1,8-litre performance
Our test car is the Punto 1.3 JTD, which employs the new
multi-jet turbodiesel engine. It also came in the upper of two
trim levels on offer, this being the Dynamic.
An advantage of buying a European entry-level model such as
the Punto is that it comes with a full specification of
passive safety features. This is often not the case with
locally built cars which only have items such as multiple
airbags and electronic driver aids specified on the top models
in the range.
The down-side to this is that cars like the Fiat, Renault,
Citroen and some of the competitive Korean models donít have
the highly-established dealer networks that you get from the
likes of Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen.
And in many cases, the price of spare parts are more expensive
for the fully-imported "newcomers."
Fiat has been one of the technological leaders on the diesel
engine front, and the MultiJet engine is interesting. The
diesel is injected into the combustion chamber in as many as
five different phases, dispensing on throttle demand.
This results in a much more controlled combustion, as well as
improved performance and emissions.
The Punto 1.3 JTD is, of course, turbocharged, like all modern
passenger car diesel engines.
Throttle lag is still a factor on the Reef when pulling away,
especially when the engine is cold. This is due to the lower
atmospheric pressure at nearly 1 800 metres above sea level,
where the engine is inefficient until the turbocharger is
Once on the move the little Punto has reasonable performance,
with a zero to one hundred time of 13,4 seconds claimed. Top
speed is said to be one-sixty four kilometers per hour. Hardly
racy, but adequate for an economy-orientated car,
Claimed consumption is Ö.. although we have found in South
African conditions that general usage sees a slightly higher
consumption. But the Punto should manage a figure of less than
six litres per hundred kilometers in a mix of urban and
Feature-wise, the Punto comes well-equipped. All models,
including the base model known as the Active, come with dual
airbags for the front passengers, electric front windows,
remote central locking, air-conditioning and electric power
To this specification, the Dynamic model adds a CD/ radio
combo with six speakers, ABS braking and electronic brake
distribution, heated electric door mirrors, ISOfix attachments
for child seats, front fog lights and alloy wheels shod with
one eighty five Ėsixty by 14 rubber
The electric steering is interesting in that, like the more
expensive Stilo model from Fiat, it has a specially City mode.
This greatly increases the amount of electrical assistance to
the steering, making the car very easy to park and manouevre
at low speeds.
At first the steering is so light itís disconcerting. But
once you get used to it, itís actually very pleasant.
And at speeds of over 70 kilometres per hour, the system
reverts to a normal progressive assistance for much better
This is much more of a traditional Italian Fiat. Whereas the
Fiat Palio, built locally, has a rather third-world feel to
its styling, the Punto is much more cutting edge, as an
Italian car should be.
It has good basic interior styling and trim quality too,
although there are still some glitches like the rather wonky
rear window winders.
But overall, the Punto is set to make Fiat many more friends
in one of the most competitive market segments in the South
African car market.
Car Torque is