11 September 2012 by Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: 0.9 TwinAir
Fuel economy combined: 67.3 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 7/10
The Fiat Punto is a refreshing-looking alternative to the obvious supermini choices, and with the TwinAir engine it has an official economy figure of 67.3mpg
• Refreshing choice compared to the obvious superminis
• Feels light and nippy with TwinAir engine
• TwinAir engine offers high official mpg, but lower real-life mpg
• Competent overall but struggles to compete with newer, best in class rivals
The Fiat Punto is a supermini, but one that is somewhat overlooked in the UK in favour of more obvious rivals. The addition of the two-cylinder TwinAir engine to the range, initially introduced on the Fiat 500, gives you another reason to consider the Punto.
The Fiat Punto seems to be in a never-ending cycle of facelifts. We think the latest revisions result in it looking good – it’s simple and uncluttered compared to many rivals. We even like the bright green colour of our test car – however that did seem to split opinion, with people either loving or hating it.
However the styling updates can’t hide the fact that the Punto has been around for a while – and in that time there have been a lot of new superminis appear in the market.
As well as updating the exterior, Fiat has tweaked the interior too. The result is better quality materials and some new fabrics including fabric inserts on the door panels. This does give the Punto a slightly more upmarket feel than before and helps it back towards the class standard. Practicality is helped by a sensible 275-litre boot, but our test car didn’t have split-fold rear seats.
As it’s been around for a while it’s all the more important that the Punto is now available with Fiat’s ‘downsized’ TwinAir engine, which provides it with a unique selling point in the supermini sector. In the Punto you even get a ‘TwinAir’ badge on the dashboard and stitched into the front head restraints to remind you which engine is under the bonnet.
Once you turn the key there’s no mistaking which engine option you ticked. The offbeat soundtrack adds some welcome character to proceedings and gives Punto buyers a free road tax option.
A two-cylinder engine in a supermini sounds like a big mistake but the result is that the whole car feels light on its feet. Being a very revvy engine it’s fun to drive in urban areas. However the experience can be quite noisy, and the fuel economy is likely to suffer due to most people’s tendency to drive the car in a somewhat revvy, Italian manner.
The car as a whole doesn’t feel as upmarket and refined as newer rivals, but driving fun can sometimes be preferable to boring refinement, and we quite like the car’s fun-to-drive character.
The Punto doesn’t have the most comfortable ride, and other rivals have sharper steering, but it’s certainly easy to drive. We’d prefer to stick to city limits rather than tackle long distances with this engine – for such driving we’d want a diesel, which would also be likely to be more much more economical.
As with many Italian cars, some drivers may find it difficult to get a comfortable driving position in the Punto.
The TwinAir engine personifies the concept of downsizing, which saves space, weight and fuel. However it is partly a victim of its own success as its rev-happy nature combined with an ample and easily accessible torque band makes it a bit too easy to drive it hard. This does dent fuel economy so you have to be very disciplined to unlock the fuel saving potential. The Punto should return 67.3mpg. In primarily enthusiastic city driving we averaged 37.2mpg, which is way down on its official figure. Driving it carefully you’re likely to see 50mpg, but 67mpg seems very unlikely.
The Punto has a variety of engines; in addition to the TwinAir, the petrol units range from a 1.2 to a choice of 1.4-litre options. There are also two 1.3-litre diesel Multijets. There are three spec levels – Pop, Easy and Lounge. Prices range from £9,900 to £15,600 – or more for the Abarth version.
The Punto offers good value and should provide low running costs. However a quick look at the Fiat forums and owner satisfaction surveys reveals that the previous iterations weren’t exactly bullet-proof, so there is still a question mark over reliability.
We think that the Fiat Punto looks good, and it’s fun to drive with the TwinAir engine. It isn’t the most engaging supermini but it is stylish and the TwinAir engine adds a big slice of character, delivers good performance and has the potential to deliver great fuel economy.
However it’s the same story as with other Fiat Group products with this engine – you’ll benefit from the low official emissions when you tax the car, as it’s exempt from road tax, and it’s a similar story if it’s a company car, when it has a benefit in kind rating of just 10%. With its sub-100g/km CO2 figure, you’ll even be able to drive it Congestion Charge-free in London at the moment. However you’re likely to be disappointed with the car’s real-life fuel economy, unless you drive it extremely carefully – but the TwinAir engine doesn’t encourage this, as it’s just too tempting to rev it. So the Punto remains a fun car to drive around the city, but it falls short of other newer rivals in areas such as quality and refinement. The Punto gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7 out of 10.
Fuel economy extra urban: 74.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 57.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 98 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – £0 a year
Weight: 1075 Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 10%
Insurance group: 11
Power: 85 bhp
Max speed: 107 mph
0-62mph: 12.7 seconds
Reviews of rivals >>