New engine gives Fiat Punto Evo new edge

New MultiAir engine gives Fiat Punto Evo new edge

SPORTY, Italian and doused in a rich coat of blood red paint, there’s no doubt that Fiat’s new Grande Punto Evo appears to have everything you could want from a stylish hatchback.

The Punto Evo is effortlessly cool in appearance like only an Italian car could be.

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It comes from a stable packed with thoroughbred inspiration to draw on, of course. Fiat own not only Ferrari but Maserati and Alfa Romeo.

It’s no coincidence, therefore, that perhaps the only other car that comes close to matching the Punto’s style is Alfa’s (more expensive) MiTO.

Apart from a new subtle styling tweaks, however, the main thing about the evolved version of the Grande Punto you see here is the new range of engines, a range of engines whose technology has simultaneously found a home in the MiTO.

New engine, new lease of life

A series of advances in variable valve technology and direct fuel injection have seen Fiat Powertrain Technologies create MultiAir, a petrol engine that moves the manufacturer’s game on apace, reducing emissions and improving economy.

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Fiat claim a ten per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, ten per cent increase in power and a 15 per cent increase in torque.

Tested here is the Punto Evo’s range-topping MultiAir unit, a 135bhp turbocharged version, in a Sporting specification car which comes in at £15,295.

From the off it’s the engine that impresses most after the Evo’s youthful, Mediterranean looks.

Free-revving and torque-rich the turbocharged unit is free from turbo lag and delivers its power is a silky smooth, progressively swelling surge.

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Although never feeling overly quick—Fiat claim an 8.5-second sprint to 62mph and 127mph top speed—the Evo offers spirited delivery from the outset and a usable amount of torque to tap into at low engine speeds (the full 152lb.ft. of torque is available from 1,750rpm).

As well as its pleasing revability the MultiAir also demonstrates a willingness to pull high gears at low speeds—a point that no doubt aids economy and emissions.

Despite its sporty appearance, the Sporting shares the same fuel-saving gear shift indicator and Stop&Go system as the rest of the Evo range and claims to return 50.4mpg (combined cycle) and 129g/km of CO2.

I managed around 37mpg during my week but was impressed given the performance on offer and the range of cruising and fairly spirited driving I enjoyed.

Dynamic disappointments flaw Italian recipe

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There were a few aspects of the Grande Evo which, sadly, failed to match up to the style and impressive new engine.

A terribly imprecise gear shift saw me struggling to find first gear on several occasions and proved overly long-of-throw and ponderous when the engine, in contrast, was urging me push on.

The steering, likewise, disappointed with its glassy feel which transmitted very little information about the road surface or available grip in fast corners.

Thankfully, the traction offered up by the Evo’s chassis was usually more than equal to whatever I threw at it, but it was difficult to feel confident or engaged with such a sensation of disconnection between man and car.

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With its key rivals set to be Citroen’s new DS3 and the yet to be released new Fiesta ST, the Punto Evo might just have its work cut out in the dynamics department.

Thankfully the little Italian boasts a premium feeling spec list.

Impressive standard specification

Every model in the range which starts from £10,995 comes fitted with Fiat’s Blue&Me interface, that gives access to MP3 players and bluetooth telephone connections, and all models (except the entry-level Active) can be specified with the cutting edge Blue&Me TomTom Sat-Nav system thanks to a dash mounted docking station.

A driver’s knee airbag and hill-hold assist are part of the Sporting spec which adds a host of stylish addenda, including: part leather seats; fog lights; striking matte finish 17 inch alloys; aluminium effect wing mirrors; tinted rear windows; a spoiler; and side skirts.

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The Punto Evo’s interior, it has to be said, marks an improvement from the Fiats of old.

Tactile materials, combine with nice touches like a cowled dials, a sculpted leather steering wheel and plenty of space to make it a comfortable and stylish place to be.

Only some gaudy pearlescent white detailing on the door pulls and hand brake button are at odds with the generally well-judged changes.

MultiAir engine is the highlight

New engine technology and a few well-judged mid-life upgrades have given Fiat’s Grande Punto a well-deserved second wind.

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As an ownership proposition the Punto Evo is attractive enough to warrant a second glance when you park it up on the drive at night and, thanks to new lower emissions and improved economy, presents value for money as a sporty hatchback.

A few brash style statements and disappointing dynamic flaws are all that let down an otherwise well-rounded package.


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