Evolving Punto is proving to be far from a spent force
With refreshed styling, two new engines, improved quality, revised trim levels and more aggressive pricing, Fiat's Punto is aiming to re-establish a firm foothold in the super-competitive supermini sector. And for the first time, Fiat's innovative twin-cylinder TwinAir petrol engine gets an outing in a larger car, seeking to put the eco bite on the Punto's rivals.
The current generation Punto's range of modern, efficient engines has been one of its strongest cards and, with the addition of two new units – an 85bhp version of the MultiJet diesel and the turbocharged 85bhp TwinAir – it looks more convincing still.
Things kick off with the 8-valve 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol units with 68 and 77bhp respectively which are singularly incapable of raising the small hairs on the back of your neck but serve the price-sensitive end of the Punto range perfectly well. More advanced (and more fun) are the 105 and 135bhp versions of the 16-valve 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol engine, though downsizing fans will no doubt be drawn to the 0.9-litre TwinAir while black pump regulars will welcome the choice between 75 and 85bhp for the 1.3-litre 16-valve MultiJet diesel.
None of which really changes the fact that the high point of what's on offer remains the 1.4-litre MultiAir engine, which is good in naturally aspirated 105bhp form and excellent as the 135bhp turbo.
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Fiat's decision to put the 875cc TwinAir under the Punto's bonnet represents arguably an even more extreme downsizing initiative than Ford's with the Focus and its 1.0-litre triple, though with just 84bhp (the Focus can be had with 123bhp) it's nothing like as powerful.
Assuming your Punto is moving, the subtlety of this most recent facelift falls very much into the blink-and-you'll-miss-it category. Basically, the slightly remodelled front and rear bumpers are now body colour throughout the range and there are three more hues to choose from: Brit Pop Blue, Tango Red and the intriguingly named Underground Grey. And should the Punto roll to a stop, you might notice that there are new designs of alloy wheels too.
The Punto isn't the best car in its class – the Ford Focus, in particular, works to a very similar brief but has its measure in every area that matters – but, at the right price, its style, spaciousness, strong line-up of modern and efficient engines and generous equipment levels do add up to an attractive package. It's far from a spent force.