UK CAR Road Test

Fiat Punto 75 SX 1997 

 

Here's a review of the Fiat Punto and I write from personal experience as I am a proud owner of one myself.

Car of the Year 1995, 250,000 sold in the UK and consistently the top selling 'supermini' in Europe for 5 years, class-leading interior space and excellent engines - welcome to the world of the Fiat Punto.

 


 

Or should it be something else? Buzzy engines, poor Italian build quality, handles like a bus into the slightest corners, interiors dull and with as much noise refinement as Concorde - welcome to the world of the Fiat Punto?

The Fiat Punto more or less redefined the giant car maker Fiat in terms of image and sales as, for a time, the Punto led the highly competitive 'supermini' class. Its Italian curved box shape and nippy little engines attracted 18-25 year olds and young mothers by the bucket load (including me at the time as a first 'proper' car buyer at 22 years), the awful Panda, Tipo and Puntos of the late 80s and early 90s being consigned to the great scrapyard in the sky. 

The Punto 75SX, with a rip-roaring 75HP engine, insurance Group 5, electric windows, radio mounted controls and sunroof was launched as a medium range model above the basic 55HP units and the higher Cabriolet and ELX versions. In terms of performance, the 75HP unit goes surprisingly well, 0-60 in a credible 12 seconds and with a top speed of 110 mph, similar in performance to a 1.4 Polo or 1.4 Pug 106. The performance is, as ever, complemented by Fiat's buzzy engines and the fuel consumption being in the mid 40mpg range.

 

Unfortunately, it is a shame that Fiat's engine designers couldn't give their colleagues in the ride and suspension department a good kick up the a**e. The tall lop-sided Fiat, which accounts for the excellent interior space, unfortunately rolls into corners like a drunken rhino on skates and the tyre rumble/roar vibrates through the tinny exterior panels and plastics like a 7.8 Richter scale earth quake with the engine buzzing away like an angry hornet. The ride quality is poor, the merest bump or grain of sand is felt and a bee farting blows the car round like a piece of paper. Build quality is better but for a company that owns the Ferrari marque, there is still improvement to be made. Solid, dull, grey plastics dominate, quality is poor, dials wobble and fall off...there is no airbag and PAS. No PAS is definitely a no-no as forearms like Popeye are needed for simple manoeuvres. The stupid space saver wheel in the back of the car is a pointless cost cutting exercise.

Not all is bad though, the interior is spacious and well thought out. The heating unit is fantastic, the stereo OK (although all the buttons fell off mine) and you do feel as if you are in a bigger car. There is good boot space and you can fit two people in the back as long as they are under 6 foot tall. In terms of economy, the car is frugal and in a straight line can zip around town. Parts and servicing are reasonably good, although all Fiat dealers have disappeared off the planet. And the car, although superseded now, still looks quite fresh and new but the paint quality is dubious. However, city folk and townies could do a hell of a lot worse (but stay out of wet weather).

 

So if you are a student, need a newish first time car or have to lug the sprogs off to Sainsbury's, the Punto is your machine. As I no longer fit into any of the latter catergories, I am off to buy myself a Golf GTI...!!

 

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