REVIEW DATE: 01 Feb 2008
The Grande Punto Sporting shows Fiat back to their best, producing the sort of cheeky hatches that are hard to resist. Andy Enright reports.
Although Fiat are making efforts to extend their product portfolio beyond their traditional expertise in small cars, their cause isn't helped by the latest Grande Punto. Despite the name, the Grande isn't, in fact, one of Fiat's larger offerings. It is, however, hugely appealing and anybody liable to be easily seduced by sleek styling should give their Fiat dealer a wide berth. The 1.9 Multijet 130 Sporting model that we take a look at here is probably the most difficult to resist of the whole lot.
We've been used to the 'Sporting' badge appearing on all sorts of Fiats. It rarely means much in terms of extra performance, but usually spells a smart body kit, some pretty alloy wheels and a special interior. This particular Sporting features an engine available nowhere else in the Grande Punto line up; in this case a 130bhp 1.9-litre Multijet diesel.
Sporty diesel variants are increasingly common amongst manufacturers of supermini-sized cars and it's not hard to see why. Modern turbodiesels offer a huge amount of torque and when plumbed into a lightweight body, it means real eyebrow-raising performance coupled with excellent fuel economy. What's more Fiat are at the forefront of this technology and their Multijet engines remain some of the most impressive diesels around. All of this adds up to a car that seems a very attractive proposition indeed for around £14,000 with either three or five doors. If you like the Sporting look but want petrol power, then Fiat also offer a turbocharged 1.4-litre T-Jet 120 model.
The Eleganza five-door remains the plushest model in the Grande Punto line up, but this three-door only 1.9 Multijet 130 Sporting model is the one that will adorn most of the advertising hoardings. There are a few neatly-designed superminis around and they are, by their very nature, usually short with high roofs and singularly lacking in elegance. The Grande Punto is different. Look at those teardrop-shaped headlamps and chromed air intake. If you saw that appearing in your rear view mirror, you'd be forgiven for thinking a Maserati Coupe had sliced through the traffic and was sitting on your back bumper. Styled by Italdesign-Giugiaro in partnership with Centro Stile Fiat, the Grande Punto is one of those rare cars that looks good from every angle. Five-door or three-door version, it makes no difference. The shape just works.
"Think of the Grande Punto Sporting as a downsized slice of Italian exotica"
What has helped the car's proportioning is a subtle letting out of its belt. As its name suggests, this version is significantly bigger than the Punto it replaced, helping the stylists create a sleeker profile. In fact it's fully 23cm longer than the old car, but only 2cm wider and a mere centimetre taller. These proportions lengthen the look and the sleek styling is aided with neat detailing such as the Formula One-style door mirrors and the wry badging.
The Sporting model is easily identified by its side skirts and rear spoiler that serve to visually lengthen the car, setting off the sleekly rising window line and 17-inch alloy wheels. Fog lights punctuate the front spoiler while the interior gets the Sporting treatment with deeply bolstered seats, white dials and a custom interior trim. A Bluetooth telecoms pack is also included as standard, making mobile calls easier, safer and keeping you on the right side of the law.
The stereo system merits a mention as it's MP3 compatible, comes with a meaty subwoofer and features steering wheel-mounted controls. The Sporting also comes equipped with a whole host of driver aids. Prime amongst these is an ESP stability control program that's ideal for those with more exuberance than experience behind the wheel. As well as the stability control, there's ASR to limit wheelspin during acceleration and MSR to modulate brake torque when downchanging. An integral part of the ESP system fitted to the Grande Punto Sporting is hydraulic brake assistance and a Hill Holder function to help with smooth hill starts.
The 1.9-litre engine will zip this Sporting to 60mph in just 9.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 124mph. Fuel economy is predictably excellent at 36.2mpg around town, 60.1mpg on a typical longer journey and it posts an average of 48.7mpg. The relatively low asking price and the modest 154g/km carbon dioxide emissions will make this model an attractive target for company car drivers too. The common rail diesel engine features an electronically controlled, variable geometry Garrett VGT17 turbocharger that can generate plenty of torque even at low engine speeds. In fact this engine can deliver 90 per cent of its peak torque anywhere between 1,750 and 3,250rpm.
Interior space - as you would expect from a car this generously endowed in the wheelbase department - is a standout feature. The 275-litre boot is about average for the class but rear leg and headroom is very good indeed. Fiat claim the interior 'represents the epitome of Italian style', although that may be stretching the point a little. It's rather minimalist in fact, the main dials being housed in a curiously flat-topped binnacle with an unexceptional centre console that, from a purely aesthetic perspective, is probably the car's weakest point. Still, it's undoubtedly functional, and if you get confused by the big buttons, self explanatory ventilation controls and stereo controls, then modern life has really got on top of you.
The Grande Punto Sporting isn't going to need too much hard sell, especially with diesel power. It's so good looking that it would be forgiven all manner of other shortcomings. The fact that it would be a decent choice even if it was a little more aesthetically challenged speaks volumes. Please form an orderly queue.
The results below show the top GRANDE PUNTO deals on buyacar
|Fiat Grande Punto 1.4 GP 3dr hatchback|
|Fiat Grande Punto 1.4 Dynamic 5dr Auto hatchback|
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|For GRANDE PUNTO 1.9 JTD SPORTING|
|OVERALL||7.0 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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