The Fiat Grande Punto has been around a long time, from 2009 infact, but unfortunately it could not capitalise over its good looks. When its competitors were racing ahead and notching up impressive sales figures month after month, the Grande Punto was left behind. Now however Fiat wants to change all that with the 2012 model line-up. This is a small update to make the Punto even more tempting and offer more value for money. That optimism has reaped rewards somewhat as in Jan and Feb 2012 Fiat sold 1600 and 1340 Puntos respectively - one of its best sales figures.
So, what is the 2012 Punto all about? Lets see. What strikes you first is the looks of the Punto. It looks fantastic with the traditional italian flair. The Punto shows that small can also be beautiful and you do not need a supercar to have good looks. The Maserati like nose is the most appealing part of the design and the rear also looks good with muscular styling. The 2012 model features a new Oceanic blue paint-job (pictured here) and we think it looks great. However take a closer look and you will see a small change, the 2012 Punto now has enhanced ground clearance (Punto 1.2- 195 mm and Punto 1.4 and 1.3 D - 185 mm).
Open the heavy door (the Punto is the heaviest among the hatchbacks) and you will see a stylish cabin. The interior borrows heavily from the Linea but does not look as luxurious. There is a small change in build quality and we are happy to report that its a change for the better. However some parts of the interior were still not up to the mark. What has changed in the 2012 model is that Fiat have provided new grey interiors, fabric seats, carpeted flooring and door trims. A dual tone dashboard now adorns the entire range. When it comes to features the Punto scores high in this regard, the Punto has equipment like steering mounted audio controls, Blue&me and follow me home headlamps. The Blue&Me system works well and it enables you to take calls, have SMSes read out to you! The follow me home headlamps are headlamps that will light your path for a while even after you have turned off your car - you can preset the duration for the headlamps will remain on. Ofcourse all these features only come in the top of the range- the 1.4 petrol and the top of the line diesel. For the 2012 model the Punto has an integrated audio system and central locking along with front power windows in the base variant! When it comes to space, the Punto has adequate legroom but headroom is in short supply thanks to its coupe like design. Boot capacity at 280 litres is adequate.
Time to turn the key and see how the 2012 Punto drives. We drove the 1.2 petrol and the 1.3 Multijet diesel. The 1.2 petrol has 68 PS and performance is adequate. Thanks to its weight, performance is blunted somewhat and you soon wish for more power. However, the short gearing means that for typical city usage, the petrol 1.2 feels adequate. The diesel is a lot better and we say its the pick of the range. The 76 PS multijet diesel motor provides good performance and there is enough torque (197 Nm @ 1750 rpm). One thing that hasn't changed is the wonderful ride and handling. The steering feedback is brilliant, though the gearbox feels bulky and shift action is not smooth. That said the way the Punto glides over potholes shames even more expensive cars! Plus the handling is great though the enhanced ground clearance has made it a bit on the softer side. When it comes to fuel-economy the Punto delivers 15.2 km/l for the 1.2 P and 20.3 km/l (ARAI) for the diesel.
In the end, the Punto certainly has become better, not dynamically but value wise. You see, the base 1.2 petrol Active variant is Rs 5.3 lakh on-road Delhi and you get features like tilt-steering and an integrated CD/MP3 player standard or you can go for the diesel Dynamic model at Rs 6.9 lakhs on-road. Sure the market is full of capable hatches and there are areas where the Punto can be better but if you want something different that the heart wishes for, the Punto 2012 makes a good choice. And it sure looks beautiful!