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Abarth Punto Evo

Click to view picture gallery“First drive of the new Abarth Punto
  Evo — not only is there not much
  to compete with the £16,600 Evo in
  this sector, but it makes a well priced
  proposition for use both as a track-
  day car and for everyday...”

AVAILABLE AS A THREE-DOOR HATCHBACK just over four metres in length, this new Abarth uses the latest 1.4-litre MultiAir turbocharged petrol engine with 165bhp and 184lb ft of torque from 2,250rpm.

Yet the CO2 emissions are relatively low at 142g/km (125 in road tax) and fuel economy is officially 47.1mpg in the Combined Cycle —in real life driving over the North Yorkshire Moors, with only stray sheep to worry about, 31.6mpg was the real-life figure. A Start&Stop fuel-saving function is fitted as standard. Top speed is 133mph and zero to 62mph comes up in 7.9 seconds.

This Abarth model comes with a six-speed manual gearbox with a 'Sport Switch' for activating a sportier drive. But the figure that perhaps matters most is the price — a pretty reasonable 16,500. I know this is 2,100 more than the Abarth Grande Punto it replaces, but the Evo is a much better car with a much better MultiAir engine.

Despite its eco-credentials and sharp pricing, the new Abarth Punto Evo really is a true performance car with a throaty tone from the satin finish twin tailpipes. But it's more than the noise it makes — there are sporting 17-inch alloy wheels, a body-coloured rear spoiler and side skirts and race-tuned suspension.

“The Abarth Punto Evo
is a well priced
proposition for use
both as a track-day car
and for everyday
And then there is the Sport Switch; a small lever located down by the gearlever. This enables drivers to decide how they want the car to behave and adjust it accordingly.

For a more relaxed drive, Normal is the default selection. Select Sport and the Evo becomes noticeably more responsive with sharper reactions from the accelerator and steering. In either mode the car delivers because the MultiAir engine is so strong in the mid-range; it pulls like a train even in high gears and when really pushed hard it doesn't sound frantic or stressed.

The ride is firm, but not uncomfortable if you are seated in the front; the rear seats are cramped and not recommended as a seating position if the road surface is poor and the speed high.

The handling at times felt what I would describe as 'loose' — some pitch and roll in corners and although the steering is well weighted it just didn't give much in the way of feel or feedback. Although already tuned by Abarth, the suspension needs more work so perhaps the optional 2,700 Esseesse sports kit will tighten up the handling.

Thrills are definitely guaranteed and there's no danger of any spills proving commonsense prevails. However, as the Abarth brand is attracting younger drivers (in the 18 to 30 range) the standard level of safety protection, which includes Abarth's clever Torque Transfer Control system, is more than welcome. TTC replicates the behaviour of a limited slip differential to improve the dynamic responses while ensuring the Electronic Stability Programme remains on stand-by should it be required. ABS anti-lock brakes, Anti-Slip Regulation and Hydraulic Brake Assistance are all standard, as are seven airbags including a driver's knee bag.

“The MultiAir engine
is strong
in the mid-range
even in high gears
it pulls like a train
Other items in the well-populated standard equipment list include a steering wheel which is both reach and rake adjustable and a driver's seat that adjusts for height. There are electric front windows and mirrors, air conditioning and a radio/CD/MP3 player with steering wheel controls, and the Blue&Me hands-free system that allows voice control of a mobile 'phone and the sound system.

A wide range of extras includes Blue&Me MAP, which employs motor racing technology to help drivers improve their skills at the wheel through telemetry as well as regular satellite navigation. Also on the options list are Abarth Corse front seats, made by Sabelt.

The Abarth Punto Evo makes a very interesting and affordable addition to the Abarth performance car line-up — around 1,000 of them should be sold in a full year in the UK. Against? Loose-ish handling at high speeds on normal roads but good on track, firm ride in the rear seats and cramped. On the plus side you get a value-for-money hot performance hatchback that looks the 'business' outside and in, with a strong engine and a slick transmission.

As I said at the beginning of this review, there isn't much to compete with the 16,500 Abarth Punto Evo in this sector: it's a well priced proposition for use both as a track-day car and for everyday driving. — David Mile

Abarth Punto Evo
| 16,500
Maximum speed: 133mph | 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 31.6mpg
Power: 165bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 142g/km