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Fiat Punto Evo 1.6 MultiJet Sporting 3-dr

Click to view picture gallery“Fiats Punto range is easy to
  overlook (but not miss!) because
  it never appears in the UK
s top
  ten sales chart. However, that
  doesn
t mean its not worth a punt...


TAKE THE PUNTO EVO it's not intentionally low profile and has many loyal owners who appreciate the wide range of powerplants available: conventional 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol; new-technology 1.4-litre MultiAir; and 1.3 and 1.6-litre MultiJet turbodiesels.

There are five trim levels: Active, MyLife, Dynamic and GP, available on both the three- and five-door models; three-door hatchback models can also be had in Sporting trim. And all grades can be supplemented with an array of extra-cost options and option packs.

Tested here, and on your drive for 15,700, is the range-topping three-door 1.6 MultiJet turbodiesel in Sporting trim.

This Sporting version, as its name suggests, comes with a 'sporty' specification that includes sports seats, body-coloured rear spoiler and side skirts, chromed exhaust tailpipe and 17-inch alloy wheels.

“The Punto Evo
provides good legroom
for its rear passengers,
particularly in the
longer wheelbase five-
door models;
that said, three children
or two adults is
probably the best
configuration in the rear
cabin.
..”
You also get AirCon, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls, radio/CD and MP3 player, on-board computer, ambient lighting (dashboard and door panels), 'Punto' branded kick plates, cruise control, automatic Start & Stop, a full set of airbags, adaptive cornering foglights and Electronic Stability Control with Hill Hold.

The cabin lives up to the Sporting tag with good use of different textured plastic coverings for the fascia along with various attractive finishes for the upholstery and cloth-covered door panels. Split-folding rear seats provide maximum passenger and load carrying versatility (275 to 1,030 litres with the rear seats folded).

The Punto Evo provides good legroom for its rear passengers, particularly in the longer wheelbase five-door models; that said, three children or two adults is probably the best configuration in the rear cabin.

Power comes from a 118bhp four-cylinder 1.6-litre MultiJet turbodiesel engine that puts out a hefty 235lb ft torque from 1,750rpm. Drive is to the front wheels via a six-speed manual 'box. Fiat's Start & Stop helps to minimise CO2 emissions and sixth gear is an overdrive ratio to maximise fuel economy at higher cruising speeds.

Officially, this Punto Evo should do 64.2mpg in the Combined Cycle but, as usual, my test car didn't come close: on a long journey, travelling on motorways and A-roads, the best I recorded was 50.2mpg and the overall average for a week's driving came in at 48.8mpg.

With tailpipe emissions running at a low 114g/km, you'll pay nothing for your first year's road tax — and only 30 annually thereafter. Company drivers will pay a relatively miserly 13% BIK tax. And, despite its Sporting nature, insurance costs should be affordable thanks to its 19E rating.

Performance, while not outstanding, is perfectly okay: top speed is 118mph with a 0-62mph time of 9 seconds showing that it's no slouch.

Cornering grip and handling are capable, if not really any more than expected in this sector — and there are better competitor models.

“Performance,
while not outstanding,
is perfectly okay:
top speed is 118mph
with a 0-62mph time
of 9 seconds
confirming that it’s
no slouch
...”
Because of its Sporting spec, the Evo's ride was very firm; hitting potholes and ridges at a brisk pace not only unsettled the occupants but also gave the car jittery handling.

While there's a decent supply of torque from low engine speeds, the Evo's high final drive gearing, along with the high sixth gear ratio, means considerable use of the gearbox to maintain speed. Consequently, passing slower traffic often called for several down-changes.

Other niggles included a lack of feel through the steering and it was difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel due mostly to a shortage of foot space around the pedals.

Unless a Punto Evo owner is going to travel a lot of miles — where diesel retains a slight edge courtesy of its superior mpg — a better choice, and more in keeping with the 'Sporting' moniker, is the new 133bhp 1.4 MultiAir. Its turbocharged petrol engine produces maximum torque from a low 1,750rpm, it goes faster (127mph and zero to 62mph in 8.5 seconds) and its fuel consumption is officially 50.4mpg.

In three-door guise the 1.4 MultiAir version costs a more affordable 14,500 (saving you 1,200) and although CO2 emissions are a little higher, at 129g/km, than those of the MultiJet diesel, the First Year road tax is still 0 but then rises to 95 per annum for subsequent years.

If looks sell then the Punto Evo is a contender although it's not perfect and owners will have to accept an unsettled ride, steering that lacks feedback, limited foot room around the pedals, and no spare wheel.

However, you do get sporty good looks, a high standard spec of good quality and low running costs. The question is: Is there a Fiat dealer near you? — David Miles

Fiat Punto Evo 1.6 MultiJet Sporting 3-dr | 15,700
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 48.8mpg
Power: 118bhp | Torque: 235lb ft | CO2 114g/km