As the Retro and Café theme is taking everyone by storm, FIAT India has taken a head start with several FIAT Caffe`s in India. Unfortunately they don`t have one in Mumbai, yet. Never mind, CCD to the rescue then which happened to be the flag off venue for the new Fiat Punto Evo media drive. A quick brief about the Evo was followed by the flag off by Mr. Giancarlo Bertoldi – Head of Product Development, APAC region – FIAT Chrysler. The drive was to and fro Della Adventure Resorts – Lonavala. An apt venue for a single day media drive which gave us enough opportunities to experience the Punto Evo in all possible conditions – from Mumbai traffic to Khandala twisties and of course, the fast bits in between. We have already given you quick live updates, time to delve deeper. Read on..
Images: Hanoz Patel
The Punto Evo is basically the Punto and the Grande Punto under the skin however, the Evo remains the most comprehensive upgrade that the Punto has seen. It draws a lot of design inspiration from the `crossover` concept, the FIAT Avventura.
We always loved the Punto`s looks, well who didn`t but with Evo, FIAT has taken another significant step forward. The big inverted trapezoidal front grill with chrome surrounds catches your attention with the thick horizontal matte black slat in the lower half. The over-sized fog lamp receptors get a generous double dose of chrome embellishment as well. The large grill gets an additional polished black slat as well as the chrome slat on the lower grill on the 1.4 Petrol version we drove initially while the 90HP version gives this a skip. In either formats, the front end looks highly worked upon along with the new peeled back effect headlamps.
The FIAT logo now moves up the nose. The engine hood of the Evo also receives a power bulge. The turn indicators are now hidden on the insides of the headlamps and are barely noticeable until they start flashing. The side profile remains similar apart from the fresh set of 15” alloy wheels. The alloys on the Petrol and the Diesel Evos are different, we love the ones on the petrol Punto pictured here. The Punto Evo finally receives the jazzy set of tail lamps that were released internationally in 2012. The new LED effect tail lamps look stunning, take a look for yourself and you`ll agree. A similar neon look is also found on the Verito Vibe, but the designers at FIAT have executed it in a stunning manner.
The rear fog lamp/reverse lights at the bottom of the bumpers seem to have grown in size as well and now receive extra chrome highlights. The Evo also sports a chrome strip at the bottom which hints a connect between the lights. The Punto logo has a received a style upgrade as well, but the placement remains the same as before – on the left hand side of the hatch door. The license plate remains in the centre of the bumper as before as well. The rear spoiler with LED stop lamp makes a comeback with the Punto Evo. FIAT claims that the liberal splashing of chrome is based on Indian customer feedback and demand, we agree, but personally for our tastes toning them down by a notch would be nicer. The ORVMs now have LED effect turn indicators as well. FIAT have skimped on rear parking sensors, a common safety and convenience feature found on most cars these days.
Like the exterior, the interiors of the Punto Evo are a substantial upgrade. While the earlier design was simply classy and elegant, the new dash design is contemporary, very European. The dashboard has a double layer curvy console with tri-tone effect. The two options available are beige and black/gray and the racy all black. The new dashboard you see in the pictures has a soft feel satin finish fabric in beige while the rest is a mix of piano black, chrome and black grain surfaces. Our preconceived notion about the durability and resistance to soiling was safely put to rest when we saw the fabric repelling rain droplets. Gone are the days when air-conditioning was a luxury on the “Dx” models made available by manufacturers, these days cars being driven with the windows rolled down are a rare sight. The beige fabric should put up a good resistance to weathering then, with the help of some TLC from the owner as well.
The all black interiors are found on the 90HP version we drove, and despite the so called `dreary` feel, we liked it for the sporty feel it exuded. The beige trim is replaced with what feels like textured rubber/vinyl finish. The roof lining on the all black interiors is also, black. The seats of the all black interiors have gray striped center panel with good body hugging contours.
The central console has piano black finish with brushed silver surrounds. A small storage space is available at the top of the central AC vents as well, but has affinity to AC condensate. It can easily accommodate couple of small cell phones or a wallet. The AC vents on either side are circular while the central ones are rectangular. The media centre console with the CD changer is completely new with small buttons. The AC controls are similar as the GrandePunto/Punto. The interior amber lighting streak on top of the glove box is a classy touch as well.
Here are some more important details represented through pictures
USB/AUX port with small cubby hole next to it
Flip to open central storage console above the AC vents
Storage space on the door pads is not much. That’s a 500 ml bottle in the pic
All black interiors on the 90HP version aren`t boring by any length of imagination. In fact, we love them
The Gray striped fabric on the 90HP version looks great.
Rear AC vent keeps the rear occupants in comfort
Extra non-functional buttons on the central console.
Comfort at the rear isn`t class leading, but nothing to complain about either.
The `U` spoke alloys on the 1.4 FIRE version look gorgeous.
We love the all black interiors on the 90HP version. Oh, we told you that already!
Extra chrome embellishment on fog lamps
Rear seats with 60:40 folding option
Soft touch Satin fabric does well to repel water droplets and should be durable.
LED effect turn indicators on ORVMs
Re-designed headlamp cluster, headlights provide good throw and illumination
Amber theme interior lighting looks nice
Rear window cannot be rolled down completely.
Rear central AC vent with bottle holder works for rear passengers
12V power outlet near the gear shifter with storage space underneath
Spare for emergencies, but can only be driven upto 80kmph.
The USB port that nestled inside the glove compartment has now been moved ahead of the gear lever with AUX in port as well, sporting FIAT`s Blue & Me sticker. There is a small cubby hole which is handy for change coins etc. This set up has cost the space which was earlier utilized by twin cup holders in the Punto. A small rectangular recess lies under the handbrake lever, which isn’t the most convenient to access, with a 12V outlet near it. On both the tested cars, we struggled to pair our smartphones with the Blue & Me, though this could be an isolated case.
The stitching on the leather wrapped multifunction steering is all black, while the 90HP gets white stitching which accentuates it’s otherwise all black cabin. The speedometer console on the Evo is all new with twin binnacle style having brushed silver surrounds. The dials are new and look better once back lit with amber light. The speedometer console is shared across all variants. The leather wrapped gear knob is same in the 1.4 Fire and 1.3 MJD 90HP variants. FIAT has also provided height adjustable driver seat and seat belts with height adjust as well.
The seats also share the twin tone theme with beige and dark gray fabric seats which complement the interiors. The front seats themselves are very supportive and offer a long range of travel for taller drivers/occupants. The space for rear occupants is just about enough and the seats offer a 60:40 split with adjustable headrests. The rear central AC vent does a good job of keeping the comfort level high. The boot space remains unchanged at 280 litres with a pressed steel disc wheel underneath as the spare wheel for emergencies.
The overall build quality of the interiors is good with some rare bits and pieces exuding a low rent feel.
The Punto Evo is offered with the 1.2 litre / 1.4 litre FIRE petrol, the 1.3MJD (diesel) and the 1.3MJD (diesel) with VGT (90HP) versions. The 1.4 petrol engine produces 90PS@6000rpm and 115Nm@4500rpm. The 1.3 MJD produces 76PS@4000rpm and 197Nm@1750rpm of power and torque. The MJD with variable geometry turbo produces 90PS and 209Nm of torque. The 1.2L FIRE produces a measly 68PS@6000rpm and 96Nm@2500rpm.
We drove the Punto Evo with the 1.4 FIRE unit which has been doing duty on FIAT cars for quite some time now. This unit is easily not the most refined power plants on the market currently but is decently grunty too.
On paper, the power figure is impressive however the same cannot be said about the torque output as it comes in at a higher rpm. The gearbox has an improved shift feel but still retains long throws. The shift into the 2nd gear particularly, isn’t assuring while overall its quite precise to use. The clutch operation is good too and isn’t a workout in stop and go traffic. The engine feels a bit sluggish at lower half of the rev band and feels most responsive above 4000 rpm though slightly coarse. As long as one does not expect quick acceleration figures, the Punto Evo 1.4 remains a sedate drive in normal everyday driving conditions. The rev limiter for the FIRE unit cuts in at 6500rpm. The insulation of the cabin also seems better than the 1.3MJD and remains fairly silent up to 100-110kmph past which wind noise and tyre-roar gain prominence but never is a bother.
The 1.3MJD with variable geometry turbo feels instantaneous in response thanks to the torque which is almost twice as that of the petrol engine. In gear acceleration is brisk, and despite the variable geometry turbine setup, the 90HP feels extra eager post 2000rpm. A special mention has to be made about the ultra light clutch of the 1.3MJD which is a joy to use, although it has long travel pedal action. The 90HP also enjoys a short throw gearbox and better slotting feel through the gates. This makes the 90HP the most effortless and fun to drive hot hatch amongst the Evo clan. What’s more, the 90HP only gets better as speeds build up and the diesel drone is almost completely drowned with ambient sounds. The wind noise in the 90HP is tad bit pronounced than its petrol engined sibling at triple digit speeds.
FIAT cars have always exuded the sturdy-heavy feel and the Punto Evo is no different.FIAT has employed hydraulic power steering on the Punto Evo. FIAT claims that the suspension has been tweaked in their latest Evo and the difference is evident. While the petrol engined Evo felt bumpy at low speeds, the ride quality improved by leaps at higher speeds. Trundling around city`s by lanes at 20-30kmph it relayed all the surface information via vertical movements of the cabin and felt firmly damped. However driving over broken patches and potholes isn`t unsettling for the car. Punto`s suspension seems to have an appetite for bad roads, or it seems to have been tuned keeping our road conditions in mind. At decent cruising speeds between 80-110 kmph, it feels the best and settled displaying great composure and minimal roll.
The 1.3MJD in contrast feels better at low speeds owing to a heavier front end due to the oil burner underneath. Potholes are treated with indifference and ignorance while driving over broken patches. The 185mm ground clearance adds to the peace of mind especially considering the monsoon treated roads in Mumbai. Cruising around 80-110, the oil burner feels de-stressed in its sweet spot with the turbo spooled up. Coupled with the sure footed handling, the 90HP wins both the battles whether it’s the city traffic or highway runs.
With FIAT India working hard to resurrect its blurred image and re-establish itself in the fierce competition, the Punto Evo comes across as a promising product. With rising petrol prices, automakers have seen unprecedented sales figures from the diesel variants of their products. The circumstances are apt for the MJD engined Punto Evo`s innings. The 90HP – with its refreshed interiors, ride & handling as well as eye candy looks wins our hearts hands down. With close to 1200kg of kerb weight, the Punto isn’t the most nimble hatchbacks but nothing can take away its high speed manners either. The colour options and the pricing details will be announced when the Evo is launched early next month, August `14. Stay tuned for details!