Fiat has been slowly evolving its Grande Punto supermini, and the latest upgrade is to the engine range. Ian Robertson tests the new 1.6 MultiJet Sporting
All eyes have been on Fiat’s award winning 500 of late, but that’s not to say that the Italian car maker hasn’t been working on other members of the its range. In fact, behind the scenes, development has continued apace, with a new 1.6-litre MultiJet engine for the Grande Punto range, replacing the previous 130bhp 1.9-litre derivatives.
Originally launched in January 2006, the Grande Punto’s exterior design still looks relatively fresh and up to date, with a pretty front end, married up to an evolution of the Punto’s distinctive silhouette. But not one to rest on its laurels, a facelifted version was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show, dubbed the Punto Evo. The newly fettled car gains styling improvements inspired by the 500, together with a freshened interior. The new 1.6-litre engine has been lifted out of the Bravo and transplanted into the nose of the Grande Punto, offering a maximum power output of 120bhp, yet achieving 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and low CO2 emissions of 119g/km. Performance is good too, with plenty of mid-range power where you need it most, but the engine isn’t the quietest unit around – it becomes vocal high up in the rev range, and it’s equally loud when started from cold. Refinement is merely average – there’s plenty of wind noise from the door mirrors at motorway speeds. On back roads, the Grande Punto comes into its own though, with decent levels of grip and good handling, although the ride is definitely on the firm side. The steering is light around town, particularly when the City Parking function is enabled.
The cabin is where the facelift is needed most, as hard plastics abound. The design is attractive enough, but it could be lifted with a smattering of soft-touch plastics and better quality materials. That said, the interior feels durable and built to last. There are more than enough cubby holes to store dayto- day trinkets, while the sports seats are supportive and comfortable. There’s plenty of room both in the front and back too, with ample space for four adults. Boot capacity is generous at 275 litres, which compares well with its main rivals.
It’s disappointing, though, that there’s no external boot release, instead having to rely upon the keyfob to open the tailgate. Fiat was one of the first car makers to realise that mobile phone and music player connectivity is top priority for car buyers these days. Its Blue&Me system is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, and fitted as standard to all Grande Punto models. Other notable equipment highlights include 17- inch alloy wheels, cruise control, air conditioning, front fog lamps and a full compliment of safety equipment.
RIVALS: Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.6 JTDM Veloce, Vauxhall Corsa Design 1.7CDTi 16v
- Engine: 1598cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 120bhp at 3,750rpm
- Max Torque: 236lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,000kg
- Max speed: 118mph
- 0-62mph: 9.6secs
- Combined Consumption: 62.8mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 119g/km (C)
- Bootspace: 275/1,030litres
- Insurance group: 6
Good fuel economy, low emissions, great handling, Blue&Me system standard
No external boot release, ride overly firm, residual values likely to be hit with new Punto Evo on its way