Text & Photos: Bhargav TS

IMG_3133 - CopyAt the Delhi Auto Expo, Fiat India unveiled plans to bring in 4 new cars into the country this year, which include refreshed models of Linea and Punto. The Linea has already received an update and the Italian auto major has launched it in the Indian market with a minor facelift. Now, the company has launched the Punto and rechristened it the Punto Evo. When Fiat introduced the Grande Punto in India, the international markets got the Punto Evo, in 2009. Though the Evo has come here after 5 years, India has got something much better.

 The 2014 Evo gets significant external changes as well as a brand new interior that it shares with the Linea sedan. The most significant change in the front is the redesigned head-lamps, bumper and the bonnet. The Evo gets new, larger swept back headlights that extend all the way back; it has a boomerang sort of kink, suggesting some flair. The headlights on the Sport variant are smoked while the regular variant gets chrome inside the lights. The bonnet now sports a bulge with two prominent lines running down all the way to the logo.

Punto Evo gets new dash board designed by IAC - CopyAnother major change from the outgoing model is the new radiator grille, which is filled with chrome borders with the lower half carrying the number plate. Below that, the fog lamp housing too gets a chrome finish, which further enhances the style quotient. The side profile remains mostly identical to the outgoing model except the wheels. There are 2 different styles of wheels – while the first is an Abarth style 15-inch diamond cut, the second gets a different design along with a lighter shade rim for the more powerful Punto Evo 90.

 - CopyThere are minor changes in the rear profile with updated bumpers and an improved tail-light cluster. The extensions on the sides look much larger with the use of new clear lens tail lights that use LEDs. In the rear bumper, Fiat has added a large chrome strip and has integrated the reflectors surrounded by chrome that gives the Punto a modern and premium appeal. All these cosmetic changes have certainly brought a distinct new look to the vehicle.

Step into the car, and the interior gets completely refined. All the cars manufactured for Indian customers come with beige colour interiors. But, surprisingly, Evo’s ‘Sports’ trim comes with full black interiors that include dashboard, seats and roof padding. The dashboard is equipped with textured soft plastic, while the other versions follow a dual-tone black-beige theme. On the utility aspect, the designers have provided more storage space inside the car with the addition of new cubby holes.

 The interior and the centre console for the Punto facelift is designed and developed by Pune based International Auto Components (IAC). Fiat worked with IAC to develop the new interiors based on customer feedback. Sources from Fiat explained that customer feedback on the interiors of the outgoing model was very discouraging. Despite the vehicle having a good drivetrain it was not sought after by customers due to poor interiors. With the new design and elegant dash, Fiat now hopes to improve customer response. The quality of door plastics need enhancement and the fitment near the steering column looks incomplete. There is still a need to perk up in the fit and finish department.

Larger swept back headlights - CopyComing to overall comfort, the company has retained all the features from the outgoing version. It has hydraulic power assisted steering, a fully automatic AC unit, follow-me headlamps and power windows. To increase rear passenger comfort, Fiat has provided a rear AC vent with an integrated bottle holder. At the same time, Evo gets newly designed seats, which are quite wide and combined with head restraints. In city driving conditions, the steering feels a bit hard and the height between seat and steering wheel is not proportionate. After adjusting the height of the seat and the steering column the driving posture was considerably better. On the road, the vehicle performs well especially the sports variant, which is a ‘driving-for-pleasure’ car. After the needle crosses 1500 rpm the turbo performs well and generates more power, both in city and highway conditions.

Fiat has carried the same motor that powered the first generation Punto. It comes with an option between 67bhp 1.2 litre petrol, an 89bhp 1.4 litre petrol and a 1.3 litre Multijet diesel in two power versions – 75bhp and 90bhp; all the variants have been mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. The Evo is integrated with important safety aspects like an engine immobilizer, fire prevention system and automatic door locks.

 The only change that Fiat has made to the engine is improving the diesel’s fuel efficiency by 5%, by tuning the engine. To compete with its rivals, the new Fiat Punto Evo is priced aggressively with the petrol starting at Rs 4.55 lakh and going up to Rs 6.66 lakh, and the diesel version starting at Rs 5.27 lakh and going up to Rs 7.2 lakh for the 89bhp Sport variant.

As always, Fiat cars have good build quality, but lack in features. Since Indians always look at value-for-money, the Punto Evo is not up to expectations. Customers want more-for-less and the vehicle manufacturer has to take this into consideration before launching the next product. If Fiat cannot bring in feature rich products, then it will have to travel a long way to overtake rivals.

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