FIAT Punto Evo Sport 90 hp Diesel Review

Words: Syed Shiraz
Photos: Neelanjan Chakraborty & Syed Shiraz

This does not happen generally. We had wrapped up the shoot of the Punto Evo and were just about to make a move when a white Grande Punto (the outgoing model) stopped next to our car. The two, well-built, suburban men (in their early ’40s) in the white car signaled us to roll down our windows. Most would know that the suburbs around Delhi do not carry a stranger-friendly reputation, so we were certainly a little apprehensive of any engagement with the locals. The road in front of me was wide and empty, and within those few seconds I had even visualized an escape route amidst a lot of wheelspin and tyre smoke.

Thankfully, our fears vanished the moment we started talking. The chap just could not stop praising his three-year old Punto diesel (and his ‘fast driving’) and also said that he was extremely happy with Fiat’s after sales service. Neelanjan and I had looked at each other in amazement. When I told him that our test car’s blower had stopped working all of a sudden that afternoon, he almost pleaded to us to not mention that in our review, and told us that it had never happened with him in the past three years of ownership. He also added that he really drives it roughly, and we could see the car’s body silently testifying to that claim too. And here comes the biggest shocker — he had clocked more than 1.5 lakh km in that Punto! Now, if someone has driven his new car like that in such a short duration, his words do hold more value than someone’s who is writing this review after driving the car around for a few hundred kilometers. Of course, he might or might not be exaggerating but even if he was, that tells us something about the emotional connect that is seldom seen, say, in Maruti Suzuki owners.

Fiat Punto Evo vs Fiat Grande Punto

And that sentiment, I believe, starts with the design of the Fiats. I mean, just look at their cars! They comprise the perfect example of how a company can design a beautiful car without resorting to any unnecessary lines, slashes, or cuts. The old Punto was already a beautiful car and following it up mustn’t have been an easy task for even Fiat’s design house. No, wait; why did I even say that when we all know that there is as much probability of anything ugly coming from the Fiat stable as there is of politicians becoming noble? Oh, because of the Multipla perhaps…

Fiat Punto Evo Sport 90hp top-end

Okay, let’s not have fun at the MPVs expense; the point is that 99 per cent of the time nothing hideous would come out of Fiat’s production line, anywhere in the world. And the Punto Evo falls in that bigger bracket. The Grande Punto looked classy, a touch understated even, but still oh-so-gorgeous. It was a girl who could go to the poshest of parties with zero make-up and still give a complex to the decked-up ladies. The new Punto comes across as an equally beautiful girl, but someone whose silver jewellery and tattoos form an integral part of her body art. I love them both but, since a man really has to decide on one, I would choose the latter.

New Punto vs Old Punto

The Grande Punto, despite the classiness, appeared to be somewhat tight-lipped. Quite the antithesis of the word ’emotion’, then. The Punto Evo, despite a touch of brashness, comes across as the more warm-hearted of the two. Someone who’ll talk; someone who’ll reciprocate…

Fiat Punto Evo Sport 90 hp

I don’t know whether it was this quality or the guy at the McDonalds drive-through (where we generally take the supplies from to keep us going without getting famished on the shoots) was just a cheerful fellow that day who said, “nice car, sir!”, but I do know that we have taken much more expensive cars to that drive through and none of them ever managed to elicit such a response…

Fiat Punto Evo Sport dashboard

What’s even better? The fact that the Punto has finally become better on the inside! The older Punto was criticized for its drab interiors, and rightfully so. The elegance of the exterior made you feel like you would be greeted with premiumness inside, but neither the interiors did justice to that, nor the fit & finish was up to the mark in some places . Thankfully, a lot has improved. The quality is more consistent now (though some parts still feel flimsy to operate) and borrowing Linea’s dashboard has added much to the all important ‘feel-good’ factor. Oh, and that orange ambient lighting, a first in segment, looks fantastic with the Evo Sport’s all-black interior theme.

Fiat Punto Evo rear seats

Seating comfort is perhaps the best in segment, though it’s the Punto’s ride quality that is equally responsible for that (more on it, a little later). The front seats of the Punto have always been comfortable, and I don’t know whether the rear seat squabs are now bigger in the Punto, the under-thigh support feels better now as compared to in the older car.

Fiat Punto Evo rear seat comfort

There is sufficient headroom on offer too, and legroom is decent enough as well for tall passengers provided the front seats are not occupied by even taller folks! Still, headroom, legroom, and shoulder room is way better than what you get in the VW Polo or Maruti Swift. In fact, the Punto Evo is the second best in the segment, just behind the Elite i20, which indeed is the most elite in this department…

Fiat Punto Evo Sport Cornering

But, the Punto Evo picks up the sword and slices its competition to bits when it comes to “ride and handling”. In fact, it not only smothers its main competitors here, but also goes ahead and spanks most C- and even D-segment saloons in their, er, boots, as far as their behaviour, both on and off the tarmac, goes. The thing just glides over the kind of rough stuff that will have other cars rattling their bolts off. Also, with 185 mm ground clearance, this is the most capable hatch out there that can follow a 4×4 in the woods up to a good distance…

2014 Fiat Punto Evo diesel

And when the roads begin to turn, you begin to grin even more! Well, you’re not just grinning — you’re actually laughing at the idiot who told you to stay away from this car… Something that rides so well actually has no right to handle like this car does! The Punto is one of those rare cars that still relies on hydraulic assistance for the steering wheel. The result? The most well-weighed steering that provides wholesome feedback and pushes you to take the longer way, comprising more roundabouts or long sweeping corners, back home …

Fiat Punto Evo Sport cornering

This car has been blessed with a bomb of a chassis, and I can hardly wait to drive it in its most sinister (read ‘Abarth’) form yet. That also tells me that buyers would be a tad disappointed if they are taking the ‘Sport’

Fiat Punto Evo Sport rear three-quarters

badging too seriously of this 90 hp diesel Punto EVO. It’s neither the quickest nor the fastest diesel hatch, period. That said, it is obviously both quicker and faster than the 75 hp variant, but it’s just not the fastest on the block, if you thought so. That credit goes to the fuming (pun intended) Polo GT TDI… So, if the Evo Sport is not the fastest, and keeping aside the host of goodies (some of them exclusive to this variant) that you get in it, why should you be spending more on the 90 hp engine?

Fiat Punto Evo engine

Because it makes this Punto a fantastic highway cruiser, that’s why! Plus, it’s not that bad in the city too; in fact, the kick that you get at around 2,300 rpm can be quite fun once you get used to the power delivery of this engine, which is fitted with a bigger turbo that takes longer to spool (despite being a VGT). Yes, you can post quicker 0-100 km/h times in this one, but you’ll be much happier in overtaking cars on highways without ever needing a downshift…

Fiat Punto Evo Sport 90hp Emotion

The car’s rock like stability eggs you to push it, while the excellent brakes and grippy tyres have your back in case you overdo it sometimes… And you still get a respectable figure of 15.7 km/l. Well, that’s what it yielded in our run, of which 90 per cent happened within city confines. You may be able to extract more.

Fiat Punto Evo Sport diesel

I almost forgot to tell you that this Punto comes fully loaded with all the in-cabin and safety essentials. Please check the company’s website to check what you do or do not get. Here, it would suffice to say that sitting in the Punto Evo Sport will make you feel that Fiat has indeed narrowed the “feature-per-rupee” gap that seems to perennially exist between Hyundai and every other manufacturer. Still, I fail to understand why Fiat just won’t make the steering wheel in the Punto adjustable for reach, where even a non-driver’s car, the Elite i20, comes with it? If anyone from Fiat is reading this, please be advised that not everyone is able to find the perfect driving position in your Punto, as easily as, say, in VW’s Polo. Please work on the ergonomics as the car with the best steering will hold zero value to someone who is not comfortable behind that steering. For example, the tallest of drivers, with the seat pushed far back, will have trouble grabbing the steering wheel (stretched arms) unless they have Orangutan written all over their bloodline…

Fiat Punto Evo profile

Okay, so does the Punto Evo Sport 90 hp, the most expensive diesel Punto (INR 7.71 lakh, ex-Delhi) in the lineup, make the cut, considering the kind of ‘elite’ competition around? The answer is a resounding YES! It’s much cheaper than the top-end variants of both the Polo and i20, while not losing out much as far as the equipment offered is concerned. Yes, in-cabin quality, at a few places, is still not on a par with even the Korean’s (the German is in a different league altogether), but the overall build quality and that reassuring ‘thud’ of the Punto’s doors more than make up for it. In fact, that sound tells you that you’re sitting in a much safer car — something that the Koreans and Japanese might never be able to match. And you don’t have to take my word for it because while on one hand we have cars like the Indian-made Swift which continue to perform miserably in the Euro NCAP crash tests (it has a weaker shell-structure than the European Swift), on the other we have the Punto which got a 5-star rating way back in 2005! Needless to say, beneath that facelift, it’s the same Punto that is being sold in India. The Polo GT TDI is also a safe car and, with 105 horses under its bonnet, it’s truly a rocket too — heck, it not only

Fiat Punto Evo Sport 90hp profile

goes like one, but emits gasses in a not too dissimilar fashion as well! You wouldn’t want to choke your fellow citizens’ respiratory tracts because of your miserly indulgence in sensory pleasures now, would you? I said ‘miserly’ as only a cheapskate would want a hot ‘diesel’ hatch. If you’re really a driving enthusiast, and can’t afford an Abarth, go buy the TSI or the new Figo petrol. Because, the TDI is so hot that it stinks… Or buy the i20 if you have elders in your family, as making them sit at the rear in a Polo would make them regret giving you their blessings…

Fiat Punto Evo Sport 90hp

Alternatively, you can buy the Punto Evo Sport. The amazing ride quality and space will keep your family happy, and that fabulous steering will keep the opposite-lock jock in you satiated. Things such as the tank-like build, gorgeous styling, high ground-clearance, a relatively cheaper price-tag, etc., are just a bonus.

7 thoughts on “FIAT Punto Evo Sport 90 hp Diesel Review”

  1. The Punto is probably the most underrated hatch in India! However, I feel Fiat should have retained the older design and spent money in upping only the interiors.

  2. Sir, your review is one of the most honest and fun sounding write-up I’ve ever read. You have a penchant for writing in a very innocuous way but also remaining rooted to the professionalism of a good reviewer with by-the-book facts. I was on the wall about choosing the Fiat Punto Evo 90 HP and the Honda Jazz 1.2 i-Vtec. Your review has put me back on course to the Fiat showroom. I would be booking it within the coming month. Oh, and it would be a White 90 HP Sport. Thanks a lot and Keep Writing 🙂


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