Fleet News

Fiat Punto 1.3 Multijet Dynamic - 2,520 miles

Fiat

Review

THE latest incarnation of the Punto is understandably conservative during a time of financial turmoil for Fiat. Messing with a prize-winning formula that has netted five million sales throughout Europe and 50,000 each year in the UK would be ridiculous right now.

Whatever your views on the looks of the previous version they are likely to remain unchanged with the new model. There's a new front end dominated by larger headlamps bookending a new front bumper with enlarged air dam and...well that's basically your lot in the looks department.

But the Punto has become a Clark Kent/Superman phenomenon for B-segment drivers, for under its bonnet sits its greatest strength – an engine that complies with Euro IV emission regulations.

As such, drivers will not be subject to the 3% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax penalty imposed on diesels by the Government. The Punto attracts a 15% tax liability and a 22% tax-payer would pay £410 per year in tax in 2003/04.

In addition, the combined fuel consumption figure is an impressive 62.8mpg and the out-of-town figure rises to 70.6mpg.

The car produces maximum power of 70bhp at 3,500rpm and max torque 144lb-ft at a low 1,500rpm. On the move there is a satisfying amount of power to be had in lower gears, allowing for rapid progress from a standing start – great when joining busy A-roads. But get into third gear and there is a lull in power. While you can drop down a gear to compensate, do it too often and your mpg figure will not reach those dizzy heights of 62.8mpg.

Inside, the new two-tone interior adds a bit of sparkle to the appearance, but the lighter coloured top half of the fascia will in no time be covered in grubby fingermarks and age the vehicle very quickly.

The quality of the interior plastics is disappointing. It's a little flimsy and not up to the standard of the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo.

I inadvertently gave the heating fan control button a gentle pull and it came away in my hand. And your plastic lunchbox is likely to feel more robust than the glovebox.

So while a fleet manager and the driver might be happy with the costs of running a new Punto, other aspects of the car could quickly disappoint.

Sales figures demonstrate that the under-bonnet appeal of the car is not finding favour with fleet drivers. It is currently residing in eleventh position in the monthly sales chart, a slide from the previous month's seventh position with unit sales of 1,101 (a 2.7% slice of the market), down 19.81% from July.

Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% tax-payer) £34 per month

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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