In my hands, the Punto has impressed its 60-plus mpg economy rate, as well as the tax benefits stemming from its benefit-in-kind penalty- sidestepping Euro IV diesel engine.
However, less inspiring has been Fiat's cosmetic tinkering, which has done little in the way of boosting its appeal over key competitors such as the solid-looking Ford Fiesta and 'from another planet' Nissan Micra.
During the past few days I've been trying to get a handle on the driving characteristics of the car, since this will become one of the prime concerns of drivers finding themselves behind the wheel for months, or perhaps years, on end.
The technical specification reveals the Punto to have 70bhp available at 4,000rpm and maximum torque of 133lb-ft from just 1,750rpm, but how does this translate into the on-road driving experience?
The Punto's strength is in close-quarter, cut and thrust driving, made up of short bursts of rapid movement book-ended by lengthy periods of snail-like progress. The Punto's size and light steering lends itself to the rough and tumble of today's congested roads. Good vision in the rear view mirrors with little intrusion from the pillars means manoeuvring is stress-free.
The 1.3-litre engine is best at delivering its power in these short, sharp shock environments; small bursts of power to cover short distances quickly and it's easy to work the gears to your advantage.
What has proved less enamouring is the car's ability to cope with motorway driving. There is a tiny sliproad – perhaps less than 100 metres long – on to the A1 close to the office on my way home and on a couple of occasions I have felt that I've taken my life in my hands attempting to join the fast-moving traffic.
The Punto just can't cut it and the engine strains desperately when trying to put a safe distance between me and the several tonnes of lorry looming large in the rear-view mirror. I tried it a couple of times before deciding to find an alternative way home.
I would have expected these 'experiments' to severely dent the target combined fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg. But despite these leaden-footed moments the Punto is returning a respectable 60.6mpg, further highlighting the appeal of the engine in terms of its efficiency.
A single gremlin has reared its head. The Blaupunkt stereo cut out twice in as many minutes for no obvious reason. It hasn't happened since, but future reviews will reveal whether we have a problem.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% tax-payer): £34 per month