When you've got a product as successful as the Punto you don't take risks. Therefore Fiat has wisely played it safe with the latest version of the supermini.
Since its launch back in 1993 Fiat has built more than five million Puntos, bringing the Italian marque important revenue at a time when sales of the rest of the range are not looking quite as healthy.
Where the old car was full of sharp lines and angular lights, the updated Punto has a more mellow look to it with more rounded front lights and a revised front bumper featuring an enlarged air dam.
At the top of the range, the Punto HGT has been given a workout, looking more aggressive and packing a six- speed gearbox, but it's still off the pace both dynamically and for value when compared to Renault's Clio 172.
Inside things have improved with better quality plastics and fabrics. The overall feel is still unexciting though. The centre console dominated by an ugly set of vents while some of the trim is on the flimsy side. The driving position continues to be marred by an annoyingly off-set steering wheel although once used to it, the cabin is comfortable and roomy.
Joining the existing 1.2-litre 8v, 1.2-litre 16v and 1.8-litre 16v engines are three new units. Two new diesel 1.3-litre and 1.9-litre Multijet units developing 70bhp and 100bhp respectively are joined by a 95bhp 1.4-litre 16v petrol unit. The new diesel 1.3-litre Multijet unit, which already meets Euro IV regulations, is the most significant of the three.
Pushing out 70bhp, it is refined and torquey with little vibration and diesel clatter on start-up, even managing motorway speeds without feeling out of its depth. It is cost-effective too, returning 62mpg and with CO2 emissions of 119g/km is enough to ensure the lowest possible benefit-in-kind tax banding for many years to come, as it avoids the 3% diesel penalty.
A total of six transmissions are available in the new Punto – two automatics in the Speedgear and Dualogic which also gives the option of a manual mode plus three five- speed units and a range-topping six speed gearbox.
Safety has been improved too, the Punto now coming with ABS, ESP linked to brake assist and a hill holder clutch as well as up to six airbags. Rear drum brakes feature on all but the top-spec 1.8-litre and 1.9-litre JTD equipped cars.
Dynamically it is not a match for the Clio or new Volkswagen Polo but then it does have a lower front end price and lots of kit. The interior is still cheap but has a lot of space while the new Multijet engines are refined, economical and – more importantly – clean.
Prices for the revised Punto range are due to be announced closer to its August launch but expect them to stay close to the existing structure, starting at £6,499 on-the-road for the 1.2-litre and rising to £13,499 for the range-topping 1.8-litre HGT Abarth.
Model: Punto 1.3 Multijet
Engine (cc): 1,251cc
Max power (bhp/rpm): 70/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 132/1,750
Max speed (mph): 101mph
0-62mph (sec): 13.4
Fuel consumption (mpg): 62mpg
CO2 emissions (g/km): 119
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 49/10.8
Transmission: 5-sp man
On sale: August
Price (est): £7,500