Which is a shame because having lived with Fiat’s smallest commercial vehicle for a week recently, I reckon it deserves better.
Things may change soon because now the Punto van comes with Fiat’s cracking 1.3-litre MultiJet common rail diesel powerplant. This may be the catalyst that will give the Italian manufacturer the urge to push ahead a bit on marketing the vehicle.
Sales so far have been quiet to say the least. But it is perky, capable and a natty looker too in my book.
The Punto van comes in two guises – 1.2-litre petrol offering 60bhp at 5,000rpm and 75lb-ft of torque at 2,500rpm or the test model, the 1.3-litre JTD diesel with 70bhp at 4,000rpm and a meatier 132lb-ft of torque at 1,750rpm. The petrol beats the diesel on price at £7,650 to £7,950 (ex-VAT) but that JTD motor is so sweet that it’s no contest in fleet terms. It is Euro IV compliant too, for those companies with a green bent.
The Punto comes head-to-head with rivals such as the Vauxhall Corsavan, Renault Clio van and Peugeot 206 van. But while all three are within a gnat’s whisker of each other on payload and load volume, the Punto van beats the other two comfortable on price by between £300-£500.
In the front
IN its standard format, the Punto van is a fairly Spartan affair. Our test van didn’t have central locking, electric windows or a CDplayer. The first two can be added for £275 and if you really want to go crazy, you can add ABS brakes at £298, air conditioning at £596, front foglamps at £128, passenger airbag at £166 and alloy wheels at £320 (all prices ex-VAT). Under such circumstances, our cheap little van starts looking more expensive.
One addition I would certainly advocate is the addition of metallic paint at £212. It may sound unnecessary for fleet purposes but come selling time, your van may well be worth more than £212 extra. There’s forward thinking for you.
Our test vehicle also came with body-coloured bumpers at £100. They make the van look superb but come with the risk that it will be knocked and scraped during its busy fleet ife. There is little to stop this happening apart from two tiny rubbing strips down each side.
The ‘cooking’ cassette player is a bit mean, I thought. Does anyone actually play cassettes any more? Mind you, Fiat points out that it is linked to the car’s on-board computer and won’t work in another vehicle if stolen. Are there any thieves out there sad enough to steal a cassette player?
This minor gripe apart, the cabin has a pleasant ambience and despite the Punto van’s generally diminutive size, there is plenty of legroom for both driver and passenger, with height adjustment on both steering column and driver’s seat.
The driver’s seat is rather soft for my liking but it’s top marks to Fiat for the addition of lumbar adjustment. The seat also has good side support and the squab is nice and deep, which gives the impression of sitting in the seat rather than on it.
Meanwhile there are two cup/can holders in the central console and other little storage spaces dotted about.
In the back
ENTRY into the load compartment can be gained via a remote tailgate release by the driver’s seat and a nice square load area is revealed, although because the Punto was originally a car, it means there is a lip at the back and loads cannot be simply pushed in.
But there is a half-height bulkhead with mesh top half and a rubber floor and carpeted load wall bays, together with two load lashing eyes.
Payload is 510kg, load volume is one cubic metre and load area measures 1,300mm in length, 1,370mm in width and 950mm in height.
On the road
TO the older punter like myself, 1.3-litres doesn’t sound a great deal of ‘cubes’ for an engine, but don’t be fooled. Technology has marched on at such a pace that you don’t need any more now to push along down the road at a cracking pace.
Bascially MultiJet technology – this engine was developed jointly by General Motors and Fiat and go in both ranges – offers a more flexible system than the old UniJet one which can deliver variable amounts of fuel in numerous individual injections (between three and five) according to the conditions.
It results in quieter combustion, reduced emissions, increased performance, better fuel efficiency and less vibration. Isn’t technology a wonderful thing?
Drivers will certainly be surprised on the road for the first time as this little van fairly flies along. It also offers a nice easy gearchange and power steering weighted just right to give a bit of ‘feel’ for the road underneath. Meanwhile warranty is three years/100,000 miles and servicing is required every 12,000 miles.
I CAN’T say the Fiat Punto has ever featured on my top ten list of vans to drive but after a week with it, I was left more than impressed with its performance.
If only Fiat can sharpen its marketing act up, this MultiJet marvel might just become a new fleet darling.