Hot hatchbacks have been spreading joy to petrol heads across the globe. They perfectly fit the bill for people looking for powerful engines, honest practicality and an affordable price tag. India has been sort of overlooked in terms of this segment. There were a few attempts in the past, but manufacturers found it very difficult to balance performance, efficiency and retail costs.
Fiat India has addressed the issue by their new Abarth Punto. They took the Punto Evo and plonked in the 1.4 T-JET to which they added spice by squeezing out more power from this turbocharged petrol engine. We’ve been driving it for a while to tell you how the recipe adds up.
The Punto Evo is already a great looking car and the exciting garnish of Abarth has further made it interesting. Fiat India has dialled down on the chrome bits and darkened everything with smooth black details. The Abarth Punto looks mean and all the red details increase the sporty character of this hatchback.
The intricately designed scorpion alloy wheels are possibly the best looking wheels you find around this bracket. The neat looking exhaust tip juts out with pride, but fails in terms of audible note. One detail that gets hidden away is the big Abarth scorpion sitting on the roof of the car. Climb up a few stairs and just look at it, brilliant that is.
Abarth Punto looks stunning with the right proportions of elegant Italian design flair and sporty credentials all mashed up in one compact hatch body. One thorn you might say is that the car rides a bit too tall for a performance hatch. This is true but necessary. Fiat has done that to save its belly scraping every speed breaker you witness, so deal with it!
The interior is all black and a nice place to spend time in. The colour combination, the plastics and fabrics all look good and stylish. Stitching on the seats is in signature red and yellow Abarth colours which add to the drama and grandeur of it all. Steering wheel is stitched in leather and feels very nice to hold.
However slipping into the right driving position takes time adjusting the steering, only for rake, and the seats that have a slightly harder cushion. You get lots of kit like automatic climate control, audio system with Bluetooth and all the required connectivity options.
The rear seats are comfortable enough for two passengers, but the third one will be comfortable for a short drive, we recommend fighting for the driver’s seat. Boot can carry a fair amount of luggage, and the rear seats can fold 60:40 to carry more if you have to. Also while driving at night you notice the instrument console looks a lot simple without a single illuminated Abarth trinket. Why not? I personally think that is extremely important detail missed.
Engine and performance
Fiat cars have engines which never fail to impress when it comes to performance, but the 1.4 T-JET in the Abarth Punto just takes to a whole new level of excitement. You start it up and get greeted by a civilised purr, nothing exciting to begin with. But then you floor it and a very evil smile gets plastered onto your face, ear to ear.
The Abarth Punto launches immediately if you give it substantial amount of throttle and mask the turbo lag. Yes there is lag but you can overpower it with the correct mix of clutch and accelerator. From a standstill to a 100kmph takes just about 9.5seconds and top speed is past 190kmph if you can find a long enough empty stretch.
The gearbox is there to perform its duties well everyday with soft action but will leave you wanting more when driving enthusiastically. And note the steering has some amount of torque steer in 1st and 2nd gear, so stay vigilant while accelerating it. Fuel efficiency is decent enough when you consider all that power. It will return you about 13kmpl when driving with a light foot, though it will fall to about 9kmpl at full chat.
Ride and handling
You know it is an Abarth tuned Punto and expect harsh ride, however joy of joy the suspension is setup so beautifully that it manages everyday driving and spirited cornering with ease. Witchcraft that! It soaks up bumps on your office run, keeps you comfortable on the way back and fills you with confidence and joy on the weekend chiselling through tight corners.
Also you get disc brakes on all four wheels to stop even faster than you accelerate. And you also get the safety net of ABS with EBD and two Airbags up front. But it will be better if Fiat offers more Airbags at least as an option, as this is a seriously fast car and some customers would prefers added safety.
This car is a touch of genius. Take a test drive and you instantly fall in love with it. And because the asking price is quiet low, you forgive all its little foibles. Fiat India has given petrol heads hope and solace who wanted a reason to get up early in the morning for a quick spirited drive and soak up the crack of dawn. The Abarth Punto is fried food that keeps you slim, a video game that does not ruin your eyes and gets you discount at the dealership when you buy one.