The Grande Punto is the third generation of the Punto (internal name Project 199) that was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005. The Grande Punto however made its way into the Indian car market in June 2009. Fiat delayed the launch of the Grande Punto in India to strengthen its dealer network across the country before the launch as Fiat has always been highly optimistic about the sales of the Grande Punto. The Grande Punto has changed the fortune of Fiat worldwide and Fiat has launched it in India with a similar target.
The Fiat Grande Punto shares its platform with Fiat's already-on-sale saloon, the Linea. The Grande Punto is developed jointly by the legendary designer Giugiaro of Ital Design and Fiat Style Centre. The Grande Punto has been designed on the SCCS platform which was a project undertaken jointly by Fiat and Opel engineers in Turin. The hatch has a very aggressive design with lots of Italian flair reflecting in it, giving it a much better stance when compared to most of the other currenty sold hatches. The fascia of the car is dominated by the chrome-plated front grille with the red and silver Fiat badge at its centre and the leaf-shaped headlamps extending upto the front fenders. The Grande Punto has a wide windshield with a steep rake and its hood exhibits a gentle crown.The silhouette has a shallow greenhouse, overhung front end and flared wheelarches which adds bold character to the design.
The interiors of the Grande Punto are derived from that of its sibling the Fiat Linea. The inside of the Grande Punto is ergonomically designed with grey and black dual tone interiors in the Emotion and the Emotion Pack variants. Like the Linea, the interiors are clean with decent fit and finish of the plastics and the Punto logo stitched on the seats and the floor mats. The orange backlit instrument cluster of the Grande Punto has four dials with a digital odometer and trip meter which even reads out trip time, mileage, trip time for two trips. The Grande Punto has the same single CD Blaupunkt music system with 6 speakers which is present in the Fiat Linea with the Blue&Me package available in the Emotion Pack variant.
The tilt-adjustable steering and height adjustable driver's seat makes it possible to fine-tune a driver's seating for maximum comfort. The slim A-pillar and large windshield increases the front visibility, however the thick C-pillar and small rear windshield reduces rear-end visibility causing problems while parking in tight spots.
The Fiat Grande Punto is available with two petrol engines viz. 1.2-litre and the 1.4-litre and the diesel variant is the 1.3-litre mill which is based on the multijet technology (with 75bhp and a now even an option of 90bhp).
The 1.4-litre FIRE (Fully Integrated Robotised Engine) is a petrol driven engine which even powers the Fiat Linea. It is 1368cc, 16-valve engine which cranks up 90bhp@6000rpm and produces a maximum torque of 115Nm@4500rpm. This is a modern short-stroke high rpm engine which has lower torque and higher rpm. The engine is highly refined with very low NVH levels even while idling. The engine feels a bit sluggish at low rpm, however the engine comes on song after it crosses 3000rpm. Drive the car above 3000rpm and you will have no complaints about the engine's performance.
The turbo lag on the multijet engines is what most people have always had an issue with - be it the Fiat Grande Punto, Linea, or even the Tata's like the Indigo Manza or the Indica Vista which share this powerplant. Thanks to the additional sweet-15 horses, the 90bhp Grande Punto did feel a little better than the 75bhp multijet and will no doubt have better in-gear acceleration thanks to the extra torque. One won't find much of a difference over the 75bhp Grande Punto in city traffic, but this hatch will definitely shine on the highways, where the extra punch will kick in and making overtaking easier than before. Drive this car above 1800rpm and you will love the way the turbo spools and the engine propels you away.
Fiat has used the 8-valve 1172cc, 68bhp petrol engine, which is the same engine that powers the Tata Indica Vista SAFIRE which we recently tested. The Indica Vista even has the same Fiat gearbox, however due to the difference in the final drive, we found that the Grande Punto is far more driveable in the city. In our quarter mile run, the Grande Punto 1.2 took 21.4 seconds to hit the 402m mark and reached 100kph in 19.4 seconds. No doubt, a better figure could be achieved if the car was a tad lighter. It tips the scales at 1140kgs compared to the Indica Vista Drivetech4 SAFIRE which is 1035kgs, making the Grande Punto 1.2 Emotion a whole 105kgs heavier.
Fiat cars are known for their composed ride and agile handling. The Grande Punto is no different from the rest of its siblings in this segment. The Grande Punto has a firm and composed ride at low and high speeds.The steering of the Grande Punto is fairly accurate. It is light and easy to steer at lower speeds and the steering weighs up well at higher speeds.
The Fiat Grande Punto competes with premium hatchbacks like the Maruti Suzuki Swift and Ritz, Hyundai i20, Skoda Fabia and the Honda Jazz upto a certain extent considering the size and the fitments. The Grande Punto as an overall package is value for money with adequate space to accomodate four adults comfortably. The Grande Punto will easily attract driving enthusiasts and Fiat fans.