Wednesday, 4 July 2012 12:03 PM
Fiat have won awards for their frugally-focused TwinAir engine – a twin-cylinder, 0.9-litre, turbocharged petrol motor that’s been merrily thrumming under the hood of the popular Fiat 500 for some time now.
Well, now it’s been recruited for pulling duties in the bigger Punto; the Fiesta-sized Fiat that's just had a facelift refresh in March of this year.
In the Punto, the TwinAir motor is quoted as returning 67.3mpg on the combined economy cycle and ducks under congestion charges and road tax charges with its 98g/km of CO2 rating.
Today, I’m trying this Unplugged Green metallic-painted 3-door Punto, with TwinAir power, to see how the little 85bhp motor deals with the bigger Punto. I’m also sampling some other spec and powered Puntos; one with a 90g/km of CO2, 1.3 MultiJet 85hp turbodiesel engine, and another with a rather fruity 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 135hp petrol engine.
Fiat Punto (2012) first drive review
You’ll probably be familiar with the Punto by now; it’s just had a midlife facelift in March this year, but the exterior is mostly the same as before with some detail changes to the bumpers – which are now body-colour-coded – and a range of new wheel designs. Inside we see new interior finishes and new cloth designs for the seating.
The biggest news for the refreshed, 2012 Fiat Punto is the new and full choice of engines; with the TwinAir leading the way.
The Punto TwinAir I’m driving first is presented in Unplugged Green; a metallic paint option that tops a further £450 onto this test car’s £12,100 OTR pricetag. This test car also features side airbags at £150 and a black painted roof at £210. The TwinAir-powered Punto also gets plenty of TwinAir badging to remind everyone that you’re rocking the cheeky Fiat twin-cylinder motor.
This Unplugged Green is certainly an impactful colour – even on this dull ‘summer’ day – but I think it suits the Punto’s slippery wedge shape and slightly snake-like face, and the cleaned-up bumpers – they used to feature black rubber rub-strips – keep the body lines nice and clean. The new black-highlighted, multi-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels here complement the powerful paint, too.
Into the interior:
The New Fiat Punto – with TwinAir power – is a trim level all of its own – with a base price of £12,100 – although the Punto range starts at £9,900 for the 1.2 Pop 8v 69hp. So, as you can see, there’s a fair premium to pay for TwinAir power, but there is a respectable list of standard equipment that comes with the TwinAir spec.
The front seats are TwinAir-badged, good-looking, deep and reasonably well supported; even for a tall chap like me, and feature plenty of adjustment to find a decent driving position. The fabrics design is simple and tasteful; a look that tends to age well.
I found this Punto TwinAir’s cabin well laid out and spacious for the car’s size, and without too much clutter doted around. The centre console is clean – if some of the audio buttons a little on the small side for my fat fingers! – and this car featured a fair amount of shinny black finishing.
In all, not a bad place to be at all, although the seat belt reminder “beep” was pretty painful (I guess that’s the idea!) and some of the plastic finishes looked and felt out of date. And, for a £12k+ car, would we be right to expect some leather wrapped around the steering wheel, rather than a purely plastic hand-to-wheel experience?
The 0.9 TwinAir Turbo 85hp petrol drive:
It was a bit of surprise when Fiat launched their TwinAir engine a couple of years ago. Sub-4-cylinder engines – mostly 3-cylinder – are all the rage now, but when the 2-cylinder, turbocharged 900cc TwinAir hit the automotive scene everyone was very interested to see how it would perform.
The general consensus was that it sounded cute, had bags of character, and if you drove it with economy in mind, would return some respectable economy figures.
Parallel-twin engine have a low-down torque delivery with less power offered towards the top of rev range; as opposed to more rev-happy 4-cylinder motors. You use the torque and shift up early through the gears here. The Fiat TwinAir engine also uses to small, quick-spooling turbocharger to add further grunt early in the revs. And you’ll have to get used to this power delivery character. It does sound happily gruff, though.
The TwinAir power here starts to tail off at around 5000rpm and is all done by 5500rpm. So, we’re about 1000 – 1500rpm short of a 4-cylinder engine rev range. This isn’t a problem as such, but until you’re used to the low-down power and shorter rev range, you may find yourself grabbing for the gearstick early than you expected.
But, this is the way you must drive the Fiat TwinAir to really maximise the fuel economy – if you rev it hard in every gear then it’ll want much more fuel. Shift up bright and early – using in the in-dash up-shift indicator – to help avoid the pricey petrol pumps as much as possible.
Fiat quote the TwinAir-powered Punto’s combined economy at 67.3mpg, but ask the dealer for an hour or two behind the test drive wheel and see what you can achieve for yourself. The dreaded CO2 is low in this one, however, at a taxation-dodging 98g/km.
On the road-wise, I found the Punto TwinAir a little too softly sprung for my personal tastes, but there’s no denying it’s plush and quiet over the bumps. But, perhaps these more cruiser-like ride characteristics suit the TwinAir as this car is surely all about sipping the fuel rather that clipping the apexes. She’ll hit 62mph in 12.7secs and on to 107mph at the top.
The 1.3 MultiJet 85hp diesel drive:
Here we have the Punto with a new diesel engine addition; seen here in Brit Pop Blue paint and in top of the range Lounge trim. This Punto will cost you from £15,600, plus options here of the metallic paint (£450), and a few other bits and bobs.
This 1300cc diesel engine gets quoted economy stats of 80.7mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 sitting at a lowly 90g/km. But it’s not sluggish because of this, in fact it feels a little faster than its 13.1secs-to-62mph time and 107mph top speed would suggest. And that’s down to a strong-feeling push from the turbocharged motor.
On the road, and the 1.3 MultiJet engine pulls and drives nicely, but there are just five forward gears to play with, and I’d put the diesel-sound level and refinement at the pretty good.
With its low CO2 and impressive sounding, but unconfirmed by me, economy figures, this diesel-powered Punto is the one for the fleet drivers or very frugally-focused families. But, again, with the softer-feeling suspension, I felt less inclined to really press the Punto through the twisty bends.
The 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 135hp petrol drive:
Out of the three engines now offered to power the recently-refreshed Fiat Punto, I’d say that this is the one for me. There is a little of the boy-racer in me!
The 1.3-litre, turbocharged petrol motor under the hood of this Lounge-spec, Exotica Red Punto, is a peppy performer for sure. But you’ll have to pay at least £15,200 for your new Punto with this most sporting of engines up front.
The MultiAir is rated at 129g/km of CO2 and is said to achieve 50.4mpg on the combined economy cycle. This is because it’ll hit 62mph in a nicely nippy 8.5secs and march on to 124mph.
On the road it feels fast and torquey and blows a pleasant turbo soundtrack out of the engine bay and exhaust. Again, just the five forward gears.
An exciting yet still quite frugally-minded engine for sure, but to match this greater turbo pace, I would personally like a stiffer suspension set up. As you can see from our pics (with the red paint job), the most sporting of the refreshed Puntos sits quite low with an attractive and flat stance, but, for me, a little lower and a fair bit stiffer would better match that smooth, quick and torquey MultiAir Turbo engine up front.
Ten second sum up:
The recently refreshed Fiat Punto range gets a solid choice of powerplants, with the characterful and award-winning TwinAir engine no doubt leading the way for many potential buyers. The cleaned up exterior and new range of wheels work well, but I did find some issues with dated-feeling plastics inside the cabin.
Prices and availability:
The facelifted Fiat Punto range starts at £9,900 for the 1.2 Pop 8v 69hp and rises to £15,600 for the 1.3 Lounge MultiJet 85hp. However, Fiat is running some discounting offers on the Punto, so check their website for full pricing and promotion details.
Fiat Punto 0.9 TwinAir Turbo 85hp 3-door, in Unplugged Green
Some leather on the steering wheel would be nice. The other Punto test cars get it, however
TwinAir badging dotted around
The 900cc TwinAir, twin-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine
Fiat Punto 1.3 MultiJet 85hp diesel 5-door, in Brit Pop Blue with Lounge interior trim
The 1300cc MultiJet turbodiesel engine
Fiat Punto 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 135hp 3-door, in Exotica Red with Lounge interior trim
The 1400cc MultiAir Turbo petrol engine
It's the turbo that makes the fun!
Plenty of wheel designs to choose from
By Daniel Anslow
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