In Fiat’s Punto Evo, a Hatchback With Style and Spunk

By webadmin on 05:01 pm Sep 15, 2012
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Ariefin Makaminan

Fiats were a familiar sight on Indonesia’s roads from the 1970s through 1990s.

Popular Fiat models sold then included the 127, 131 and 132, and in the ’90s, the Uno. But with Fiat’s departure from the Indonesian market in 1995, the automaker’s presence here has unsurprisingly dwindled.

Internationally, Fiat Group is still a major player, with Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati and Lancia all enjoying strong brand recognition.

In 2009, Fiat purchased the struggling Chrysler Group in an attempt to revitalize the American brand and enhance its market presence in the United States.

Now the car-maker hopes to bring back into vogue the Fiat Punto Evo, the predecessor of the Fiat Uno.

The Punto Evo was Fiat’s foray into the small hatchback segment, where it competes with the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Opel Corsa, Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris.

My test drive of the Punto Evo started in Amsterdam, from where I took a solo road trip through Europe.

The Punto Evo’s look is interesting. It has characteristic Italian flair, combining beauty and sporty appeal, and my hatchback’s carbon-black exterior made the car even sportier. The refined LED tail lights make it attractive from the rear, while the front brings a different style, with a large front grille and wraparound bumpers.

The dimensions of the car are sizeable for a hatchback, with a length of just over 4 meters, a width of about 1.7 meters and a height of slightly less than 1.5 meters. Still, the car remains compact enough for city driving and with a wheelbase of about 2.5 meters, there’s enough space in the back.

What I really like about the Punto Evo is the use of high-quality materials for the interior, complementing its nicely-designed seats and dashboard layout. Fiat even worked together with navigation company TomTom to have a GPS dock built into the dashboard.

The Punto Evo is richly equipped with a number of features you would only expect to find in premium cars in Indonesia.

Safety-wise, it has seven airbags, with six located at the front, side and head plus one for the knees. It also includes electronic stability program (ESP), anti-lock braking and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), while 38-centimeter wheels give it a sporty look.

Besides the safety systems, it has daytime running lights and swivel cornering lights to help you navigate alleys or turns at night. The car is equipped with a Blue&Me system that consists of integrated audio and several other bells and whistles.

The Blue&Me package offers Bluetooth and USB connectivity for mobile phones and personal entertainment systems and voice-activated controls.

Climate control on the Punto Evo uses digital dual-zone technology, a premium and unusual feature for a small hatchback.

Driving the car itself is comfortable. It has a great, engaging driving position and very good sound proofing and suspension. The 3,500-kilometer drive I did across Europe offered ample time and enough diverse terrain to really get a feel for the car, and I would say it’s good for any kind of traveling. But a bigger engine for the Punto Evo certainly wouldn’t hurt.

With all the looks and equipment, I drove the regular 1.4-liter engine, the 77-horsepower variety. There’s an option for a 1.4-liter MultiAir engine, which delivers around 105-horsepower or 135-horsepower. The 77-horsepower engine was laboring a bit during driving on Germany’s autobahn, but it does have a good sense of power when pushed into higher revolutions per minute. I reached at least 175 kilometers per hour on the autobahn and it still felt sturdy on the road.

The engine may not be able to stand alongside German cars in this respect, but it’s no slouch.

Another feature that people may love or hate is the car’s Start/Stop Technology, which is aimed at providing better fuel efficiency by cutting down the engine in traffic jams. While sensible in principle, this could prove annoying when driving the streets of a congested city like Jakarta.

The electric power steering is great for city use and gives the wheel a very light feel. But when cruising at high speeds, that lightness may make drivers a little nervous.

Would I buy a Punto Evo if it were sold in Indonesia? I might, if Fiat offered the more powerful MultiAir engine with 105 horsepower and also priced it competitively while including the Blue&Me package and safety features.

It’s a shame that Fiat is not in Indonesia anymore, as their product range would suit Indonesia’s bigger cities and growing middle-class consumers. But Chrysler, which is a part of Fiat, recently re-entered Indonesia, leaving hope that Fiat will use that foot in the door to make a comeback.