Fiat: 2014 Punto Pop review

Fiat: 2014 Punto Pop review

At $17,490 here you have one of the cheapest new cars on the New Zealand market, and it’s from Europe which means you can indulge in a bit of Euro brand snobbery. In fact, I’ve even seen them advertised for $16,990, and that’s just ridiculously low. Compared to what they cost in the UK, we get a pretty good deal which is definitely not the case with a lot of our marques. As far as I can tell from Fiat’s UK website the little Punto Pop sells for just over ten thousand pounds on the road which is the equivalent of twenty-one grand here.

Fiat Punto Pop 2014 front seatsAs an example, a base model Toyota Yaris in the UK is the same price as a Punto Pop, but over here the Yaris is the best part of twenty-three grand, and it’s a similar story with the Honda Jazz; the base models of both of them are a good five thousand dollars more than the Punto Pop. And if you take the Ford Fiesta at $24,990 then you really start to see the difference. We’re getting a bargain with the Fiat then, right?

Yes and no: the Yaris, Fiesta and Jazz are dynamically better cars than the Punto so, to me, the price difference makes sense. Let’s take a look at what you get for your seventeen large.

In all honesty I think that Fiat is offering some bold, attractive options and features to counter the inevitable coarseness you’re going to get with a car in this price bracket. For example:

  • there’s a huge 150,000km factory warranty, but the interior plastics are as hard as Lego
  • you get a $1000 gift card when you buy any Punto, but you don’t get reversing sensors
  • you can fit a TomTom straight to the dashboard (it’s an extra $345) which interfaces directly with the car and that gives you sat nav, voice command and Bluetooth phone integration, but it also highlights that the speedo has an 8kph margin of error at 100kph (I wondered why people were irately tailgating me in the overtaking lane until I noticed that an indicated 100kph was really 92kph according to the GPS).
  • you get 6 airbags, ESP, ABS and a 5-star ANCAP crash test rating, but the engine is noisy at motorway speeds because there are only 5 gears and it’s doing almost 3500rpm at 100kph (actual, not indicated)
  • there’s start/stop technology with clever stuff in rush hour traffic for extra fuel efficiency, but the Dualogic manual gearbox changes gear like the class dunce
  • there’s hill hold assist to stop you rolling backwards on an incline, but also wind-down windows in the back (and I haven’t seen those for quite a while).

Fiat Punto Pop 2014 TomTomGet into the nitty gritty of the driving dynamics and it’s a mixed bag, too. There’s only 77 horsepower, or 57kW, and 115Nm of torque from the 1.4-litre engine. This gives fairly impressive fuel economy figures for a petrol-powered car (5.4l/100km for the Dualogic 5-speed, as quoted), but it does take 13.2 seconds to get to 100kph and therefore overtaking opportunities are diminished somewhat. At cruising speed it rides reasonably well. It’s a little bumpy when the going gets rough, and the steering can be vague – that’s perhaps to be expected on a car of this price. It’s not as good at low speed, although the steeriFiat Punto Pop 2014 dashboardng is very light and easy.

The main issue at low speed is the lethargic nature of the Dualogic gearchange which seems to be hit and miss. Sometimes it doesn’t change when you want it to, and then takes a geological age to finally do it (jerkily), particularly Fiat Punto Pop 2014 sidebetween first and second. If it decides to change up or down when you really need full power to get across an intersection, it leaves you stranded in the middle with no power while swapping cogs. Dualogic is a robotised manual gearbox, and it’s infinitely better if you actually drive it as a sequential manual rather than in automatic mode – actually quite rewarding at times as it’s got the direction the correct way around (push forward for down and pull backwards for up).

The inside is fairly standard. As I already mentioned, the plastics are quite hard. The driving position and legroom is good. You get an average-sized boot, average legroom in the back, good headroom (but no middle headrest in the rear) and the seats are adequate for a car in this price bracket.

External design is safe and tidy. There’s a strong crease down the side, but the front is the sharpest look with its well-proportioned features.

The Fiat Punto Pop is a car of two sides. In some areas you are left somewhat astounded that they can provide such a level of features so cheaply, but then in others you will wish you’d spent five grand more and bought a Yaris. I found I was constantly reminding myself that, despite its foibles, the Punto Pop represents quite an achievement for its price. It’s an attractive car that comes in a broad range of appealing colours, and you will have the Euro cachet to go with it.

Price: from $17,490 + optional TomTom ($345)

Pros

  • Good fuel economy
  • Low price
  • Sat nav for only $345 extra – makes other manufacturer’s $1500+ costs look exorbitant

Cons

  • Noisy at speed
  • Dualogic gearbox isn’t nice in auto mode
  • Hard plastics


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