Quick spin: Fiat Punto Pop

What is it?
Well it’s cheap, it’s small and it’s Italian – everyone meet the ‘new’ Fiat Punto. But when we say ‘new’, we actually mean old. Yes it’s got a different, sporty front-bar and rear-light cluster, but underneath this Punto is almost identical to the one last sold in Australia until the end of 2010.

So if it’s old, why bring it out? Well Fiat is on a mission to expand its Aussie range, which at the moment consists solely of the 500. Both the Punto and the Panda are hitting our shores this year, with Fiat hoping for a sharp spike in sales. So is the Punto any good? Well it’s certainly not fast, with a small, uninspiring 57kW 1.4-litre petrol powering the whole range. But there are positives, starting with its price.

How much?
Fiat has priced the Punto aggressively, with its $16,000 drive away price for the base Pop, making it one of the cheapest Euro-made cars available. Offered in three trim levels, Pop, Easy ($19,300) and Lounge ($21,800), standard equipment for the Pop includes 15-inch wheels, cloth seats, Bluetooth, electric front windows, radio/CD/MP3 player and 5 star ANCAP safety rating.

Inside plastics are hard, but visibility is a strong point as is headroom and space – at least in the front. Slot into the back and anyone with legs thicker than a 10-year-old’s will struggle on long journeys.

With a small 1.4-litre 57kW/115Nm petrol the only engine offered, performance is far from blistering. Mashing the accelerator seems only to increase noise, not forward movement, with the little Punto hitting 0-100km/h in 13.2 seconds. Fuel consumption is good, though, quoted at 5.4-litres, as is the Pop’s manual gearbox. The mid-spec ‘Easy’ and range topping ‘Lounge’ models are only available with Fiat’s five-speed Dualogic robotised semi-automatic which we didn’t sample.

The verdict
Despite its aging design, there’s much to like about the Punto. Its price, for one, is a strong point, as is its adjustable power-steering system (deliberately light at low speeds) and interior finish, despite the hard plastics.

So while facing some ferocious competition in the small-city segment, the Punto offers a well-priced alternative for those seeking something different, and Italian, in a market dominated by offerings from Japan and Germany.

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