In my experience, the Fiat Punto is not often referred to in conversations about superminis. Corsas and Clios, yes. Far Eastern rivals, certainly. And people won't shut up about the Fiesta. But you don't hear much about the Punto.
This is something of a pity, because it's a good little car. Oh, there are problems here and there, such as the below-average luggage capacity, the cramped rear passenger area and, in the five-door, the complete lack of rear side windows. But it's pretty, and it's nice to drive, and I like it. So there.
My favourite Punto is the TwinAir, a word used not only to describe the trim level but also to indicate the presence of the 875cc two-cylinder turbo petrol engine under the bonnet. Regular readers will need no reminding that I'm a big fan of the TwinAir unit and its tremendously clever MultiAir technology, and if you've read our short test of this car you'll know that, in the Punto but not so far in the 500 which was the first car to be fitted this engine, Fiat has given it a dual mass flywheel.
The only thing you need to know about the dual mass flywheel is that it absorbs some of the vibrations inherent in a two-cylinder engine and basically makes it appear to run more smoothly. The difference between the purr of the Punto and the throb of the 500 is very noticeable, and back in June I wrote that I thought it would make it easier to achieve good fuel economy because there would be less temptation to rev the engine higher than necessary.
In fact the temptation is still strong, and I saw the gearshift advisory light on the instrument panel more often than I'd hoped I would. But I did try to drive reasonably economically, and as a result I averaged about 48mpg over the course of a week.
That's not too bad for an 85bhp petrol-fuelled car of this size, but it's a very long way from the 67.3mpg recorded on the official EU test. I don't often match EU figures, but I can usually get closer than that. My figure was also well short of the 54mpg I managed last year in the 500 TwinAir, whose notional combined economy is 68.9mpg. Quite why I got 5mpg closer to the official result in that car than I did in the Punto, I have no idea.
My fuel usage may bear no relation to yours, but I would have to assume that most people will find running costs to be higher than they might expect while reading the brochure (though if you regularly have to travel into the London congestion zone you'll save quite a bit of money, since the TwinAir is exempt from the charge).
More positively, the TwinAir is a particularly delightful car to drive. Even with the test car's £200 optional Sport suspension (which didn't seem sporty at all, to be honest) it's soft and well-damped, it rides beautifully and, unless you do something quite amazingly stupid, it goes where you point it. I could live with this car simply because it's so much fun, and hang the fuel costs and practicality issues.
A couple of minor points in closing. First, the Punto is not short of cupholders, but Fiat still has a habit of placing one of them so close to the centre section of the fascia that none but the smallest of cups can be persuaded to stand upright in it.
Second, an even more bizarre Fiat habit of recent years has been to make it impossible to switch the sidelights on or off without hunting through menus in the trip computer. In the 2012 Punto this policy has been reversed, and the sidelights can once more be controlled simply by flicking a switch, as should have been the case all along.
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