It has been a while since Fiat/Abarth have had claim to success in the hot hatch market, and in the past they have been noted for their small displacement turbo cars, namely the Punto and Uno.
The aforementioned could quite easily have been mistaken for an incredibly fast, easily tuned tin box but lets face it any hot hatch lover in the late eighties and early nineties aspired to own one. Growing up I had the pleasure or somewhat freight of being in a Uno Turbo with serious tinkering done to it at break neck speeds and it certainly didn’t help in my youth of aspiring to own a hot hatch.
Not long after this a Punto Turbo arrived in the area, yet again in pristine condition with plenty of tasteful modifications that always turned heads. The owner of which was Ricky Boyd of RB Automotive in Comber. About a decade down the line, Ricky gave me a call one afternoon recently saying he had a new model Abarth Punto in the showroom and I should really come up with the notepad and camera. After reminiscing about the old days and his old punto which lets face it didn’t have much comfort or finesse, he threw me the keys and told me to bring it back in one piece.
The Abarth Grande Punto kicks off with a 155bhp version of the same 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine that’s in the top Fiat Grande Punto. It will sprint from 0-60mph in 7.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 129mph, and certainly feels lively.
A ‘sport boost’ button easily reached on the dash sharpens the throttle response and increases the pulling power available. But it is possible to achieve higher performance by choosing the factory-approved ‘esseesse’ or ‘super sport’ pack.
This package increases the power to 180bhp which must be awesome as in standard tune the wee Abarth model is like an endorphin rich teen, “lively”. Abarth have added upgraded brakes, lowered suspension and a wider track which all aids in a great handling experience and indeed, I haven’t had as much fun on a back road in such a modern car for a long time.
Inside everything is within reach round the cockpit, plenty of room in the front with a fantastic driving position, though rear leg room could be an issue for an adult on a lengthy journey. Saying this though, with the exhaust note, comfort in the back could be forgiven for such music in your ears.
The Abarth Punto achieved a maximum five-star NCAP rating for occupant protection, as well as a class-best three stars for pedestrian protection. It also scored three out of four stars in the child protection element which analyses the performance of the recommended child seat. Electronic stability control, which can help the driver regain control during a skid, is standard and cannot be disabled.
All this sounds great, family friendly and a lot of fun but the most surprising thing is that the wee Abarth will return around 40mpg on a combined cycle with road tax at £170/annum which isn’t really over the odds for the smiles this wee hot hatch will return.
Words and Photos: Graham Curry