Espresso contains more caffeine per unit as compared to most of the other beverages, and so is the horsepower of the hatchback here in question— the Fiat Grande Punto 90HP. With 91bhp of power under the hood, Grande Punto 90HP is the most powerful diesel B+ hatchback on paper. And both of these have Italian origin.
Espresso was patented by an Italian named Angelo Moriondo, which was registered in 1884, while the Grande Punto isn’t just manufactured by an Italian auto giant, but also is Italian in every other aspect. We have already reviewed the 90HP; and this time around, we take the Sport version for a more long-ish drive.
Crafted jointly by the legendary-designer Giugiaro of Ital Design and Fiat Style Centre, the Grande Punto carries a very Italian flair. It is based on the SCCS platform- a co-operative assignment between Fiat and Opel engineers in Turin. This same platform is even shared by Grande Punto’s elder sibling, the Linea.
Grande Punto is a stunning piece of art work to look at. The snout is somewhat similar in styling to that of Linea’s— though shrunken— as the front grille is smaller and the headlamps aren’t triple barrel like that on a Linea, but family look is retained. One can easily connect between the hatchback and the sedan.
The tear-drop shaped headlamps melds well into the wee-bit-crowned hood that further continues to the steeply raked windshield. Shallow greenhouse, overhung front end and flared wheel arches are the key design highlights of the sillhouette. Like the Linea, Grande Punto's mirrors are also mounted below the beltline instead of others where it is located a tad higher. The rear is majorly dominated by small tail lamps and a jot-chunky lower rear end. The new model year 2012 Grande Puntos have a higher ground clearance, which is also implemented on the Sport. This version of the Grande Punto gets body decals, and different colour ORVMs. Smoked-effect head and tail lamps, and larger wheels would have further added more charm.
The interiors on the range topper variant of the 90HP live up to the Sporty name of the version. Metal pedals, Punto logo embroidered seats, red stitching on the gear knob are the new additions when compared to the conventional Grande Punto. Albeit we wish, that the Sport came with the panoramic roof, like the one displayed at the 2010 Auto Expo in New Delhi. Interior ergonomics are good, and even the plastic quality feels more plush as it has the soft-feel carried forward from the 90HP- an extra coat of paint is sprayed for this feel! Other bits remain the same. The twin-dial instrument panel, the three-spoke chunky steering wheel, integrated music system with Fiat’s very own Blue&Me are all present on this variant.
Front row seats have sufficient head and leg room. These seats are comfortable with sufficient thigh support. The more glass-in area on the front windows, make it feel more airy and roomy. For some reason, the position and the size of the dead pedal felt perfect as if just built for me, if not for everyone. Crawl into the rear seats and you will feel space to be a bit tight for your knee room, especially if you are six-footer. The thigh support for the rear seats, could have been better. Slip behind the wheel and you shall like the thick steering wheel, with grip-ons at 10 minutes to 2 position of the clock. The overall visibility is good with large ORVMs except for the thick C-pillars that affect whilst reverse parking.
Grande Punto 90HP comes with a 1.3-litre multijet mill that produces 91bhp of maximum power and 209Nm of peak torque. This is the same multijet engine that finds its way under 75HP’s hood, except for the addition of the variable geometry turbo, which bumps up the power by 16 sweet horses. The NVH levels are low while refinement is high. Crank the engine and it springs to live without the slightest of hesitation or melodrama. The turbo in the 90HP whirls at a lower rpm producing more thrust, as the turbo-lag has been reduced drastically on this version of the hatchback. Low-range kick and the throttle response make driving easier in the crawling city traffic. Though the effect isn't very prominent, but you do feel the difference when you drive both the cars back-to-back. One may not find the extra power in the city, as it is the highway where the car shines.
The shifts on the gearbox aren’t very slick, and it is a wee bit notchy than our liking. But the shifts on the gearbox are positive and even the stick is easy to hold. This engine and gearbox set-up isn’t all about 0-100km/hr, it is more about drivability and in-gear acceleration; especially the pull in the third gear.
Fiat cars are generally known for their phenomenal driving characteristics and the Grande Punto is no exception. If you are a driving enthusiast who in search of a B+ segment hatchback, then look no further than the Grande Punto. This is where your quest should end. The Grande Punto shares its platform with its elder sibling Linea and hence it gets the same underpinnings, struts at the front and torsion beam at the rear. The ride on the hatchback is smooth and composed as the suspension absorbs most of the jolts and shocks from the road, without affecting the ride suppleness of the occupants.
Grande Punto is one of the best handling hatchbacks in the B+ segment. Chuck it around a hairpin bend, and you shall be surprised by the balance of the chassis. The handling prowess is such that one may not easily lose control, unless something stupid is done. Even the response from the steering wheel is phenomenal and this further inspires confidence. The increased ground clearance hasn’t affected the ride and handling characteristics, but it does feel a bit jittery when driven on a bumpy road. The tyre profile remains untouched, but Apollo Acelere is another option that comes with Goodyear GT3. Our personal pick being the GT3.
Until now, the 90HP was the flagship variant of the Grande Punto portfolio. Now it has been replaced by the 90HP Sport. The Sport gets some additional cosmetic upgrades to make your car look unique amongst the Grande Punto range. Hence, if you are looking for a fun to drive hatchback, with loads of embellishments, then look no forward than the 90HP Sport.
However, our serious recommendation will be to stick with the regular 90HP, if you aren’t fond of the new Sporty avatar, as the regular version is also loaded with some serious amount of goodies.