General Jeremy Clarkson reviewed the Grand Punto 1.4 Dynamic in today's Sunday Times

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General Jeremy Clarkson reviewed the Grand Punto 1.4 Dynamic in today's Sunday Times

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Feb 16, 2006
These are some of the things he said:

At the moment, small hatchbacks with a hint of grunt for long motorway journeys tend to cost around GBP10,000. A 1.4 litre Ford Fiesta Style is 9,295, a 1.4 litre Renault Clio Dynamique is 10,250 and a 1.4 Toyota Yaris T2 D-4D is 10,295. The new Fiat Grande Punto 1.4 Active Sport, on the other hand, is just 8,495. That's not far short of 2,000 less than the Toyota. So is the Punto inferior in some way?

Not in looks department it isn't. By a very long way, this is the prettiest of all the superminis, and the biggest. Which means it's also the most spacious inside.

Things are looking good, and they get better because not only is there a big boot, room in the back for children and space in the front for a small zoo, the interior is also a zany and funky place to sit. My test car had a pale blue dashboard, for instance.

Then there's quality of thing. Italian cars were always a bit like Italian tempers. Easily broken. But the new Punto has a substantial feel, a sense that nothing's going to fall off or come loose. The steering wheel is so fat you can barely get your fingers round it and the gearlever is the sort of thing that you'd expect to find on an American muscle car or a 19th century railway locomotive.

Equipment? Again not bad. Certainly there are no obvious missing features that would explain the low price, except perhaps the lack of a book handle. To open the tailgate you have to get into the car, push a button that is right in the middle of the dash and then climb out again. That would drive me properly nuts.

But no as nuts as the way the Fiat drives. Of course you don't expect it to be a ball of fire. But you do expect something to happen when you put your foot down, especially when you've just pulled out to overtake a slow-moving Rover 25 and there's a truck coming the other way.

Sadly, however, nothing does happen. You see, this is not only the biggest car in its class, but also by some margin it's the least powerful. As a result, 0-62mph takes 13.2 sec. And that, in the car world, is an ice age. I could forgive the Punto this shortfall if it had the usual Latin peppiness on country roads. But it doesn't. The electric power steering is too sharp and the brakes too snatchy. It's hard to make it flow. And the clutch bite is so sudden I did stall a lot too.

Other problems? Well, the stereo system couldn't receive Radio 2, the seatbelt warning beep was loud enough to shatter wine glasses, and if you put a can of drink in the cupholders and go round a corner it falls over. On balance, then I'd have to say the Renault Clio is the better car.

Pity, because I liked the Fiat. I really like the styling and my wife thought it "sweet". But when all's said and done it's a bit like the idea of having Terry Wogan as president. Cheap. But not necessarily good value.
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