Fiat rediscovers its sporting heritage with new Grande Punto 1.4 T-Jet
Alfa Romeo isn’t the only Italian car maker rediscovering its sporting heritage. With the rebirth of the Abarth brand and the debut of the race-tuned Ferrari F430 Scuderia, the country has been responsible for turning out some of this year’s most memorable sporting machines.
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbo
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Top speed: 121mph
Standard equipment: Air-con, sports seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, bodykit, electronic stability control, six airbags, leather steering wheel
Not to be left out, Fiat is also building cars that are fun to drive. And to prove it can do so as well as anyone else, it has announced a hot version of the Grande Punto.
The T-Jet Sporting slots in below the new Abarth Grande Punto and aims to offer similar thrills with smaller bills. The £11,995 car has a 120bhp 1.4-litre turbo engine, plus sports suspension and lots of standard kit.
It also has style. Even in the orange of our test car, the Grand Punto looks good. Add the subtle bodykit and multi-spoke alloys, and it’s every inch the aggressive hot hatch. Details such as the oval exhaust add more appeal.
Inside, heavily bolstered sports seats provide plenty of support during cornering, and are comfortable on long journeys. The chunky leather steering wheel is a joy to hold, while the dashboard design is simple and well laid out. Fire up the engine, and your ears are filled with the fruity burble of the exhaust. On the move, the 1.4 unit proves a versatile, capable performer. Despite its small size, it pulls strongly in every gear, with virtually no turbo lag. It’s only at very high revs that it starts to feel a little short on power.
The chassis shares this enthusiastic nature, making any back-road blast an event to relish. Turn into a corner, and the Sporting grips hard, demonstrating great composure, which is helped by precise, if slightly over-light steering. Unfortunately, the shift quality of the standard five-speed box can be patchy, and too much road noise gets into the cabin.
Otherwise, the driving experience is a delight, easily matching that of the T-Jet’s warm hatch rivals.
As with other Grande Punto models, there is also a practical five-door., while buyers looking for even lower running costs can choose the frugal 130bhp 1.9-litre JTD diesel motor.
Rival: Ford Fiesta Zetec-S
Due for replacement next year, the Fiesta still has excellent driving dynamics. It’s cramped inside, though, and can match neither the power nor the pace of the new Fiat.
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