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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The Punto has a practical, hard-wearing and roomy cabin

Against The ride quality leaves a bit to be desired

Verdict Gives you a lot of space for a little cash

Go for… 1.2 (80) Dynamic

Avoid… 1.2 (60)

Fiat Punto Hatchback
  • 1. You can fit three in the back without too much sweat - mighty impressive for a supermini
  • 2. Clutches can break after as few as 40,000 miles, especially if the car has spent most of its life on city streets
  • 3. Make sure you check the power steering system, as it has been known to fail
  • 4. Listen to the suspension on a test drive. It can rattle even on low-mileage models
  • 5. The car's cooling and heating system can be a weak point, so check it out thoroughly before you buy
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Fiat Punto Hatchback full review with expert trade views

The biggest attraction, apart from price, is the amount of space you get. There's plenty of head- and legroom throughout, and you can fit three in the back without too much sweat.

Even the boot is a decent size and you can swell the carrying capacity with the split/fold rear seats fitted to most models.

Visibility for the driver is good, although the height-only adjustment for the steering wheel may compromise the seating position. Most will find it comfortable, though.

On the other hand, the switchgear can take a bit of getting used to. Some of the controls are seemingly scattered at random - the door mirror controls sited beneath the handbrake lever, for instance.

The drive, too, leaves a little to be desired, and the handling is competent, rather than fun. The steering's too vague and the body rolls too much. Most engines are willing but the 60bhp 1.2 can struggle and the 85bhp 1.9 JTD diesel is a bit noisy at speed.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates but costly bills for suspension - overall a good used car

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

This version of the Punto was launched as a three- and five-door supermini in October 1999 and face-lifted in May 2002, which brought sharper styling and more equipment.

At the same time, the trim names also changed, and ran from Active through Active Sport, Dynamic, Sporting to top-trim Eleganza. On earlier cars they are: base (no name), ELX, HLX and Sporting. Cars badged 'Speedgear' have a six-speed sequential auto gearbox.

Top of the pile is the 130bhp 1.8 HGT 3dr, a well equipped hot hatch (Abarth versions have extra body kit) but that not great as a driver's car. Ignore the underpowered 60bhp 1.2-litre petrol.

Instead, pick the 80bhp 1.2, which is eager, frugal and our favourite. It's also more widely available, cheaper and not much slower than the 95bhp 1.4 petrol.

As an alternative, try the 70bhp 1.3 and 100bhp 1.9 JTD diesels, which suit the car well. But, ignore the 85bhp version, which can be too noisy at higher revs.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates but costly bills for suspension - overall a good used car

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Only if you're its first owner and you were unwise enough to pay list price.

From new, the Punto loses value faster than a Christmas decoration in a Boxing Day sale. That's great news for the used buyer, because second-hand examples are cheap.

Be careful with nearly new cars, though. Fiat dealers often hand out whopping discounts on new cars, so don't pay too much for a nearly-new one.

Fuel bills will be low. Look to get 42-50mpg from the 1.2s, mid-40s from the 1.4 and mid-30s from the 1.8 HGT. The 1.9 diesels are capable of over 50mpg and the 1.3 bumps that up to 60mpg or more.

Service costs are likely to be dearer than for a Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa, but typically you can save about 35% by going outside the Fiat network. Insurance costs are competitive, though.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates but costly bills for suspension - overall a good used car

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The Punto is far more reliable and robust than its reputation suggests.

Even so, the power steering system has been known to fail, and clutches can give up the ghost after as few as 40,000 miles, especially if the car has spent most of its life pottering around town.

Claims made by customers of Warranty Direct highlight the suspension as the area of main concern, closely followed by electrics and the cooling/heating system.

The suspension can start to rattle prematurely on some models, so listen out for that on a test drive. And, watch out for suspension that has been knocked out of alignment by bangs against the kerb. Examine the alloy wheel rims or wheel trims for signs of abuse and check that the car pulls away and stops in a straight line.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates but costly bills for suspension - overall a good used car

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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