Fiat Punto Twinair review

* Fiat Punto Twinair driven * Priced from 12,100 * On sale in April...

Fiat Punto Twinair review

The Fiat Punto Twinair is the latest model to get the companys two-cylinder petrol engine.

With average economy of 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 98g/km, this new model is officially the cleanest petrol supermini on the market.

Such low emissions qualify it for exemption from both road tax and the London Congestion Charge benefits usually reserved for expensive diesel superminis or small city cars.

When the Punto Twinair goes on sale in April, it will also qualify for the lowest (10%) band of company car tax for non-electric cars.

The launch of the new Twinair model coincides with other minor changes to the entire Punto range.

The Evo tag has been dropped, and the front and rear bumpers have both been restyled.

There are also new paint colours, seat fabrics and alloy wheel designs to choose from.

Whats it like to drive? The 84bhp 0.9-litre Twinair petrol engine is already available in a number of Fiat Group cars, including the Fiat 500 and Chrysler Ypsilon.

In these cars, weve criticised the engine for its poor refinement, and the fact that, in our real-world tests, its fallen unacceptably short of its official fuel economy figures.

The good news is the Punto is the best Twinair model yet.

Fiat has fitted a new dual-mass flywheel to counter the inherent vibration problems of a two-cylinder engine, while redesigned engine mounts have helped further by absorbing tremors before theyre transmitted through the cabin.

These efforts have improved matters, but they havent solved the problem entirely. The engine still sends too much shudder through the cabin under acceleration, and it's also noisy compared with a four-cylinder petrol unit.

That said, the sewing machine-style thrum isnt unpleasant, and it does fade into the background once you're up to cruising speed, thanks in part to a six-speed gearbox (other Twinair models have five gears).

Performance is perfectly adequate. The engine might be tiny, but its turbocharged, so pulls strongly from around 2000rpm right up to the 6000rpm limiter.

The Punto isnt particularly engaging in other respects, but the light controls do at least help make it easy to drive.

Other superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo provide a more settled ride.

The answer to whether the Punto gets closer to its official fuel economy than other Twinair models will have to wait until we can put it through our rigorous real-world tests later in the year.

Whats it like inside? Much the same as before, really, which means the Punto is still one of the biggest superminis around.

Theres plenty of room in the front and back seats, and the boot is large and well shaped although you have to access it over a big lip.

Interior quality is a mixed bag. The dashboard is one of the smartest in the class, with a soft-touch face and elegant piano black inserts. Weighty buttons and dials add to the impression of quality.

However, the insides of the doors and the centre console are made from unforgiving plastics, which lower the tone and make the Punto feel its age (its been around since 2006).

The Twinair model is available with either three or five doors, but theres only one trim. This has a reasonable amount of standard equipment, including air-conditioning, alloys and electric front windows.

Disappointingly, you get only four airbags as standard, although you can upgrade to seven.

Should I buy one? The Punto makes more sense than any of Fiats other Twinair models.

If youre looking for a big supermini thats eligible for various tax breaks including free road tax, London Congestion Charge exemption and rock-bottom company car tax rates then its certainly worth considering. This is especially true because it costs around 2000 less than equivalent (albeit better) diesel superminis, such as the Ford Fiesta Econetic.

If, however, you do lots of miles and are hoping to slash your fuel bills, wed strongly recommend paying the extra for a diesel.

Our previous experience of the Twinair engine suggests you may be disappointed with how many miles to the gallon you actually get, and the two-cylinder engines poor refinement becomes an even bigger issue on long journeys.

Ford Fiesta
VW Polo

What Car? says

Will Nightingale