Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fiat Punto

The Fiat Punto is a supermini produced by the Italian manufacturer, Fiat, since 1993. Internally codenamed Project 176, the Punto was announced in September 1993 and launched in early 1994 as a replacement for the ageing Fiat Uno. The Fiat Punto was voted European Car of the Year for 1995. The Punto's distinctive clean-cut styling by Giorgetto Giugiaro was an instant hit (though one of the car's most recognisable features, the vertical tail/rear lights, were not part of Giugiaro's original design and were in fact added later in-house at Fiat's factory). Competitive pricing which undercut rivals such as the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo also helped the Punto become an instant success in the European marketplace.

Entry-level in the Punto range were the 1.1 and 1.2 L petrol engines and the 1.7 diesel engine. The 1.2 engine's actual capacity is 1.242 litres, available in 3 versions. The first, was fitted in the Punto ELX 75 and produced 75 hp (56 kW) at 6000 rpm while the second, fitted to Punto ELX 85 produced 86 hp (64 kW) at 6000 rpm. The third was a 60 hp (45 kW) engine which eventually replaced the 1.1 54 hp engine. A 1.6 Sporting was also available producing 88 bhp, but the best performing version was the 136 PS (100 kW; 134 hp) 1.4 GT using an evolution of the turbocharged 128 SOHC engine originally found in the Fiat Uno Turbo Mk II- capable of running over 200 km/h (120 mph) and reaching 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 7.9 seconds. This car was also fitted with a 5-speed manual gearbox, with different gear ratios than the ELX series. During the years the GT was made in three different "series" with power 136 PS (100 kW; 134 hp) (1993–1995),133 PS (98 kW; 131 hp) (1995–1997) and 130 PS (96 kW; 130 hp) (1997–1999).

A cabriolet (convertible) version was also available; built by Bertone (rather than at the main Fiat factory), it featured an electric powered fully-retracting roof and was one of the cheapest open-top cars in the world at the time. Available in both ELX and SX trim, initially powered by the 90Bhp 1.6 Mpi unit (replaced in 1997 by the 86Bhp 1.2 16v FIRE unit). 55,000 cars were built between 1994–1999. Particular versions of the Mark I Punto were the Punto 6Speed, a 1.1 FIRE Punto 55 with a 6-speed gearbox, the Punto Selecta with a CVT-type automatic gearbox, and the Punto ED (Economical Drive), a 1.1 Punto whose 5-speed gearbox was designed for high fuel efficiency.

The second generation Nuova (New) Punto, codenamed Project 188, was launched in 1999. The styling was all-new while retaining the original Punto's distinctive shape and design, while the chassis and interior were completely overhauled. The new Punto also became the first Fiat in decades to carry the original round Fiat badge, to celebrate Fiat's centenary. The 1.1 and 1.4 turbo engines were discontinued due to emissions issues, and the entry-level models had only a 1.2 petrol unit (with either 8 or 16 valves, giving 60 and 80 hp (60 kW) respectively) or a 1.9 diesel (with or without common-rail injection). Two sporty versions were offered. The 1.2 16 valve Sporting model with a 6-speed manual, and the hot 1.8 HGT which could reach almost 130 mph (210 km/h). The 1.2 16V model also has a CVT-equipped variant (with a sequential manual shift mode consisting of 6 gears, 7 for the Sporting model). The 1.8 HGT accelerates 0-60 in 8.0 seconds. It was considered a big improvement in handling over the Mark 1 GT. The HGT was also available (in limited numbers) as an "HGT Abarth" which added deeper bumpers, rear spoiler, side skirts, new alloy wheels and interior trim. The HGT Abarth had no technical improvements over the regular HGT.

The second generation Punto has also adopted Dualdrive electric power steering and comes with two operation modes, using an electric motor, rather than a hydraulic pump driven by the engine. This results in reduced fuel consumption and less environmental impact. It has a fuel economy of 31.7 mpg-imp (8.91 L/100 km; 26.4 mpg-US) - urban and 58.4 mpg-imp (4.84 L/100 km; 48.6 mpg-US) - extra urban for the 1.7 diesel. The 1.8 petrol does 31.7 mpg-imp (8.91 L/100 km; 26.4 mpg-US) - urban and 48.7 mpg-imp (5.80 L/100 km; 40.6 mpg-US) - extra urban. In early 2003, Fiat celebrated the rollout of the 5,000,000th production Punto. In the same year, the second generation facelift brought further revisions to the platform, including extensive changes to the exterior styling and engines. The round Fiat badge, found only on the bonnet of second generation models, was introduced on the tailgate of the second generation facelift. On June 1, 2005, Fiat produced the 6,000,000th Punto at the Melfi plant. This Punto is currently the fourth-best selling supermini in Europe. Fiat Punto is now being produced in Italy and Serbia. Engine changes included a new 1.4 16v engine, alongside the staple 1.2 & 1.2 16v variants, and the introduction of two HGT versions, 1.9 L Multijet diesel , and 1.8 L 16v petrol engine which could reach almost 130 mph (210 km/h) continued over from the Mark 2. There was an introduction also of the 1.3 L common rail diesel MultiJet engine.

Despite the launch of the slightly larger Grande Punto in 2005, the 1999 Punto is still in production, and was launched for the first time in Chile in 2007, as Punto Classic. It is to be replaced by a new B segment model. In October 2005, Serbian manufacturer Zastava reached an agreement with Fiat to make this version under licence with the model name Zastava 10. After acquiring Zastava in autumn 2008, Fiat continued production of this vehicle under the brandname Fiat Punto Classic in March, 2009. The Punto has always been popular with amateur racing drivers due to its low cost and the wide availability of spare parts. Several competition and homologated versions of the Punto have been produced, such as the Punto Rally, the S1600 and the Punto Abarth. A new rally car based on the third generation Punto, the Super 2000 Punto Abarth, was unveiled in 2005. It is four-wheel drive and powered by a 2.0 L 16 valve engine capable of producing 280 hp (210 kW).

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