The Punto under the spotlight here is the third generation model, codenamed 199 and launched in 2005. In fact, its full name is Grande Punto.
In 2009 a facelifted version arrived called Punto Evo, although as with its predecessor, the public continued to refer to the model as, simply, the Punto.
Whatever it’s name, the model is a three or five-door supermini whose rivals include the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta.
It’s powered by a range of petrol and diesel engines, the latter known by the brand name, Multijet. However, it’s the petrols that are under discussion here.
As far as the pre-facelift Punto is concerned, the 1.4 T-Jet, a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with power outputs ranging from 118bhp to 175bhp (the 1.4 T-Jet Abarth Esseesse) is the most interesting.
Less exotic but more interesting and relevant, however, are the engines powering the facelifted model. The smallest, called the 0.9 TwinAir, is a lightweight, two-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine that promises much improved fuel consumption, emissions and performance.
The other interesting engine is the 1.4 MultiAir, a four-cylinder development of the lightweight TwinAir which, like that unit, can also fine-tune its air supply to the cylinders to achieve much greater efficiencies than rival powerplants of the same size.
What features does the Fiat Punto Mk3 have?
2006-2009 (Grande Punto): Front-wheel-drive, three and five-door Punto Grande available with 65hp 1.2, 77hp 1.4 and 95hp 1.4 16V petrol engines. A fourth, sportier petrol engine, the 1.4 16v T-Jet, produces 120hp. Diesel engines are represented by 75hp and 90hp Multijet 1.3s, a 120hp 1.6 Multijet and a 130hp 1.9 Multijet.
Standard gearbox is a five-speed manual although 1.4 16V, and 1.6 and 1.9 Multijet diesels have six speeds. A five-speed automatic is optional with the 77hp 1.4 petrol.
Offered in a range of trims including basic Active (steel wheels, body-coloured bumpers, electric front windows, and steering wheel rake and reach adjustment), mid-spec Dynamic (multiple airbags, alloy wheels, air conditioning, electric mirrors and folding rear seats) and top-spec Eleganza (front foglights, traction control and sports seats). Sporting trim brings a touch of brio thanks to its unique 120hp 1.4 T-Jet petrol engine capable of 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds.
2010-2012 (Punto Evo): Renamed Punto Evo still in three and five-door body styles but now with restyled nose similar to Fiat 500 and a restyled, higher quality interior. More refined and with more efficient engines. The 68hp 1.2 and 75hp 1.4 petrol engines carry over (the latter now with optional five-speed Dualogic robotised manual-automatic transmission).
New to the line-up is the efficient 1.4 16v Multivalve in 105hp and 135hp guises (this most powerful one replaces the 1.4 16V T-Jet in the Sporting and trims the 0-62mph time to 8.2 seconds). Diesels now represented by 75hp and 95hp Eco 1.3 Multijets, and a 120hp 1.6 Multijet.
Most trim levels carried over although a new one is Dynamic Eco with the 85hp 1.3 Multijet diesel, capable of 78mpg versus 68mpg in standard 75hp form. Standard equipment has been uprated slightly to include Blue&Me voice-control to enable hands-free calls and music selection. Eleganza now has climate control, while Sporting is available with optional Bue&Me TomTom sat nav with 4.2-inch touchscreen. Parking sensors also available on some higher spec trims.
2012-on (Punto): Punto name from first and second-generation versions is revived for this still-current model. Confusingly, returns to the look of the Grande Punto but retains Punto Evo’s interior. Biggest news is the adoption of the 85hp 0.9-litre turbocharged twin-cylinder TwinAir petrol engine capable of 67mpg. Otherwise, the bulk of the engines are carried over from the Punto Evo, with the exception of the 1.6 Multijet diesel, which is dropped.
Still three and five-door body styles and, depending on engine, choice of five and six-speed manual gearboxes and five-speed Dualogic automatic, but trim line-up refreshed to include basic Pop, Easy, Lounge and GBT. Pop has traction control while Pop+ has air con and alloy wheels. Easy has folding rear seats, Easy+ has a sat nav and Lounge an electric sunroof and climate control.
In 2013, Sporting is added but Lounge and TwinAir trims are dropped, the TwinAir engine now finding its way into existing trims. The three-door body is also dropped. The interior gets a new dashboard and colour-coded door handles. In September 2017, Easy+ trim get a proper built-in sat nav in place of the budget Blue&Me cradle.
What’s good and bad about the Fiat Punto Mk3?
Plenty of cheap used ones to choose from and huge discounts on new ones, easy to drive in town thanks to compact size and light steering, comfy motorway ride, lots of kit on some versions, frugal and characterful TwinAir petrol engine, frugal 1.3 diesel.
Design is over 10 years old and showing its age in terms of build quality, dated packaging and safety, connectivity and emissions technologies; older diesel models dirty and being taxed to extinction, ride and handing trails the class, lots of recalls, poor reliability record, not long for this world.
What does a Fiat Punto Mk3 cost?
Tidy 1.2 Active cars with good service history start at around £600, while higher-spec 1.2 Dynamics nudge £1000. At the other extreme are the last Grande Puntos, with low-mileage 2009-reg examples going for around £3,250.
As regards Punto Evo, prices for this start at around £1600 for the first 2010-reg 1.4 Actives and peak at £4750 for the best 2012-reg 1.4 16V MultiAir Sportings with around 40,000 miles.
The first 2012-reg Puntos are available from around £3500 for a 0.9 TwinAir with 70,000 miles. At the other end of the price spectrum, prices of 2016 and 17-reg cars are depressed by the availability of big discounts on new ones and a good supply of pre-registered Puntos. Many of these cost around £9495.
Don't spend that; the model’s now too old to put serious money into.
What’s the best Fiat Punto MK3 to buy?
- Fiat Punto TwinAir 0.9 5dr, 2013/13, 40,000 miles, £4,250
What are the best alternatives to the Fiat Punto Mk3?
Ford Fiesta (Mk5 2002-2008, Mk6 2008-2017, Mk7 20017-on)
There have been three generations of Britain’s best-selling car in the time the Punto Mk3 has been around. The best is the Mk6 that was replaced in 2017. It’s more fun to drive, better designed and easier to resell than the Fiat. The Mk5 is now very old and there’s less of a gap between it and the Punto, especially since the Punto followed it in 2006.
However, in some key respects (handling and quality) the Fiesta is the better car. The Fiesta’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost range of petrol engines from 2013 offer the best blend of performance and economy. Zetec is the best trim. Things to look for are door seals coming away, buckled alloy wheels and worn steering racks.
Price range: £250 (2002-reg 1.4 LX) to £19,000 (2017-reg 1.6 EcoBoost ST-3)
VW Polo (Mk4 2002-2009, Mk5 2009-2017)
There have been two generations of Polo in the current Punto’s lifetime; although that said, at the end of 2017, the Mk6 was launched, which makes it three, just like the Fiesta. Of all the superminis, the Polo has always felt the most grown up: solid with a big-car feel rivals cannot emulate. It’s always been a bit more expensive but it’s worth the extra.
The diesel engines are good but expensive. If you tend to drive mostly in town, the 1.2 petrol is ideal. For longer, weekend drives, consider the 1.4 petrol. Things to look out for when buying used are clogged particulate filters on low-mileage diesel models, warped brake discs and on younger models, headlights damaged by the hot daytime running lights.
Price range: £500 (2002-reg 1.4 S) to £19,000 (2017-reg 1.8 TSI GTI)
How reliable is a Fiat Punto?
Unfortunately, most major areas of the Fiat Punto, pre and post-facelift, have more than their fair share of problems. Among the most notable are a squeaking noise and an odour from the engine, a jammed gearbox, steering failure and seized brakes.
However, it’s the model’s recalls that are equally concerning, if only because of their sheer number. Fortunately, many faults fell within a narrow production window and should have been rectified by now, but it’s worth checking with a Fiat dealer if your vehicle was affected and has been attended to.
For information on official safety recalls, check the DVSA recall website here.
Fiat Punto Recalls
What: Launch date
- Engine power may be lost: 20/04/2007
- Steering column may become disconnected: 27/04/2007
- Brakes may fail: 07/12/2007
- Heater/climate control wire abrasion: 18/08/2008
- Fuel may leak from manifold: 09/01/2009
- Steering may fail: 14/12/2009
- Wrong airbag may deploy in a collision: 01/10/2010
- Fire may occur: 28/03/2011
- Braking efficiency may be reduced: 07/12/2012
- Front seatbelt pre-tensioner faulty: 18/08/2017
Problems at all years and with most engines. Those involving TwinAir and MultiAir include difficult starting and juddering at idle, traced to a problem with the engine control unit (ECU). Check the fault codes. The same component can cause a jerky motion when accelerating in first gear.
A squeaky noise from the engine compartment is very likely to be the ancillary drive belt. One curious problem is an odour from the engine which can be traced to a damaged positive crankcase breather main hose. The engine speed increasing as you brake is a problem with the ABS/ESP software.
Emissions measurements being outside the specified range, accompanied by the malfunction indicator light (MIL) and assorted fault codes, is likely to be a faulty sensor wheel in the crankcase position sensor.
Meanwhile, a fuel leak with a risk of fire was the subject of a recall in 2008 and concerned the fuel rail not being to specification.
TwinAir engines dating from 2011 can experience an oil leak from a poorly sealed timing cover (those from 2013 are not affected). The starter motor failing to turn or the engine misfiring in first gear as the clutch pedal is released, is the ECU once again.
The 1.4 T-Jet can suffer a coolant leak from the water pump outlet pipe; also, loss of compression in cylinder number two. The MultiAir engine can suffer the same coolant leak when cold, in addition to engine judder from cold, which is likely to be an ECU problem.
Fewer problems here and confined to the 1.2 65PS, 1.4 MultiAir and 1.4 8v models from 2009 which can suffer jamming of the gearbox as multiple gears attempt to engage.
It’s the result of water ingress into the hydraulic control unit causing corrosion and premature wear. The transmission light illuminating is faulty transmission control unit software. Update the software.
Steering and suspension
Just like the engine, multiple problems here. Noisy front shock absorbers are a faulty damper upper mount. Noise from the steering rack was a 2007 recall involving replacement of the rack (check the car’s status with Fiat).
Likewise, a cracking noise when steering was a 2006 recall concerning potential failure of the steering column.
A noise from the front suspension is incorrectly tightened front suspension fastenings (a production fault; check all related components).
Steering angle sensor calibration failure following renewal of the electronic power steering unit is down to a poor connection of the new unit to the steering box or column.
The rear brake shoes seizing at low ambient temperatures is one of only a handful of problems concerning this area of the Punto. It’s caused by moisture in the drums and the only solution is renewal of the shoes.
If the brake lights remain on, the ESP warning light illuminates and first gear cannot be engaged, suspect a fault with the brake servo push rod retaining device.
Reduced braking efficiency was the subject of a 2007 recall to check the condition of the rubber brake hoses which weren’t to specification and could restrict brake fluid flow.
Exterior and interior
Deployment of the wrong airbag was the subject of a 2010 recall and the result of software non-compliance. A software update was the solution. Check with Fiat if your car was presented for the recall check.
TwinAir models of 2011 could experience illumination of the airbag warning light caused by poor electrical grounding points in the airbag control unit.
Again, multiple problems here, the most common being air-conditioning compressor and blower malfunction caused by faulty relay T5. Damaged heater and climate control wiring, where it touches a dashboard bracket, was the subject of a 2008 recall.
The odometer flashing continuously on 1.2 8v models of 2011 onwards is a result of the Can-BUS not being initialised. It requires a diagnostic tool to remedy.
Difficulty pulling away on a hill in 1.4 8v models (2009-11) requires reprogramming of the hill-hold software.
If ‘noFPS’ is displayed on 1.2 8v models (2009-11) but the vehicle runs smoothly, check the inertia switch for loose or poor ground points and connections between the airbag control unit, instrument panel and body control unit.
Problems with the rear windscreen wiper and heater are most likely loose or poor electrical ground points. Check the wiring and relay, too, while you’re at it.
Reduced air-con efficiency on the T-Jet could be the result of broken condenser fins. Drain and renew.