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.
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. Examples include:
- Brakes may fail (cars built 16/10/07 – 14/11/07)
- Steering column may become disconnected (01/06/06 – 31/07/06)
- Engine power may be lost (01/05/06 – 31/05/06)
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.