This is an occasion that doesn’t often happen.Fiat SA launched its latest Punto model just a few days after its “international” launch out of Italy and while Scott Seed, product strategy manager referred to this as the “all-new” Punto it is, in fact, an evolution of the Punto Evo launched in 2010 (but not introduced in South Africa). Pushing for a bigger portion of the B segment pie, the latest Punto gets a significant update for 2012 that includes the introduction of an international engine of the year winner and a number of cosmetic adjustments. Its green credentials have also been given a significant boost with standard stop-start technology across its range of new 1.4-litre engines. For added peace of mind, Fiat SA is also rolling out a standard 150 000km or five-year warranty across the Punto range.NEW LOOKThe Punto’s appearance is slightly altered with the use of new front and rear bumpers body-coloured bumpers and different head and tail lights. Deeper front air intakes add to the Punto’s signature stylish offering, while indicators are positioned alongside them in the front bumper. Three new metallic colours and a new design of the 15” alloys are included in the update. Inside the Punto’s cabin, new upholstery and a new fascia (on certain models) are the extent of the changes. The local line-up has swelled from two to four models and the 1.2 Active has been put out the pasture. The four-strong line-up is now powered exclusively by a range of 1.4 engines with power output ranging from 57kW to 99kW. One useful snippet is that all the models, including the entry-level Pop are very well equipped where safety equipment is concerned. Powered by a 57kW eight-valve engine, the Pop comes standard with a driver and passenger airbag, anti-lock brakes and daytime running lights. It also comes with remote-controlled central locking and aircon. This model also comes with the “old” Punto dash although there are new colours and trims for the rest of the cabin.NICE AND EASYOne step up is the Easy specification that retains the Pop’s Fire engine but adds additional features in the form of a driver's kneebag and side bags, the new compact fascia with piano-black finishes for the cubby atop the central dropdown and the MP3-compatible audio head unit and 15” alloys. Those on the media launch, however, sampled the two higher-spec models in the form of the 1.4 Multiair Easy and the 1.4 Turbo Multiair Lounge. NIGHT OUT IN THE CITY: The Punto's four-door design makes taking friends with you a pleasure - and the bright alloys like the bright lights too. Despite the 77kW/130Nm rating for the 1.4 16-valve MultiAir and the relatively low elevation of the kwaZulu-Natal route that provided the setting for the launch, the engine needed a little help with some heavy revving to get it on its way. The shift indicator for the six-speed manual is very well displayed but, because the Punto required a fair amount of coaxing to crest the hills along route, there was a fair amount of cog-swopping involved as well. Fiat’s star performer is the turbocharged 1.4 Multiair engine generating a lusty 99kW at 5000rpm and 206Nm at 1750rpm and the winner of the best new engine award in the 2010 International Engine of the Year awards. Although mated to a five-speed manual – the 77kW’s six-speed arrangement would probably have been more useful – it was a barrel of fun to drive, despite the somewhat wooden gearshifts and sticky clutch uptakes of the not-yet-run-in Puntos. STYLISH: The new dash incorporates this compact audio unit and the Punto's heating and cooling controls. SOMETHING OLDThe top-spec Lounge comes with VDC dynamic stability control system including ESP electronic stability control with ASR anti-slip regulation, hill holder, BAS brake assist and ABS to handle the increased dynamic load. The seat position on the Puntos driven still doesn’t allow for the most comfortable setting and requires a fair amount of patience to get it just right. The look-and-feel of the soft plastics in the turbo Lounge model was rather appealing, not so for much for the Easy which showed off more abrasive finishes. It’s no surprise that Fiat opted for Multiairs only on this launch because I suspect driving the 57kW models would be a frustratingly-slow experience, particularly at higher altitudes. The Punto, however, remains an increasingly stylish option in the cut-throat B segment and its favourable pricing in an area where it goes head-to-head with seasoned campaigners such as Toyota’s Yaris and Volkswagen’s Polo should help it garner a few more fans. PRICESPunto 1.4 Pop - R129 900Punto 1.4 Easy - R144 900Punto 1.4 Multiair Easy - R169 900Punto 1.4 Turbo Multiair Lounge - R209 900All Puntos are delivered with a five-year or 150 000km warranty. Service intervals 30 000km.