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Driven: Abarth Punto EVO

2010-07-23 09:37
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Fiat
Model Abarth Punto Evo
Engine 1 368cm3 in-line 4 cylinder
Power 120kW @ 5 500r/min
Torque 250Nm @ 2 250r/min
Zero To Hundred 7.9 seconds
Top Speed 214km/h
Fuel Consumption 6l/100km
Price R189 750

JD van Zyl

Never heard of Abarth? Don’t beat yourself up about it. The tuning company was synonymous with racing excellence in the mid to late 1950s, raking in a staggering 10 000 track victories and clinching a massive 10 world records.  Despite its racing heritage the Abarth name faded into obscurity during the 1980s and ’90s.

It was only in 2008 that Fiat dusted the Abarth badge off and relaunched it as a brand that would stand on its own two feet within the Fiat stable. The Grande Punto headed up the rebirth of the brand, followed by the Fiat 500. Now, in keeping with the launch of the Punto EVO in 2009, Abarth has turned their attention to the latest Fiat arrival.

Does the EVO look as sharp as the Abarth Grande Punto did?

Yes, and then some. As was the case with its Grande predecessor, the Punto EVO has been given a healthy injection of Abarth DNA which clearly sets it apart from its Fiat sibling.

Much of the styling has clearly been inspired by the S2000 rally car – most notably the more dramatic front-end which is punctuated by side intakes in the front valance. Chunky side skirts also ensure a more squat appearance and at the rear an extended roof spoiler and wider bore twin tailpipes complete the picture.

Abarth takes no chances on having their car be mistaken for a Fiat, and proudly displays its red and yellow scorpion-emblazed badge wherever possible. Even the 17-inch alloys’ “5 claw” design was inspired by the eight-legged arthropod. And to really drive the point home, your Punto Evo can be ordered with optional stripe kit which runs along the flanks and includes the “Abarth” name in bold letters.

Did Abarth follow in Fiat’s MultiAir footsteps?

Indeed, making it the latest in a string of models from the Fiat group to be treated to the gutsy MultiAir engine which relies on clever valve technology to improve the way the engine breathes. Abarth also treated its new addition to standard start/stop technology.

Thanks to its MultiAir technology, this 1.4-litre powertrain feels as hefty as a much larger and more powerful unit (enabling this Abarth to sprint to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds). The beauty is that it isn’t all the thirstier for it and manages a very respectable six litres per 100km. A beautifully linear spread of torque, free-revving character and the type of boisterous engine note you wouldn’t normally expect from a four cylinder engine, makes it the gem that it is.

A riot to drive then?

In some ways, yes. To boost driver appeal Abarth has fitted the Punto EVO with a Ferrari-inspired Manettino (it is Italian for “little lever”, but sounds way cooler) to change from Normal to Sport mode, which sharpens the throttle response, activates the Torque Transfer Control (TCC) and adds weight to the steering.

Compared to the Clio Renault Sport, the Abarth’s steering isn’t as direct or chatty, the handling not as involving and the added weight to the steering too artificial to really add to the driving experience. The contribution of the TCC system, on the other hand, is really clear.

Acting like a limited slip differential, the TCC shines in tight twisties and adds buckets of grip – making it possible to tighten down your corner line, roll the power back on much earlier and get out of the bend quicker than otherwise possible.


That really depends on what you’re after. If it’s uncompromising handling and hardcore performance you want, then you’re better off heading to Renault Sport – especially since Abarth currently has no plans to bring their cars to South African shores.

But for a well-priced hot hatch which neatly combines accessible power with a well-balanced ride and the advantages of the MultiAir engine, this Punto EVO makes for a very impressive contender. The cool cachet of the Abarth brand is good for another couple bonus points.

Abarth Punto Evo Specs:

Engine: 1 368cm3 in-line 4 cylinder
Max power: 120kW at 5 500r/min
Max torque: 250Nm at 2 250r/min
0-100km/h: 7.9 seconds
Maximum speed: 214km/h
Fuel consumption (combined): 6l/100km
CO2 emissions: 142g/km
Price: R189 750


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