Fiat has introduced the Grande Punto in India with 58 per cent local content
Positioned in the premium hatchback segment, the Grande Punto is Fiat's third offering in India after the Palio and Linea. Internationally, the Punto as a platform (project 176) was announced in the later half of 1993 as a replacement to the ageing Fiat Uno. Voted European Car of the Year 1995, the distinctive styling of the Punto, by Giorgetto Giugario of Italdesign, was an instant success. In Europe the car was competitively priced against the likes of Volkswagen Polo and Opel/Vauxhall Corsa. The second generation Punto (codenamed Project 188) appeared in 1999 and stayed till 2003. The third and current generation Punto, which also came to be called as Grande Punto was introduced in 2006. Using Fiat/GM SCCS (Small Common Components and Systems) platform, and which is also referred to as Gamma, the Grande Punto was also voted as the Brazil Car of the Year in 2008, according to Tarun Khanna, Head-Marketing, at Fiat India. An attractive-looking hatchback, designed once again by Giugario, the pointed front end of the Grande Punto would ideally go with an astronomically expensive Italian super car. The Grande Punto, however, has it - a bold two-part grille and enclosed lamps at the respective top corners. Measuring a shade less than 4 metres that earns tax breaks the Grande Punto at 3987 mm length, flaunts a slippery profile accompanied with an extremely sporty silhouette. The flowing roofline dictates a coupe-like pillar and sleek and longish windows. Depicting a slow slung stance, the Grande Punto's 15-inch wheels fill up the flared wheel arches even as the electrically adjustable wing mirrors add to the car's sporty demeanour. A small windscreen takes the centre stage at the rear, surrounded by small yet attractive lamps and a bulbous overall profile, which does a good job of balancing the aggressive front. In the category that it has positioned itself, the Grande Punto stands out. To put it simply, it appears like a sporting coupe that was turned into a hatchback as an afterthought. If it was indeed designed as a sporting coupe and turned into a practical hatchback, the car offers all the amenities of a hatchback. Apart from the four-doors that open wide to allow easy ingress and egress, the two-tone interior carries a dash of sportive spirit, inside. Following the new Fiat design flow, a bold instrument bank and a chunky steering with multi-function switches draw attention. The steering is adjustable for rake and along with the height adjustable driver's seat helps to arrive at a commanding driving position. The centre console on the left contains the central ventilation louvers, the Blaupunkt audio system (with Blue&Me) and the auto air-con controls below it. The front seats have long 'rail' travel to enable comfortable seating for both the front and rear passengers. Legroom at the rear may not be plenty but is enough to seat two passengers in good comfort. The rear seats are comfortable and could take three at a pinch. Luggage space at the rear is good. More is available with either or both of the 60:40 split rear seats folded. Available in four trim levels - Active, Dynamic, Emotion and Emotion Pack, the Grande Punto is well equipped. Features include 'auto' power windows, remote foldable key and more. Adding to the rigid chassis of the car is a host of safety features like ABS and EBD, crash severity algorithm that recognizes the severity of impact and deploys the front airbags accordingly. The fire prevention system cuts off fuel supply of the engine. The Fiat Code System uses the immobiliser with rolling code to provide protection against theft. Weighing a little over 1100 kg, the car that won five Euro Ncap rating, flaunts a number of technological features like the Blue&Me infotainment and communication system with voice command that was developed in association with Microsoft; Can-Bus with seven micro-chips; intelligent defogger; programmable follow me home headlamps that switch off with a delay after the key is removed and a drive-by-wire throttle. Localised to the extent of 58 per cent as of now, according to Rajeev Kapoor, CEO of Fiat India Automobiles, the Grande Punto is powered by a 1197cc, 8-valve FIRE petrol engine, a 1368 cc 16-valve FIRE petrol engine and a 1248 cc 16-valve common-rail diesel engine with a non-variable turbo, which is also referred to as the first generation Multijet diesel. The engines produce 68PS, 90PS, and 76PS respectively. All three of them are made at Fiat's Ranjangaon facility. The company plans for 85 per cent localisation by the end of this year. The 1.4-litre FIRE delivers impressive performance. Seemingly free revving, the power characteristics of this engine are well matched to the gear ratios of the 5-speed manual gearbox and translate into sporty behaviour. Performance is eager and the unit offers a good punch, almost all the way to the 6500 rpm redline, resulting in a chunky mid and top range. The Multijet diesel, in comparison, has a narrow rev range that redlines 5100 rpm. A strong torque surge between 1200 rpm and 4100 rpm has the car delivering impressive performance. This is one car that is comfortable in the city and equally comfortable on the highway, eating the miles at impressive speeds. There is a boom at certain revs, which can get a bit annoying. However overlook it and the diesel Grande Punto makes an efficient and sportier hatchback that is second to none in its category. The McPherson strut front and torsion beam rear delivers impressive dynamics. Ride and handling is arguably the best in class. The diesel feels a little nose heavy at times but delivers equally impressive ride as the petrol. Both the cars cancel the irregularities with great ease. Little noise filters into the cabin. The hydraulically powered steering wheel feels precise and presents good feedback. Handling is highly impressive with the car picking up a tight line out of turns. Pushed into corners, it impresses with its ability to stick to the course. The 195//60R15 from Goodyear assure good grip. The vented discs at front and drums at the rear, coupled with ABS and EBD, instil confidence. The action is linear and positive. With prices starting at Rs 3.99 lakhs for the 1.2 Active and climbing up to Rs 6.11 lakh for the 1.3 Multijet diesel Emotion Pack (ex-showroom Delhi), the Grande Punto stretches the envelope of premium hatchbacks to the next level. A car that is selling very well in Europe and was well received in Brazil, the Grande Punto comes with a two year unlimited mileage warranty. Even more interesting is the manner in which the car reflects the company's commitment and attention to India. Rajeev Kapoor, while speaking at the launch of the Grande Punto in Delhi, said the company already exports the Palio to South Africa, and would soon start the export of the Grande Punto to South Africa. Other right hand drive markets could be next on the list. Such is the response anticipated by Fiat that it hopes to sell more Puntos in India than in Brazil. To support the same, the company is working on a 24x7 helpline and would be expanding the service network further.The Grande Punto is an impressivehatchback that is all set to sizzle in the premium hatchback segment. It isdifferent, and comes with a strong localisation strategy. As mentioned in thearticle, the car at the moment is 58 per cent localised. This includes a list ofwell-established suppliers. The front and rear lamps come from AutomotiveLighting. Wiring harnesses and battery cables are claimed to be supplied byMotherson Sumi and Delphi India. Bosch is the supplier of ECU on the diesel andpetrol cars. Magneti Marelli too is said to be the supplier of ECU on the 1.2.Exide is the supplier of battery. Rane TRW is the supplier of rear seat beltswhereas Autoliv is the supplier of the front seat belts. JK Tyres and Goodyearis supplier of tyres. Asahi India is the supplier of glass. A significantcontribution comes from the Taco Group, according to Shvetal Diwanji,spokesperson for Tata Autocomp Systems, further extending the co-operationbetween the two entities-Fiat and Tata. The Tata AutoComp Interiors &Plastics Division is the supplier of various functional and aesthetic componentsfor interiors and exteriors. This includes the front grille, bumpers and thecockpit (front console), air vents, glove boxes, Ashtray and other kinematicplastic parts, inside. Tata Johnson Controls is the supplier of the seatingsystem. Automotive Stampings & Assemblies is the supplier of variousstructural and BIW components made out of sheet metal. Tata Yazaki Autocomp isthe supplier of the engine wiring harness. TC Springs is the supplier ofstabilizer bar. Tata Ficosa is the supplier of the outer and inner rear viewmirrors and the washer system. The involvement with the Grande Punto was anatural extension of Tata AutoComp's long standing relationship with FiatIndia for supplying components to its existing programs - the Palio and theLinea. Tata AutoComp's involvement began during the initial stages of theprogramme, and is reflected in the design of the seats, the interior plasticparts like entire front panel (including the cockpit), the door panels and otherplastic trims.