Within minutes of calling the dealer, they sent a fully loaded Fiat Grande Punto Emotion Pack to my door step. Now let me explain where I am coming from and what is my mental model and requirements before choosing to test drive the Punto.
I own a Hyundai Santro for the past 10 years or so. It’s a aging war-horse and it’s not able to keep up with the daily traffic battles. I also own a Swift DZire DZire “>VDi. This is an awesome car but quite huge to drive around the city and find a safe parking lot. I drive around 20 km per day and occasionally there is a need to go on long drives. So I have started looking out for a good option. The Bank is already after me for EMIs towards DZire. So I wanted a car that will not burn a big hole in my small pocket.
The cars in my choice / segment are: Swift VDI / VXI, Indica Vista Quadrajet, Skoda Fabia, Grande Punto Emotion / Emotion Pack. The cars which are not in the menu are Maruthi RITZ and A-Star (hate their design), Hyundai i20 (too expensive and not a value for money) and Hyundai i10 (almost every other person has it).
Today I start with the Grande Punto. Grande Punto (henceforth mentioned as GP) appeals to me because of the chubby exterior design and the solid looks. I didn’t anything other than that it looks good and a couple of my friends own it. So I decided to test drive it.
I noticed that from a distance the headlights are much like those of Indica Vista. But that’s not a bother. I got a Red Emotion pack to test drive. As I sat in the driver’s seat (I am 5’10” tall) I felt comfortable with my legs stretched out completely. The seat was comfortable contrary to many reviews which claim it to be non-ergonomical. The window and mirror controls in the door were placed exactly at the right place and the steering mounted controls were highly tempting. The front and side views were decent and better than Swift DZire. But the rear view seems to be a bit squeezed. Lot of blind spots in there. ABC (Accelerator, Brake, Clutch) were quite easy and free to operate. Hey! who switched sides, the Indicator and Wiper controls? That’s quite annoying. Felt like using a Sony Ericsson mobile after using Nokia for years. Nothing fancy in the displays, except that you would see a small multifunctional display to read your mobile messages, call details, FM tuner, etc.
The dashboard was minimalistic and the plastic used felt not-so-cheap. The emotion pack model comes with a music player and I would say it sounded average like any other OEM fitted sound system. Did not check the AC vents but the power of AC was quite good. Did not fiddle much with the controls, but they were conveniently placed both for the driver and the navigator.
The seats were dual tone. Barely noticed it as it was black and gray combination. The glove compartment has the USB port for the music player and a dock for windows mobile (strange, why not android or symbian? LOL) The Blu and Me technology helps to connect up to 5 mobiles via Bluetooth with the car audio system. I haven’t checked it, but it sounds like a cool option for gadget freaks like me. The rear seat felt a bit cheap and hard. There would be ample legroom and headroom for 3 adults (less than 5’8″ tall) to squeeze in and survive a non-stop 200 km journey (IMO). The seats are 60-40 fold-able, but it’s of no big use to me. The boot space is quite generous. The overall quality of the interiors is quite average and does not match to it post exteriors.
Now the main part: Drive. On 1st and 2nd gears, the full power is not leashed. In fact there is a power drop in the second gear. You have to floor the gas to get the vehicle moving. Once on the 3rd gear, the beast is unleashed but totally in the driver’s control. The steering wheel is thick enough to give you a sporty feel. The brakes are good. Stops in time with least possible jerk to rear and front passengers. Due to the airbags, honking is quite hard and I tend to press the steering controls instead of the horns. You have to have a big palm to reach the horn and still hold the steering wheel. The best part is the feeling of safety. While driving I felt the safety of a fortress. Maybe it’s because of the sturdy steel body and chasis.
The rear lights are placed high on the car’s back for better visibility. But there is only one reverse gear light. Why? And there is only one rear fog lamp. Why? Not sure if they are sufficient. On the whole, this is one solid car. With nothing much to complain this is a good buy for urban-rural combo drives.
The car is a bit over priced. On road, after discounts I will end up burning Rs. 7 lakhs for the fully loaded emotion pack and Rs. 6.6 Lakh for the emotion version. Price is the only factor that has made me put this car on hold.
Test Drive Verdict: on-hold
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