Fiat fans rejoice. In fact, fans of all things small and fast rejoice because come this Diwali, you’ll be able to walk into a Fiat showroom and buy this tyre-smoker. The Abarth Punto Evo’s got 145bhp under its pretty hood, has reworked spring and damper rates, a lower ride height and in case I forgot to mention it, it’s an Abarth! Woohoo! It could be our first bonafide hot hatch, so I suggest you chew on that thought for a bit and feel your pulse quicken.
Handles well and rides well. Bravo Abarth!
I say it could be our first hot hatch because there’s still plenty of stuff that needs to be measured before it gets our certificate – the gearing could be wrong, the engine could be tuned for efficiency (ugh!), the ride could be too hard to live with and so on and so forth. There’s only one way to find out if the Abarth Punto Evo is the genuine article and that is to take it to our favourite road. As a subjective measure, we’ve also brought along India’s only other petrol ‘hot’ hatch – the Polo GT TSI. Like the Abarth, it’s turbocharged and unlike the Italian, it’s available only with a (very capable) twin-clutch automatic. Also, the Polo costs circa Rs.10 lakh and that’s what Fiat says they will be asking for the Abarth Punto Evo. 145bhp for `10 lakh! Gosh! That’s value for money peeps. It’s bang for buck.
Polo GT TSI available only with a seven-speed DSG auto
That 145bhp manifests itself through quite a bit of lag and then, as the engine crosses 2000rpm, a great big whump of torque forces the front wheels to break traction. It will spin to 6500rpm, but is at its best when you keep it running in its strong mid-range. You keep it spinning there via a five-speed manual that, sadly, is quite rubbery and imprecise but you’ll learn to accurately guide it through the gates soon enough.
1.4-litre T-Jet makes 145bhp
Drive it correctly and the Abarth will hit 100kmph in 9.3 seconds which makes it the fastest budget hatchback in the country. Yes, that’s about a second faster than the GT TSI which, by the way, doesn’t have the same mid-range punch as the Punto. The Polo is quick in its own right, but the Abarth feels far beefier on boost. The Polo’s TSI engine makes up some ground by being more refined than the Abarth’s 1.4-litre T-Jet and if you stick the DSG gearbox in manual mode, you’d be surprised by how enthusiastic it is when you ask for downshifts.