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Heritage celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Fiat Punto

With over nine million units produced until across three generations, the Punto dominated segment B for 25 years, setting new standards in terms of design, safety, and comfort.

Turin, 2 October 2023

Stellantis’ Heritage team for the Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, and Abarth brands is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Fiat Punto with a commemorative video which retraces its history through a selection of stock footage from the archives of the Centro Storico Fiat.

Produced in over nine million units until 2018, the Fiat Punto dominated segment B for 25 years, often leaving its competition behind, and became an Italian icon thanks to its superior style and technology.

Roberto Giolito, Head of Stellantis Heritage (Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Abarth), explained, “The success of a car is the result of a successful wager, a flash of stylistic intuition based on research into new trends and emerging customer needs. It comes from a recipe which must pass the hardest test of all: the test of time. This is the case with the story of the Fiat Punto, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary and whose story consists of 25 years of production, three generations, countless technological and commercial awards, and, most of all, the undisputed affection of the general public.”

After all, Fiat has been there since the very beginning. The public first got to know Fiat vehicles as irreplaceable means of private mobility and then learned to appreciate them as beautiful, reliable, fun, and, most of all, affordable vehicles. And the Punto was no exception; indeed, over the course of its career, it set new standards in terms of design, security, and comfort in segment B, where the world’s best manufacturers have always competed.

First series (1993 – 1999)

The Fiat Punto’s story (project 176) goes way back to 1993 when it was previewed to the media at the Lingotto building in Turin (on August 31st) and the general public at the International Motor Show Germany (on September 7th), the beginnings of a new generation of Fiat compact cars.

Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the new vehicle picked up where the Uno left off as it attempted to repeat its extraordinary success. In fact, throughout Europe and for ten consecutive years, the Uno had always been the highest-selling vehicle in segment B and received high praise from the international media. Clearly, the Fiat Punto had a big task ahead. However, it did not disappoint: in 1995 it was named “Car of the Year” and from 1994 to 1997 it was loved throughout Europe. In order to build the Fiat Punto, a new factory was even built in Melfi (Potenza) which, from early on, established itself as one of the most advanced industrial sites in the world.

Production began in October 1993 with the Fiat Punto, and the use of brand-new technologies and processes would give birth to the concept of the “integrated factory”. A majority of the new model’s entire 5.6 trillion-lira budget was used to build it. Later, the vehicle would also be assembled in Mirafiori (Turin) and Termini Imerese (Palermo). In fact, the first Punto vehicles created for its introduction were produced in July 1993 in the Turin plant.

Available with 3 or 5 doors, 6 trims, 6 engines, and 14 body colors, the Punto combined an innovative design with the best roominess in the category. Compared to the Uno, the Punto was bigger and more comfortable (376cm long, 162 cm wide, 145cm tall, and with a 245cm wheelbase), and provided a large trunk—275 liters which became 1,080 when the rear seats were lowered. The original large, vertically-oriented taillights and the large air duct on the front bumper stood out on the vehicle’s clean, well-balanced design. Meanwhile, in the interiors, the Fiat Punto was comfortable and roomy, and included features which had until then only been reserved for vehicles in a higher segment.

There were also six engine options available, with each one corresponding to a version: the 54 HP (40 KW) 1.1 Fire engine was loaded into the Punto 55; the 60 HP (43 KW) 1.2 was reserved for the Punto 60; the Punto 75 was equipped with the livelier 75 HP (54 KW) 1.2 engine; meanwhile, the Punto 90 offered the 90 HP (65 KW) 1.6 engine; the la Punto GT could count on the 1.4 Turbo engine, including an intercooler which reached a maximum power of 136 HP (98 KW); and lastly, the turbodiesel (Punto TD) version opted for a 70 CV (62 KW) 1.7 engine.

All of the versions were equipped with front disc brakes and rear drum brakes (on the Punto GT all of the brakes were disc brakes, with the front ones being self-ventilated) and McPherson front suspension and rear trailing arm suspension. Moreover, each version included one or more trims (S, ED, SX, 6 Speed, ELX, and GT); in 1994, the Punto Cabrio designed by Bertone added two more trims: the 60 S, with a 60 HP 1.2 engine, and the 90 ELX , with a 90 HP 1.6 engine (the latter with a standard electrically powered soft top).

FIAT introduced tons of variants over the years on the Punto. For example, there was the HSD version which stood out for its safety accessories, or the Selecta version which was made for this city with its electrically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). Plus, at the end of 1994, the Punto D made its debut with a 57 HP 1.7 aspirated diesel engine, and was followed the following year by the Sporting version with a 1.6 engine paired with a low gear ratio.

Starting in 1997, the range was updated with slight aesthetic modifications, yet remained affordable. Specifically, the new features included greater body color options and the introduction of new interior upholsteries and seat fabrics—giving life to 29 variants of the model.

Second series (1999 – 2010)

Coming off the success of the first Punto, Fiat decided to launch the second series in 1999 (under the name of project 188) and entrust its development to the Centro Stile Fiat. The goal was to create a completely new vehicle, much in the same way Fiat did with the first series with respect to the Uno. Gianni Agnelli’s words when introducing it will forever remain in the annals of Fiat history: “The Punto was not created in three years, but is the synthesis of a century’s worth of work”. Its official debut took place in grand style on July 11, 1999 during the celebrations of Fiat’s centenary, making a strong impression on the international media and general public. And the numbers speak for themselves: between 1999 and 2002, around a half million vehicles were delivered throughout Europe every year.

The Fiat Punto was not one, but two cars, each of which had its own personality. Original and aggressive, the three-door vehicle was made for a customer base which was attracted to sportiness. Meanwhile, for those looking for an elegant and comfy car, the five-door version was one of the most spacious and comfortable cars in the segment—as demonstrated by its superior roominess coefficient (86.4%) and the largest trunk in the category (297 liters). These special features only added to the vehicle’s overall volume: with almost three cubic meters, the model was at the top of its segment and comfortably seated five people.

The range, one of the most diverse and complete in the segment, included 23 versions and the choice of five engines: two diesel engines (a 60 HP 1.9 aspirated engine and an 80 HP 1.9 JTD engine) and three petrol engines (an 8 and 16 valve, 1.2 engine—60 and 80 HP respectively—and a 130 HP, 16-valve 1.8 engine). The latter ones, thanks to exceptional torque at a low rpm, offered superior elasticity, in addition to low fuel use and noisiness. The two diesel motors also were high performing, especially the 1.9 JTD Common Rail engine, which the Fiat Punto introduced into the compact segment. Some of the vehicles other firsts include: the Speedgear electronically controlled gearbox which was capable of working both automatically or sequentially, and the new Dualdrive power steering (with two levels of assistance) with, for the first time, the famous City mode which allowed the driver, by touching a button on the dashboard, to move the wheel with just one finger to greatly ease handling at low speeds. Furthermore, another one of the new model’s stand-out features was the amount of comfort which was “designed” with the same care reserved as the style and mechanics: the soundproofing of the cabin, the rational use of volumes and available spaces (26 stowage compartments in the ELX trims), the brand-new rear torsion-beam suspension made with innovative technologies, and the climate-control system which was one of the best in the segment for defrosting, low noise, and the amount of air conveyed.

In May 2003, after ten years of undisputed success, the new Fiat Punto made its debut and introduced two second-generation Common Rail turbodiesel engines into this segment for the first time: the revolutionary 70 HP, 16v 1.3 Multijet and the powerful 100 HP, 8v 1.9 Multijet. Plus, it was the only car which offered two automatic transmissions (Dualogic and Speedgear), the dual-zone automatic climate control system, and power steering equipped with two operating logics. It was the only car to offer a Natural Power version (petrol and methane) in this market segment. And last but not least, it was one of the few vehicles in the segment to feature four Euro NCAP stars thanks to an elevated number of safety devices (some standard and others optional), including ABS, ESP with Hill Holder, and cruise control.

Compared to the previous Punto, the 2003 model featured slightly different exterior dimensions, which allowed it to move with ease in city traffic and easily find parking. Additionally, a new interpretation of the model’s personality was introduced which was no longer based on the number of doors, but on the “character” of the versions: elegant models on the one hand, and sporty ones on the other. The unique front was the same on both bodies, but there were various differences between the elegant trims and the more “aggressive” ones.

The range also expanded in 2003 with over 40 versions, which were obtained by blending the three and five door bodies; eight engines (1.2 8v - 1.2 16v - 1.4 16v - 1.8 16v - 1.3 Multijet - 1.9 Multijet - 1.9 JTD - 1.2 8v petrol and methane); four mechanical transmissions (three five-gear versions and one six-gear model) and two sophisticated automatic ones ("Speedgear" and "Dualogic"); eight trims (Actual, Active, Sound, Dynamic, Class, Emotion, Sporting, HGT); and 13 body colors, each of which was available in two different colors for the interior upholstery. In conclusion, in 1993, the New Fiat Punto changed the way we thought about the compact car, which no longer had any reason to envy cars in higher segments. This could be seen with regards to safety in the most sophisticated dynamic-control systems: ESP, ASR, MSR, and Hill Holder. And the same held in terms of performance: the sporty version boasted of 130 CV.

Third series (2005 – 2018)

In 2005 in Turin, the Grande Punto (project number 1999) made its debut with the goal of repeating the success of the Punto while being a complete departure from the previous model. In fact, despite belonging to segment B in theory, it could replace many models from segment C in terms of dimensions, equipment, and characteristics.

A one-of-a-kind model on the world stage, the Grande Punto was designed and created to set the new standard in terms of design with the introduction of the concept of increased “dimensions”. The model reached the highest safety and quality standards in its category, offered the best range of diesel engines, and also had an extremely competitive cost to feature ratio.

In short, the Grande Punto made a monumental leap with respect to the previous model. The name remained, with its legacy of being appreciated by millions of clients (varying in taste, age, name, nationality, and social status) and 25 international juries who awarded it with prizes throughout the years. Developed by Italdesign-Giugiaro in collaboration with the Centro Stile Fiat, the style of the Grande Punto set itself apart on the contemporary car scene for the beauty of its modern and refined exterior line and unmistakable Italian look—a “Mediterranean” stylistic language in which tense and sharp lines stood out alongside designs taken from the wellspring of Italian sporty vehicles. Similarly to the exteriors, the Grande Punto’s interiors were the most advanced expression of Italian style thanks to the quality of materials and the attention to detail. The result was a bright, comfortable, and functional space. It was a car which was designed to “excite” but also provide solidity thanks to its elevated standards of quality. These could be seen in its superior safety standards, uncharacteristic attention to detail in this market segment, and exceptional comfort. Even its exterior dimensions were at the top of the category at 403cm long, 168cm wide, 149cm tall, with a wheelbase of 2m and 51cm—dimensions which provided an incredible amount of roominess in the interiors. Lastly, the Grande Punto established itself as an agile and fun vehicle in every situation. Its dynamism mainly derived from its engines, which combined high performance, low fuel usage, and complete respect for the environment (every version is Euro 4). Two engines were petrol (a 65 HP, 8v 1.2 model and the new 77 HP, 8v 1.4 model) and four turbodiesel engines: a 120 HP and 130 HP 1.9 Multijet, a 75 HP 16v 1.3 Multijet, and the unique 90 HP 16v 1.3 Multijet da 90 CV variable-geometry turbocharger.

It is interesting to note that between 2006 and 2011 a special version was developed to participate in, mainly rally, races. The S2000 soon set the standard in the category, winning numerous prestigious titles, including two Italian Rally championships—in 2006 with Paola Andreucci and in 2007 with Giandomenico Basso—an Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2006 with Giandomenico Basso, a Spanish Rally Championship in 2007 with Miguel Fuster, and four European Rally Championships won by Basso in 2006 and 2009 and Luca Rossetti in 2010 and 2011. Beginning in 2008 with the rebirth of the Abarth coachbuilding workshop, the Fiat Grande Punto S2000 became the Abarth Grande Punto S2000. From a technical point of view, it was equipped with a 1997 cm³ aspirated engine, all-wheel drive, limited-slip differential, and a six-gear sequential front-mounted gearbox.

The new Fiat Punto Evo made its debut In 2009. An evolution of the Grande Punto, it further established the success of the previous model and, thanks to its new features, set the standard in terms of innovation, safety, and style. The term “Evo” underscored the progress which had been made to satisfy customers who were more attentive to the latest technology, driving pleasure, and environmental concerns. The Punto Evo’s excellence could be mainly found in the wide and detailed engine lineup, including the second-generation 1.3 Multijet and the 1.4 Multiair—the revolutionary technology developed by Fiat Powertrain Technologies. The lineup also included methane and LPG bi-fuel engines to provide the segment’s most complete and ecological engine range. The model was the first to adopt seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees, as standard on all the trims.

We could find the same features in the Punto 2012, the new vehicle which reaffirmed values which had always set the model apart. With elegance and dynamism in its lines, it was the perfect synthesis of Italian style and technological innovation—the vehicle’s strong suit since its launch. It was the first model in its segment to be equipped with a state-of-the-art infotainment system (Blue&Me) or useful tools for customers to analyze their driving style in real time and make suggestions on how to reduce fuel consumption and the impact on the environment (eco:Drive). The 900cc two-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine opened the range with powers of 85 and 105 HP. Then, the range continued with four-cylinder, 8v or 16v Fire 1.4 engines with 69 to 105 HP, and ended with the top of the line 135 HP 16v 1.4 Multiair turbocharger. One of motorists’ favorite engines was the 75 to 95 HP 1.3 Multijet diesel engine and the LPG and methane 77HP version based on the 1.4 aspirated model.

The last Punto left the Melfi assembly line on August 11, 2018, ending a prestigious story dotted with technological and commercial records, thanks to which it held the title as the highest-selling vehicle in Italy and, at times, in Europe for many years.

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