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Motoring Review - Fiat Grande Punto Abarth

PUBLISHED: 15:45 30 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013

Fiat Grande Punto Abarth

Fiat Grande Punto Abarth

The Scorpion returns...

The scorpion badge of Abarth & Co of Turin still excites those who remember the glory days of this company which was once synonymous with Fiat-based high performance cars.

Fiat acquired the Abarth name when the company closed in 1971 but has waited until now to re-use it. As I drove over to Autoworld of Chesterfield to collect the Fiat Grande Punto Abarth to test drive I wondered if Fiat would have produced a car that would be able to live up to the illustrious history of the Abarth name.

The car I had to test was red with the Abarth name written across the bottom of the door. The car sits lower than the standard Punto on stylish 17 inch alloys, through which you can clearly see the bright red Bembo brake callipers, and is equipped with an integrated front bumper that houses the front lights. Blacked-out rear windows and a rear spoiler add to this great looking Italian car. The car looks purposeful in an almost challenging way, in looks it certainly deserves the Abarth badge.

Settling into the comfortable and supportive front seats, which have built in head restraints, you are confronted by an interior that is both smart and subtle in its design. The Abarth badge sits in the centre of the leather bound steering wheel while the rest of the interior is clad in a mixture of black leather and suede with red stitching. The instrument panel is simple but certainly gives the car a sporty feel.

The Abarth is fitted with a 1.4 litre turbo-charged T-jet engine which produces 153 bhp. On turning the key your ears are given a treat as the slightly high note of the exhaust is most pleasing. Before pulling off I noticed the sports boost button in the centre of the dash board and of course, being me, opted to switch it on! After a short while it became evident that the Fiat Grande Punto Abarth is a real 'Italian pocket rocket'.

When pushed hard the Punto Abarth is impressive for a front wheel drive, with no under-steer and little torque steer. The gear change is very positive and the switch gear, which you might expect to let the car down, is equally as good. With the sports boost on, the power delivery is instant and harsh, but guaranteed to put a smile on your face, even with the credit crunch affecting us all. Another factor that really stands out is the braking. This is so often overlooked but in this case it is just as good if not better than the acceleration. With a 0- 60 time of 8.2 seconds the Grande Punto Abarth is as good as anything in its class and will power you to a top speed of 129 mph.

If that is not quite quick enough for you then Autoworld of Chesterfield are one of only twelve dealers in the UK and Ireland approved to fit the two upgrades available - the Assetto and the Essesse. The Assetto kit improves the brakes and suspension, including cross-drilled brake discs front and rear, special lower springs and 18 inch alloy wheels. This costs around 2,000 including fitting. For me the one to have would be the Essesse kit which for around 4,000 includes everything in the Assetto kit plus an impressive engine upgrade with a special air filter, a garrett turbo, and a refresh of the engine control unit which boosts the power output to 180 bhp. The extra power will take the Grande Punto Abarth "Essesse" to 134 mph top speed with 0-60 achieved in a little over 7.7 seconds.

Whether you decide to go for one of the upgrades, will be down to personal choice and budget, but I must say that the more I drove the Abarth Punto the more I liked it. I am sure I would be envious of any one having the Essesse upgrade, which is probably why they will fit the kits with a full warranty of up to one year after your initial purchase.

It's true to say that this is a fast little car, but when driven with the sports boost button switch off, the car is transformed into a car with impeccable manners. It's also true to say that the Abarth is very practical for a car of its size. There's not a lot of room in the rear seats, as you would expect, but it does have a very reasonably sized boot. The Grande Punto Abarth comes with the now standard safety equipment and includes passenger, driver and side air bags ABS and ESP. It's also fitted with an engine immobiliser to keep it safe.

This is a great little Italian car that does live up to the Abarth name and I feel sure it will prove a very popular choice with motoring enthusiasts.

Prices start from 13,500 on the road For further details contact Autoworld Chesterfield on 01246 450450.

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