Monday, October 22, 2012

Punto MJD Emotion Pack - Long term review

Long Term Review - Punto MJD Emotion Pack

It’s been over a year since I got Sabu. I went through a lot of reviews and forums before finalizing on Punto and had promised myself that I would write a long term review from my own experience for every year of my ownership (or as long as FIAT is still selling in India, whichever is sooner). So here goes.

At the time of buying, I started with a budget of 2 lacs, to buy a second hand Accent. However during the search I got bit by the BCMT bug and thus I had to opt for something all terrain. Since SUVs were out of budget, a hatchback had to be it. Now among hatchbacks Punto was the car I fancied the most.

Swift was never an option for me as I have never liked any maruti car design except for SX4. Figo had the well know ground clearance issue while i20 was too premium feel car which I thought would be difficult to take off-road. Frankly I had the budget for i20 (D) but I did not even take a test ride, as I was scared I might like it too much. J

Thus Punto was finalized and brought home in August’11.

I was driving a 1998 Zen for last 8 years and this was a huge upgrade for me. The cabin gave a feeling of space and the front seats are the most comfortable seats for a hatch in India (in its price range). The engine sound in cabin is on the higher side but it’s not high enough to be a deal breaker for anyone. The driver side footwell is a bit cramped while the front passenger seat has ample leg room to accommodate a fairly large person rather comfortably. The rear seat is also big enough for three adults and I have on occasions had 4 adults and 1 kid at the back seat without much complaints.

Coming to the plastics, they may not be bad to look at but certainly feel cheap to touch. The interior fit and finish is one of the worst in a Punto with most inside door handles loosing paint/polish on the rubbing edges, wiper and indicator stalks feel cheap to touch, infact my Zen had better plastics than Punto. The glove box has a slight misalignment which is a birth defect and I have to live with it. The car is so badly put together from inside that within first 4 months the rear C-Pillar panel, supporting the parcel tray, came off. It was probably glued back and is now again coming off. The interior finish and lack of quality control is the thing that puts me off the most.

The Blue and Me system that came with the car is also a bag of mixed emotions. Although I love having the controls on steering but the fact that it has No A2DP or AUX support and also that USB can only be controlled from steering controls, is a pain indeed. However the sound quality and output is good enough.

As bad the car may be in terms of interior fit and finish, it’s absolutely top notch from the outside. Punto’s design is what makes it one of the best looking hatch in the country and the paint and panel’s quality does not disappoint either. Here again the plastic parts like one at the top edge of the bonnet do disappoint. It turned white within first week of buying the car. Otherwise car gives a solid feel from outside and makes you feel safe inside. The bumpers are made of strong materials and can take moderate impacts without damage. I had my car hit from behind twice, both times while I was stationary at a red light. First time it was an i10 which dropped its front bumper from one side while Punto had a minor misalignment. Second time I was hit by a truck from behind, and the impact made my car hit a figo in front, which again had a big crack in the rear bumper while I had a scratch on mine, although my rear bumper and tailgate had to be replaced after this incident. So I would give full marks to Punto in terms of structural strength and as per my study the only other car in same range that is structurally as sound is Polo.

Driving pleasure is the forte of Punto. Here it gets full marks always.

Punto’s hydraulic steering is said to be one of the well-made units in business. It’s true. I felt its brilliance on my trips to hills and the way car handled turns. Bodyroll is minimal and you can maintain good speed on turns without the fear of car toppling over. The turbo kick is also gradual and increases the pleasure of driving. There is no lack of power in the car even on mountains if you learn how to keep it in the right rev range. Braking inspires confidence and all round visibility from the driver’s seat is also adequate.

The only two things that might bother a new punto drives are: Large turning radius and a harder steering as compared to the EPS units on Hyundais and Marutis. However it does give you stability on higher speeds.

Punto is an out and out highway car. Its high speed stability is amazing, many cars can touch speeds over 150 kmph, but few hatches can give a sense of stability and control at 164 kmph with 5 adults on board.

Ground clearance myth:
I have heard a lot about people having a lot of issues with Punto’s ground clearance, well I have emotion pack version with 15 inch alloy wheels I would have hit the underbelly twice or thrice in last 1 year. The only part where you need to be careful is, while going down/up an abrupt incline as the front bumper’s lower tip may touch the road. Otherwise even with high load on bad roads I have never had an issue of ground clearance. It may not be the same case for models with 14 inch wheels. Also the only thing that gets hit in the underbelly is the engine guard, which is there for exact same purpose.

Please Note: I am still going to go for the GC upgrade as I think no amount of clearance is enough for Ladakh

Maintenance & Mileage:
Coming to the cost of ownership part. Although it has its flaws when it comes to interiors, it also covered well by the warranty and you would not have to argue for getting a faulty part replaced as that is the first thing they do themselves. Also the parts and spares for Punto are very competitively priced. I have been maintaining a sheet detailing all my expenses on fuel and service till date and my overall mileage is 15.86 kmpl. Please note this figure is low as my daily office commute is 25 kms (total) out which around 10 km is spent in bumper to bumper traffic. When I commute from my East delhi home, the mileage goes up to 17-18 kmpl.

Link to the sheet
Vital Stats from the sheet:

Total Fuel (litres)

Total Distance (km)

Total Fuel Cost (Rs)

Total Mileage (km/l)

Running Cost Per KM

Total Cost of Running including service and Maintenance

Overall per km Cost

Final Words:
There are so many reasons to select a car, my reason was I fell in love with its looks. The pleasure to drive part was realized after buying the car. I am still in love with it and would make sure is travels the length and breadth of our country (maybe even beyond) as long as it is with me.