I have just returned from my first road trip with Pumba our Punto and, while I have discovered a few more things that bother me about this car, I have to admit that, overall, the Punto was quite impressive as it chewed up just short of 2 000 km of Western Cape tar on the road to Sedgefield and a few trips to Knysna.
The route, which started in Paarl, through Franschhoek, over the pass, through Villiersdorp and onto the N2 highway, provided a variety of road types and gave me a good feel of the car’s dynamics and ride quality.
The power-assisted electro-hydraulic steering provides good feedback and leans towards the heavy side. This, teamed with the punchy turbocharged 1,4-litre unit, meant that tackling the twisty bits of the Franschhoek Pass and the back roads of the Western Cape was not only easy, but also fun and quite impressive. The MacPherson suspension set-up was more than capable of taking on the various road surfaces and, while I can’t describe the ride as something that stood out, it wasn’t an uncomfortable drive and I really have nothing negative to say about it.
We were only two people in the car, but between us we managed to fill the boot of the Punto. This is not a sign of a small boot, but rather a sign of my bad packing skills. The boot swallowed a medium-sized travel bag, a large tog bag, a medium-sized backpack and a few coats and jackets with ease. During our week in Sedgefield, we added three extra people to our car and did a few trips into Knysna with them at the back. Everyone fitted in, but it did look a little snug.
On the drive home we had to tackle the very wet roads and very cold conditions of the Western Cape. I like the heater on, but my other half likes a cool cabin. You would think that having dual-zone air-con would cure this predicament, but unfortunately not. The temperatures of the two sides of the car can never be more than seven degrees apart. When I tried to get my side warmer, it adjusted my partner’s side to be within the seven-degree limit. Another thing I discovered on this trip is a slight rattle in the A-pillar. It got on our nerves a bit, but we were able to mask it with loud music (off an MP3 CD because, annoyingly, this flagship model doesn’t come equipped with the Fiat Blue&Me system that offers USB, Bluetooth and auxiliary plug-ins).
With regards to the few niggles that we had before – the clutch no longer squeaks (we suspect it has seen enough mileage and has been worn in) and the fuel gauge and fuel range read-out work perfectly (unless you have the ignition on while filling up. Then it won’t give the correct fuel reading or range).
We also recently had a puncture in one of our front tyres. It proved to be a bit of a mission to get it replaced. After calling to a few tyre outlets, we found out that our Goodyear Excellence 195/55 R16 tyre was not available in South Africa. The very efficient guys at Tiger Wheel and Tyre in Cape Town CBD recommended that we opt for a Goodyear Efficient Grip 195/55R16 tyre. This, however, meant that we had to replace both front tyres to make sure that it was the same. The total cost of the new tyre plus balancing, alignment and labour came to R2 796,95. This isn’t exactly an amount that you have lying around in spare change.
Mileage on arrival (km): 1 061
Mileage now (km): 9 325
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 6,8
We like: Engine, good spec levels
We don’t like: Limited functionality of the dual-zone air-con, A-pillar rattle, lack of USB/aux input, tyres that aren’t available in South Africa
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