Fiat Punto (1999–2006)

What's good

  • Fiat improved the Punto in every area where the old model was criticised. 1999 car has a sharp 'designer' look that could tempt Polo buyers, and one of the best driving environments of any small car.
  • New torsion beam rear suspension helps handling and comfort and eliminates the bearing wear problem of the old model. Galvanized bodies won't rust. Amazing range of bright and attractive metallic colours.
  • Four-Star NCAP crash safety rating. Three proper three-point rear seatbelts standard in HLX spec and above; £75 extra in base models. 
  • 'Red Key' security system abandoned, which makes buying second-hand easier. 
  • All models from 60S up have height-adjustable steering wheel, drivers seat with lumbar support and dual assist electric power steering. (Can select ultra light for City use.)
  • Plenty of headroom. 
  • 29-12-2016: Report of ex-demo 2004 FIAT Punto 1.3 Multijet reaching 92,000 miles with only batteries, tyres, new fuel filter and a set of glowplugs needed.

What's bad

  • 'Space saver' emergency wheel.
  • Interior not quite as roomy as old model, but has stowage pockets everywhere and lots of brilliant design features that bring a smile.
  • Indicator stalk unpleasant to use and does not always self-cancel.
  • Dual mode power steering gives electric power to column rather than rack, and in 'City' mode feels almost frighteningly light.
  • 7-speed CVT may seem to have too many gears, and constant gearchanging slows acceleration. Doubts remain over longevity of CVT.
  • Thick rear pillars make reversing 3 door more difficult.
  • Headlights don't give out much light, and integrated foglights are a £400 extra.
  • 12th from Bottom of 100 models for reliability in Auto Express 2002 survey. 6th from bottom out of 137 models in 2003 Top Gear survey.
  • 8th from bottom in 2007 UK J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Survey with 74.9% score.

What to watch out for

If buying nearly new look for silly damage from careless renters and their kids. Signs of water ingress (wet carpets).

Problems with the electric power steering and steering column (the column is directly driven by an electric motor) on Puntos built between 12-2-2001 and 18-5-2001.

Also incorrect racks seem to have been fitted to some RHD 2000MY Puntos, with the result that electric power assistance can suddenly be lost. If buying a 'new' or 'nearly new' Punto check with your FIAT dealer that the steering bearing bush has been replaced. Other fuse and wiring problems with the PAS on Puntos generally.

Internal and external filters together with the ATF of the Speedgear box MUST be changed at 24k miles.

Make sure coolant in expansion tank up to the mark.

Make sure door hinges properly grease coated.

If a manual, check the transmission and clutch.

Essential to use the correct spark plugs or the ECU can become confused. Oil sump pans still rust through in as little as 5 years.

Reports of wrong size pistons having been fitted to 80bhp 1.2 16v engines (symptom: rattling noise).

Also problems with throttle potentiometer, throttle body and air pressure sensor of 1.2 16v.

Reports of head gasket failure on 1.2 60bhp 8v at around 35k miles.

Reports of gearbox and clutch problems.

Reports of squealing water pumps leading to timing belt failure. Reports of door hinges failing at around 4 years old.

Head gasket failure is often due to build up of pressure from sludge blockages due to internal corrosion of the radiator and heater matrix. Highly advisable to replace coolant every 2 years to ensure corrosion inhibitors in it remain up to strength.

Sump pans rust.

20-6-2011: Oil cooler of 1,248cc diesel is integral with oil filter mount, using engine coolant to cool the oil and these sometimes fail. Check header tank for any sign of oil in it.

22-2-2012: Reader sensibly pointed out that £700 failure of Electric Power Steering Motor can make a cheap Punto very expensive, though, in fairness, any expensive failure in a car more than 8 years old can economically write it off.

13-2-2017: 2nd actuator failure reported on 2006/56 FIAT Punto Dualogic. First in February 2010 at 18,834 miles, requiring part number 0055222254. Fiat covered half of the actuator cost. Case Reference 31517167. Same thing has happened again 36,000 miles later in February 2017.

Recalls

26-7-2000: 2,016 Puntos with air conditioning built 8/1999 - 7/2000 recalled because fuel vapour recirculation pipe might foul against a/c compressor resulting in risk of fire. Re-circulation pipe to be repositioned away from compressor.

31-5-2001: Faulty batch of bearing bushes fitted to the top section of powered steering columns of Puntos and Punto vans built between 1-2-2001 and 28-5-2001. Affects 21,112 cars. Fit new steering column if bearing found to be cracked.

12-12-2001: TSB dealer fix for juddering wipers caused by too much grease on the contacts of the wiper relay. Check for signs of head gasket failure on 55s and 60s as this happens very frequently.

02-02-2008: TSB on Indian built 1.3 Multijet diesel engines to replace the head gaskets. Engines affected are serial numbers 2451169 to 2582915. Parts to fix in Fiat dealers from March 2008.

What is your car like to live with?

We need your help with our latest Satisfaction Index, so that we can help others make a smarter car buying decision. What's it like to live with your car? Love it? Loath it? We want to know. Let us know about your car - it will only take a few minutes and you could be helping thousands of others.

Help us with the Honest John Satisfaction Index now