Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Mike H
Having posted some months ago regarding a car for my lad to learn to drive in, I've decided to bite the bullet & buy one of the above, an early facelift model from 1999 onwards with the 1.2 8v engine. This decision has been made on safety grounds. However, I have no experience of life with a Fiat - do any of the backroomers have any comments on this particular car?

BTW, please do not make suggestions for alternative cars, I'm just looking for comments on this specific car at the moment. I may change my mind depending on the consensus of opinion....!
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Altea Ego
"This decision has been made on safety grounds."

Assume you are basing that on the 4 star ENCAP rating?

Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - mlj
Up to two months ago I would have recommended one, now I am not so sure. My wife bought a new one from a car 'superstore' in 2000. The exact same model you have mentioned. She loves it. Lots of space, nice drive. However, last month the wipers packed up and our local (excellent) garage discovered the whole motor assembly had more or less disintegrated. They rebuilt it with a little ingenuity and a lot of patience. Last week the car needed a whole new exhaust system. Total cost of the two jobs: £400.
Now the car may now go another four years without any hassle or this might be the start of reasonably frequent trips to the garage.
The car has only done 25K and has been serviced on schedule. She still loves the car but I sense that another bill in the next six months will change her mind.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Mike H
Yes, from reading the NCAP ratings it seems to be the safest small car that I can realistically afford. Quite frankly I'd rather keep the Saab 9000 but I doubt whether I could insure a 17-year old on a provisional license for a 170bhp turbocharged 2.3 litre!!
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - dilbert
Just in case you are flooded with messages of doom from people who have never owned one, I feel the need to jump in early!

My wife's had one for two and a half years. 1.2 8v model also. It's proved to be reliable transport. It had a small oil leak a while back (rocker cover, IIRC) which was fixed after two trips to dealer, also I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the front CV joints is not going to be with us for the long term. Other than that it has been reliable. Nothing else has broken, malfunctioned or fallen off.

It's not fast, it's a little noisy at speed and the dashboard has the feel of blow-moulded children's toys. On the flip side, it is big on the inside, buying and running costs are about as low as they get and it's not embarrassing to be seen it. The FIAT dealers I have used for maintenance have been fairly hopeless, so you may be better served by a local independent.

Hope this helps.

Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Wilco {P}
Punto's certainly seem to divide opinion - possibly you do get good or bad ones.

We own an HGT so can't comment on the specific model but some general comments are -

- Ride is firm, even on the base models - check you can live with it.
- Fiat dealers are a mixed bunch - as already stated you might be better off with a local independent mechanic.
- The cars do seems to be well built - in four years our car has very few rattles. We had a MAF failure which lead to a MOT failure but no other mechanical problems.
- 5 door has a bigger boot if that's important, 3 door looks better.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Andrew-T
I owned a 96N 75SX for 18 months without problem. Daughter had a 97P one and later swopped it for a 00X 16-valve. Other than the common problem of the paper-thin sump rusting through (pity there were no oil leaks!) there have been no probs, even including conversion for carrying infant in rear seat. You pay your money ..
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - budu
If by specific you mean Punto rather than Punto 1.2 8V, I have run a 1.2 ELX Speedgear (CVT transmission) for 3 1/2 years / 38,000 miles from new. One brake circuit went down after about four months but that has been the only problem. Mpg is 44 and 50 on tour. This does not seem to be affected by frequent use of the aircon. Very spacious, access with the 3-door model excellent. Ride a bit harsh on poor surfaces but purrs all day on motorways. Weak headlights. Well put together but a couple of features I find useless: low-geared power steering setting for close quarter use and alternative Formula 1-style gearchange. The latter can be ignored however, although the CVTs choice of ratio is often puzzling. Came with free servicing for two years although standard warranty was only one year. May not have much street cred for a young man.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Vansboy
I like Punto, just getting used to the 'new' shape, then they go & change (spoil) it.Should be an OK learners vehicle, too.

Just a thought, is your lad keen on a Fiat? Usually people tend to buy the same type of car they learn in, so it would make sense for him to be happy with it from the start.

Maybe preventing blaming 'that expletive car', for goodness knows what in the future!!

Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Halmer
My wife bought a new facelifted 1.2 8V for £6k with met paint in May.

I can't imagine that it will be particularly durable but the quality of the latest version has definitely been improved. The engine has loosened up now, the ride is better than it was and it serves the purpose. £ for £ they are an excellent buy. You wouldn't see so many about if they were crap.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Big John

Our 99 1.216v hlx has been OK, bought at three years old on private sale, clutch made a slight noise so had replaced (£170) other than that has been OK. Always does 43 mpg + old the school run! 53 mpg on a long run. Excellent AC and very quiet in all respects except road noise (some report noisy Punto's, does the hlx have more sound proofing?). Its also quite nippy.

I spotted the sump starting to rust (as mentioned in a previous posting) so have lightly sanded and painted with Hammerite, looks like new now! Also although the body is galvanised attached brackets etc seem to be welded on afterwards, I have cleaned, oiled and waxoyl undersealed these.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Sooty Tailpipes
Sister has 2000 Y 1.2 8v, very pleased with it, even I like it, and much prefer it to the Corsa or Saxos I have had as courtesy cars. Hers had a new steering column as a recall, and the wipers started to jewrk, but this was done under warranty and is apparently a common problem on all FIATs of that era....All in all, it's good value and they lose value fast, so make excellent second-hand cars.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Kingpin
I have owned a 2001 1.2 8 valve base 'Mia' model for 14 months, previous to this a Fiesta 1.25 LX so I have a good benchmark for comparison.

General thoughts on the Punto: It often feels like the curate's egg, good in parts. Some days I like it, but other days I curse it!
Interior space is excellent compared to the Fiesta, good visibility however you do seem to sit up very high and this can feel a bit unstable.
The 1.2 8 valve 'FIRE' engine felt tight when first having only 3.5k miles, but now touching 20k it has loosened up well providing better performance and economy, regular 50mpg average.
Bodywork appears solid, should not rust for a while and your thoughts on safety may be well founded.
Insurance is group 3 which is pretty much as low as you can go, with the exception of Daewoo Matiz in group 2, or Corsa 1.0 in group 1. Appearance wise, I like the look of mine and the recent facelift is OK too, but the rear styling is a matter of personal taste.
A couple of major points - the ride quality is the worst I have ever encountered, makes my Fiesta feel like a limousine. Extremely unsettled feeling every little bump in the road, channels and ridges in the road shudder through the car. This has been addressed on the recent facelift model from Aug 2003, you may notice these ones are a few inches higher off the road with altered suspension. If you are a young driver with your first car then it probably is not a major problem, but having experienced other cars it is a shocker! I have experimented with tyre pressures with no improvement so until I can afford a swap I must live with it and only dream of French soft suspension.
Handling is OK, a bit top heavy, not as razor sharp as the Fiesta 1.25 though.
Engine - can run a bit rough for the first 100 yards from cold, suspect emission regs very tight and not rich enough mixture, but cannot be tweaked obviously. Also a slight regular misfire when warm, noticed when sitting at traffic lights. Again a symtom of very tight emission settings. Annoying when Japanese engines run like a Swiss watch. The gearing on the car is extremely high, this makes it a very quiet car to drive but on motorway inclines you have to drop to 3rd and rev it to make progress. High gearing aids the good economy figure but robbs it of any brio and zip of the old Punto and Uno. Also watch out for coolant system faults, keep an eye on the expansion tank level. Mine had a gurgling sound from behind the heater controls - a dead give away of an air lock. I managed to cure it with some DIY bleeding of the system. Hopefully this will stop any cylinder head gasket drama as 30k approaches.
Pound for pound they are cheap to buy, but lose value like nothing else, so at part exchange time in a few years is no fun. However for a new driver they are OK, and if a good colour is selected with painted bumpers, a set of alloy wheels can transform the car into an attractive vehicle.

Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Another John H

>Engine - can run a bit rough for the first 100 yards from cold, suspect emission regs very tight and not rich enough mixture, but cannot be tweaked obviously. Also a slight regular misfire when warm, noticed when sitting at traffic lights.


>Mine had a gurgling sound from behind the heater controls - a dead give away of an air lock. I managed to cure it with some DIY bleeding of the system.


FAO Acanthus:

IMHO your cylinder head gasket was damaged during the gurgling incident.
The first set of comments above is indicative of a small coolant leak into a cylinder - watch your coolant level...
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Mike H
Just a thought, is your lad keen on a Fiat?

No, being a teenager he's just keen on anything that someone else is paying for....

He's spent most of his life being driven round in Saabs (no choice for hom so far). I suspect that when he's had some experience of driving he'll form his own opinions. He certainly knows his dislikes at the moment but Fiat is really an unknown to him at the moment.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - aaflyer
Agree here with Budu's comments.

I'd recommend them. Run a 1.2 16v HLX CVT. Fantastic space inside and the aircon is spot on at this time of year. Granted, it looks a little ugly from the back, but having the slightly wider 185/60 14 Pirelli P3000 Energies at each corner gives the car a more 'agressive', sturdy look from behind and front.

Yes, the ride is shockingly hard and will rattle your fillings; there's a little groan from brakes when used at low speed (even though drum and discs/pads checked at recent Fiat service); two candles would be better than the headlights; the sunroof cover never stays in place; and 3/4 visibility is nil, but I like it. Put your foot to the axminster from a standing start and the peppy little 1242cc will haul you to 40 in light speed with the CVT making optimal use of gearing. Plenty of astonished 'hot-hatch' brigade looks. Great! However, it's not great from 40-60 / 50-70 and overtaking on single roads takes a little confidence!

Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - paulb {P}
My family have been running Puntos of various sorts for years, both old and current shapes. No trouble with any of them. My better half has a 1.2 8v base model of the sort you're looking at getting. Very nice little car and very well-behaved. Manages 36-38 mpg round town and better than 45 on a run.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Mike H
My better half has a 1.2 8v base model
of the sort you're looking at getting.

I think you mean other half ;-). Not thinking of selling it are you?
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - daveyK_UK
QUOTE ---------------------------

mlj Mon 21 Jun 04 16:50

However, last month the wipers packed up and our local (excellent) garage discovered the whole motor assembly had more or less disintegrated. They rebuilt it with a little ingenuity and a lot of patience.

Had same problem on 03 1.2 8v 5 door active.
Dealer gave me a 1.2 16v for 3 weeks while waited for part - alot better engine and far more fun to drive. If i was going for anoter punto i would certianly choose the 16valve.

Decent car for space - just seemed to flimsy and some of the fit was poor.
In its favour - doesnt rust as much as kia/hyundai!

I might be in the market for a new punto before they replace it late next year - tempting if the suspension has been sorted out.

BTW - there is a hole in the exhaust. Its a fiat design fault, and to put a long story short - they had to put a hole in the box to prevent it rusting. Its a pain and reduces slightly your mpg, but able to live with.

Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - brianrh
We've had a 2000(X) 1.2 8v Punto ELX for over two years now and we have done about 16000 miles in that time. We've had lots of problems, the car has been off the road for days at a time and cost quite a bit to get repaired. It has cost more to run per mile than our 99(T) Vectra.

I know other people with Puntos and I have to say that there has been a higher proportion of them with problems than people I know with other makes of car.

We can't afford to sell the Punto so we just use it as little as possible and keep putting extra miles on the Vectra. We wouldn't dare buy another Fiat.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - paulb {P}
>> My better half has a 1.2 8v base model
>> of the sort you're looking at getting.
I think you mean other half ;-). Not thinking of
selling it are you?

No, definitely better half.... :-)

Selling it? Sadly not - she's very attached to it. I can, however, recommend the supplying dealer (PDH Garages in Hassocks, West Sussex) without hesitation - my family have been customers of theirs for around 10 years and they have been very good. They always seem to have an enormous quantity of used Puntos for sale (I think they get a lot of the ex-fleet ones, given the number of Bristol registrations one sees on their forecourt).
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - lordwoody
I had an 01 X reg HGt for about 9 months, having previously had a Saab 9000. I've had quite a few Fiats in the past and had very few problems with them. The Punto was good fun and troublefree for a while, but the appalling ride quality of the HGT began to wear very thin and I sold it and bought a Saab 9-5. The difference in ride was a revelation.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Mike H
Good choice, at least I get to keep my 9-5 even though I lose the 9000!
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Andrew-T
PaulB has raised a good point - large numbers of Puntos reach the private market after 5-10K miles in a rental fleet, so the quality can vary quite a bit. Check thoroughly, especially for complete documents (and the ones that belong to the car - my daughter's Punto came from a franchise, but its service record is for another car).
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Mike H
Well, they only seem to have one Punto in stock at the moment :-(, but I'll check the site regularly. Thanks for the tip.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - paulb {P}
Well, they only seem to have one Punto in stock at
the moment :-(, but I'll check the site regularly. Thanks
for the tip.

For some reason, Fiat's own "approved used" site always seems to show more of their stock than their own site, I'm never sure why - Fiat site therefore might be worth a punt(o). Sorry, couldn't resist! :-)
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - GIM
Please please DO NOT buy a Fiat Punto we have had three in our family,on mine the head gasket went at 35,000 miles, on my daughter's car the head gasket went at 34,000 miles. My wiring loom burn out in a very odd place, her wiring loom burnt out in exactly the same place. On mine I had to replace two rear brake drums that went oval. My sump rusted through. The linkage broke in the air filter box that routes hot air to the engine in cold weather (£125),plus many other faults.
My daughter (against my advice) then brought a brand new Fiat Punto (the latest model) recently at just under three years old the windscreen wiper motor has broken (they won't pay under warranty as she was one week late for her first service). And now guess what, her sump has rusted through ...... mine rusted throught 4 years ago ... they have had that long to resolve the problem .... maybe an extra couple of quid to galvanise the sumps ... but stuff the customer.
I will now ONLY buy a Toyota or Honda.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Lud
Very economical. Quiet. Will pull 100mph on the motorway once you're there. Bit jelly-like and unstable on fast bumpy bends, but not frighteningly so. Best driven fairly gently, when it is refined, comfortable and super-frugal.

Hired one in Spain the other week, 10,000 miles or so, still mechanically perfect.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - bell boy
the complete wiper and linkage for these i obtained at my factors all in for £55 fiat are about £120.
It takes 20 minutes to fit as they are a complete cartridge.
Sumps do rot, cover it in hammerite or grease etc when you buy it and then forget the problem.
Personally i think they are good cars but the later ones do seem to suffer from ecu blow ups,something i never encountered with the mk1 of which i have dealt in lots of and rated them highly.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - wrangler_rover
Bought my 1.2 8 valve new in Jan 02, it's now done 70k miles, serviced on schedule at an independant, I've taught my 2 sons to drive in it and now my youngest drives it most of the time and drives it mercilessly (went through a set of front brake pads in 13k miles. The problems I've had:
Needed a complete new exhaust system at 3 years.
Needed front discs at 3 years.
Radio cassette packed up, replaced under warranty.
The battery will need replacing this winter.
Can belt is soon due for replacement at 72k
Permanent oil leak from rocker cover gasket, treat this gasket as a consumable.
In my opinion, they are a good car that will take a lot of punishment, or am I just lucky to have bought a good one?
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - former farmer
I was looking for a small car for my 17 daughter to learn to drive, last summer which would come

below a £3000 budget for car plus one year's insurance. After looking at polos, corsas fiestas

etc I found a '51'reg for £2000 with about 35k miles on the clock.First point I would make is

that second hand values of fiat are well below similar sized other popular models.

The one I bought,1.2 8valve, had a head casket replacement done 6months previously, an authentic

invoice,£700 was among the paper work. Since then I have replaced a lamba sensor and an

electrical part of the air bag system at a cost of £200 approx.

My daughter has found it fine as first car, though road noise is definitely present not a serious

problem. My own feeling is that fiat build quality is not upto today's standards it was

acceptable given the much lower purchase price. I fancy there are more than a few real lemons out

there which one would regret getting involved with.

And incidently we did get close to budget of £3000 thanks to Tesco insurance at £850
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - bimmer-driver
I personally wouldn't go anywhere near one unless you like spending time sitting at the side of the road waiting for the AA- a mate had one and everything you could think of went wrong. Wipers packed up in pouring rain, headgasket went, then the clutch gave up the ghost, then the exhaust dropped off, then when it was back running properly again the ECU packed in.
Still, atleast when its broken down you don't have to put up with the awful ride and gutless engine.
In a word, don't.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - bell boy
gutless engine.

unfair, they are cracking engines.
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - MG Man
You do seem to get mixed reports on Punto but all I can say is I bought a new pre reg 1.2 8V Punto Active in June 2003, its now done 76K with very few problems detailed as as follows

Stickimg Bonnet catch, replaced under warrenty
New front disks needed at about 50k
Complete new exhaust pipe a couple of months ago.

Engine is very refined if driven resonably wouldnt call it gutless, can do up to 50mpg, bargin motoring.

Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Galad
My neighbour owned a 1999 Punto from new and the clutch assembly went at 2 years with just 18k on the clock. Her main dealer admitted the clutch was a weakness on the Punto
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - andymc {P}
Mainly due to the excellent 3-years free insurance deal available at the time (we were quids in relative to paying separately for three years insurance), we owned two pre-facelift 1999 Puntos with the 16-valve 1.2 engine for 45k and 38k miles respectively. Nothing ever went wrong with either of them that wasn't caused by accident damage, and the accident damage to ourselves was limited by the good safety design. My accident was a near head-on collision when another driver strayed over the white line, clashing/skimming the two offsides of each car. I was unhurt even though the front wing and door skin were ripped off.
My wife's accident happened at a crossroads, where a lorry skidded as it sped around the corner from the right and ploughed into the front of her car - she was still maybe eight feet from the white line. It gave her just enough time to haul the wheel to the left so the car could roll in the direction of the impact. Nevertheless, the car was shoved backwards several feet from the point of collision. The whole front end on that side was concertina'd right up to the cabin, yet the windscreen remained intact, the doors still opened, and nothing entered the cabin to cause an injury - the pedals, steering column and dashboard were still far enough from her not to cause injury and the damage to her back (substantial whiplash) was caused by the violence of the impact, rather than anything striking her body. I'm just glad she survived and I think that was mainly due do the strength of the safety cell and the design of the crumple zone.
The reason I didn't want another Punto (or any Fiat) was because of the ergonomics - the pedals were too close in relation to the steering wheel, and offset to the right.

Vroom, vroom - mmm, doughnuts ...
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - andymc {P}
Oops, I mean the pedals were offset to the left - especially the accelerator.
Vroom, vroom - mmm, doughnuts ...
Fiat Punto 1999-on - experiences? - Gromit {P}
As expected, the Punto has polarised opinion on whether its a good car or not. With two in the household (one a 00 1.2 8V, the other an old-style 99 1.2 8V), I can offer the following suggestions:

1) Your son should test drive a Punto before buys or, if he's not insured, try to get a driving lesson with a school that has one. The clutch bites much quicker than a Micra or Corsa, so both my brother and I found the Puntos harder to drive smoothly than the driving school cars we had left behind.

2) Rear visibility from the 3 door isn't great: again, try before you buy.

3) Punto headgaskets do fail: the 99 car's went at 59K, the 00's is currently under suspicion at 70K. I'd recommend an 8 valve engine over a 16 valve - the 60bhp is only adequate for the car's weight, but there's less chance of serious damage with half the valves if the headgasket does fail before your son recognises the symptoms.

4) Early 99/00 Puntos suffered ECU failures - check the car-by-car breakdown for details.

5) The model you're considering has a known design fault whereby the wiper arm sticks in operation, causing the motor to burn out. Some dealers will claim the full motor and arm assembly has to be replaced (expensive - about ?250), but my brother's local Fiat dealer were able to repair the arm instead.

6) Your son won't find another small car that looks better for the money. Other small cars look girly or granny, and no 17 year old lad wants that!

Now the good points: even allowing for the cost of the inevitable headgasket repair, both Puntos have been very cheap to run. Neither has ever left us stranded by the roadside. They're spacious enough for four to travel in comfort, and with the back seat folded down they'll become a useful removals van for the end of the college term, carrying hobby stuff or for you to use on a run to B&Q.

In a nutshell, I'm happy with mine: it does what it says on the tin - it provides cheap motoring. I'd buy another as a runabout, but maybe not as a car I depended to cover high mileage for work (which is why the brother's Punto is being traded for an Astra).

Ask Honest John

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