Car Review: Fiat - Punto Evo  Series 09 (4 stars)

Recommended. More refined, better inside and good value, the Punto Evo is a worthy and appealing supermini, if not a class-topper.

This is the latest Fiat Punto Evo, a reworked and comprehensively facelifted version of the Grande Punto with a raft of modifications to help it compete in the bulging supermini segment.

But let's get one thing straight from the start. The 'Evo' bit has nothing to do with performance, so calm down hot hatch fans (there'll be an Abarth Punto along for you in due course.)

As you might expect 'Evo' stands for evolution (as it does with the Mitsubishi rally-rep) but here it refers to the process of modernisation that Fiat has put the Grande Punto through to make it into this cosmetically and technically enhanced model.

Biggest changes are under the bonnet where revolutionary new engines - known as MutliAir petrols and MultiJet diesels - have been introduced. These are not only super-efficient but have more power than their capacity suggests. The high-end 1.4-litre turbo petrol produces an impressive 133bhp yet returns close to 60mpg.

But it's the 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel with 93bhp is expected to be the biggest seller, and this motor can return a massive 67.3mpg. That's possible because it uses a revolutionary new common rail injection process, with eight individual cycles. Without doubt it's the engine that best suits the Punto Evo, offering smooth, reasonably quiet and fuss-free progress. It's not massively quick though - 0-60mph takes 13.6 seconds and top speed is an unremarkable 102mph.

Extra bits of jewellery like LED running lights and a new honeycomb front grille have been added to enhance the Punto Evo's look, but otherwise the Grande Punto's sleek and neat silhouette remains unchanged.

Quality has been a big and much needed focus point here though, particularly in the cabin, which has been refitted with plusher textiles and more equipment, including an integrated TomTom system with Blue&Me multimedia as an option. This allows MP3 playback from a USB stick or iPod. A flimsy cabin was one of the biggest complaints customers had with the Grande Punto in the 2008 JD Power survey (where it placed a disappointing 92nd out of 100) and is something Fiat has worked hard to successfully fix here.

On the road, the Punto Evo handles capably although its sloppy steering can sometimes frustrate. It's not as sharp as a Ford Fiesta but will do the job for most owners. What's more impressive is the extra sound deadening, which makes the Punto Evo a good deal quieter than the old model, both in terms of wind noise and tyre roar. It's not crypt-quiet like VW's Polo, but it feels like a much more upmarket proposition than its predecessor.

Happily, Fiat has managed to keep the pricing for the Punto Evo identical to the outgoing Grande Punto. So it starts at around £9500 and goes up to around £13,500, which represents decent value for money in the class. Intriguingly, the old Grande Punto will be kept on for the time being as a lower-cost run out model, giving customers an even cheaper (if slightly elderly) option in these tight financial times.

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