Fiat killed off its Punto hatchback after 13 years in production.
There’s something about Italian cars. They may not be the absolute last word in reliability, and they may not be the safest cars out there – we’ll come back to that in a minute – but they have a certain sense of flair few other cars possess. At least when it comes to their design. Even thirteen years on, the Fiat Punto as designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro still looks like a fun little car. There was even a 178 horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged engine in the Abarth-tuned “SS” performance model.
Time and a lack of innovation, however, have not been kind to the Punto. After first going into production in 2005 as the “Grande Punto”, Fiat has killed the model off. Fiat did facelift the model in 2009 – calling it the Punto Evo – then facelifted it again in 2012. With the last facelift, Fiat stopped trying to rebrand the small hatchback and just went back to calling it the Punto.
Unfortunately, they also dropped the Abarth SS model due to slow sales. After that, the model ticked along with boring, humdrum powertrains while its competitors were revamped. Mind you, the Punto never went on sale in the United States – we got the 500 instead – but it was a popular car in Europe when the latest generation first launched, selling just over 400,000 units.
Safety nightmares force Fiat to punt the Punto
Yes, this car never sold in the United States. However, to answer the question of whether “bad” cars still exist in the world need look no further than the Punto. At least, it’s bad on the grounds of safety. Euro NCAP – a vehicle safety agency akin to the NHTSA or IIHS here in the U.S. – test new cars to destruction. They perform crash tests, and score the cars they test on a scale up to five stars.
In its full year on sale, the Fiat Punto became the first car ever to score a zero-star crash safety rating. It scored poorly on protection for adult occupants, children and pedestrians. All around, it’s just not a safe car to be in. On the grounds of slumping sales and poor safety results, it makes sense for Fiat to kill the model. In fairness, it’s an aging model that didn’t stand much of a chance against its modern competition and, indeed, modern safety standards. It’s unlikely the company will replace it anytime in the near future, either.
However, the news still makes some of us at the TFLcar office a bit sad. We love hatchbacks, and Italian hatchbacks are some of the most charismatic around. Still, at least we have the diminutive 500 – even if it’s starting to show its age – and the 124 Spider.