The Fiat Punto is back with a fresh face and a $4000 price cut. The Italian five-door hatch now starts at $16,000 drive-away, making it one of the cheapest Europeans on the market.

The Punto disappeared from Australian showrooms three years ago after slow sales. But it’s back with a revised model line-up that takes in some minor visual changes to the lights and bumpers and an updated interior.

Explore the 2013 Fiat Punto Range

Price and equipment

Priced from $16,000 drive-away, the Punto now comes with Bluetooth phone connectivity but still lacks wireless audio streaming. The Punto Pop comes with a USB port located in the glovebox (hidden behind a little rubber bung type protector) while the Easy and Lounge have their Aux in and USB ports exposed in the centre console. The Punto also has one of the cheapest satellite navigation upgrades in the business. The $595 optional touchscreen plugs in to the top of the dash.

Engine and transmission

The 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine produces 57 kW and 115Nm. There's a choice of either a five-speed manual or five-speed robotised manual transmission.

Safety

Armed with six airbags and stability control the previous generation Punto scored a five-star safety rating from ANCAP. The new one has not been tested but it’s unlikely to have gone backwards.

Driving

The Punto has been around since 2006. As it approaches its eighth birthday (old age in the car world) this is its third update. It still drives well, soaks up the daily grind with ease and visibility is good all around because of the large glass area (at a time when car windows appear to be getting smaller).

But the 1.4-litre petrol engine is a little underdone even in small car terms. When matched to the optional five-speed robotised manual ($1500 more) it can be downright frustrating. Unlike the more modern twin-clutch automated gearboxes, this is an older design and the shifts are slower and more pronounced.

In practical terms it means the Punto is slow to grab a new gear and it can feel like an eternity, even if it does only take a few seconds to respond. Modern automated twin-clutch gearboxes shift in milliseconds. Three-point turns come with a new level of anxiety with one of these gearboxes. You have been warned.

The reason the Italians are slow to embrace twin-clutch or even conventional automatic gearbox technology is because manual gearboxes still account for the majority of sales in Europe. In Australia it’s the other way around.

Sharpening the purchase price makes the Punto a more attractive position than before but Fiat does not yet have capped price servicing, so be sure to shop around.

Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first) and the warranty is three years/150,000km (the distance sounds generous but in reality Fiat know most drivers rarely do more than 50,000km over three years).


This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling