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1 year, 4 months and almost 45,000 kms after, I'm in awe! (Punto MJD Emotion)

Discussion in 'Punto 1.3 MJD' started by cassini, Apr 26, 2014.

  1. cassini

    cassini Novizio

    Messages:
    42
    Bangalore
    Germany
    Grande Punto 1.3
    Hello Bangalore!
    Young, newly-married, and just moved to the garden-city, Bangalore. That's how it all started. The year was 2012. We're basically from Kerala and the garden-city immediately made an impression on us. Highlights being the climate, her green-cover and its vast array of intra-city and inter-city Volvo buses. Being a big proponent of public transport n' all, Bangalore was kind of a dream come true for me. I used to take daily-passes and just roam around the city just for the sake of it. But the monthly trips to home and the other expenses associated with it (like rickshaws/taxis etc.) was slowly starting to have an effect on our budget. After much deliberations and almost 6 months later, we finally decided to get a car.

    We had only one condition initially. It should be a diesel hatchback. Because the car will be driven extensively and mileage is going to be a big factor. Also, we're too young to own a sedan :mrgreen:. Before getting into the details, here's some context. Like most Indians, I have always been an Asian-car guy. We have an SX4 Petrol at home and a 1991 model Maruti 800 (yep, she is almost 25!). I learnt to drive when I was some 13-15 years old. And since then I have driven quiet a lot of cars, majority of them being from brands such as Maruti, Hyundai, Mahindra, TATA, or Honda, all Asian. So it is safe to say that, I had a clear bias towards Asian cars from the very start.

    Let the test drives begin
    First, I had to choose cars for test driving. Since there were a number of models in the hatchback segment, we decided to write-off the ones we don't like. The first car off the list was none other than Punto itself :shock:! The reason being Fiat's reputation in India. If i remember right, they were selling some 200 odd cars a month during the time. Some anecdotal evidences also crept in that made me completely discard the Fiat brand. Honda Jazz was also neglected. Never liked Hondas much and Jazz being a Petrol only car didn't help either. And then the test drives started,

    Maruti Swift: No need to test-drive. Have driven the car extensively over the years. Pretty great driving dynamics and cleverly-tuned diesel engine even with its huge turbo-lag were big pluses. But the long waiting periods were a major deterrent (remember, this was 2012). And the car was waaay too common on our roads. Also its bad breaking and really bad back-seat ride made me think twice.

    Hyundai i20: Design-wise, too much rounded for my liking (IMHO i20's recent design change and the addition of day-time running lights made matters worse). Almost lifeless steering wheel and bad ride-quality (even worse at higher speeds) were major negatives. My friend used to call it "a boat". That steering wheel is a nightmare at high-speeds. Car was not cheap either. Still i20 was a good compromise-package overall, especially if you drive around city a lot. It had a good diesel engine with linear power output and the highest BHP numbers, was also the only car in its segment to offer 6 airbags. A.S.S was excellent too.

    Chevrolet Beat: Not really the segment we were looking for. Too small and I hated its noisy 3-pot motor anyway. Also, we needed a car for long highway-drives with decent luggage-space. Beat was strictly a city-car.

    Ford Figo: I believe its design was outdated the day it was launched. Terrible NVH levels made matters worse. But in terms of actual driving experience, Figo was a real surprise package, much better than all the cars I had tested so far. But still, bad quality plastics, poor NVH levels and a severe lack of features were major turn-offs. The car made us feel as if it didn't belong to the segment we're looking for. We had to move on.

    VW Polo: My tryst with European cars starts here. And I was in for a real culture-shock. The car was extremely well built. Plastics had a real premium feel and its ride-quality was beyond anything I had experienced up until then. But there was one major letdown, its terrible 3-cylinder diesel engine (there was no GT TDi back then). And for the features it offered, Polo way too over-priced (FYI we were looking only for the full-option version of the cars, I had a strict no-compromise policy when it comes to safety features). But we loved the car so much that we even considered the 1.6 petrol version of Polo for a brief period. What Polo did was to shackle my belief in Asian cars quite a bit. I actually became more open-minded towards car makers as a result.

    Nissan Micra: Not a bad car actually. K9K engine is one the most refined of them all. But exterior and interior designs were a big let down. Also, if I ended up choosing a non-Maruti/non-Hyundai car, I wanted it to feel as much good an upgrade. Micra felt cheap inside (not as cheap as a Figo though) and it was simply not my cup of tea. Also, lack of safety features were a major letdown.

    Toyota Liva: I didn't like a single thing about this car. Didn't even bother to visit their showroom.

    Tata Vista: Not a bad car when you consider the fact that TATAs has only 10-15 years of real experience in car making. I would rate Vista over Liva any day. But Vista lacked character. We were not looking for a people mover either. Upcoming Zest and Bolt hatchback looks promising though.

    Maruti Ritz: Again, no test driving required. Driven it around a lot. I always liked it more than Swift to be frank. It had a quirky design but was more fun to drive, had better overall visibility, better back seat ride and better gear ratios and breaking abilities than Swift. This has always been my choice of car from start. After driving all the above cars, I came back to Ritz again, it looked to me as a good compromise car. And Maruti's after sales need no mention here. Then came the show stopper.

    Maruti decided to slightly "upgrade" the looks of Ritz. They did some changes to the front bumper and such which made the looks of an already average-looking car even worse (in my opinion, of course). I was so infuriated (looking back though, I think I should thank Maruti for what they did). My wife didn't like Ritz much in the first place and we were back to square one.

    Internet came to the rescue
    I happen to bump upon this Punto vs Swift shootout on YouTube by MotorBeam team. This was a very interesting review in the sense that they gave the best car tag to Punto! My first reaction was, how can they do that? How can they snub India's best-selling premium hatchback just like that? I mean, most of the reviews I saw/read so far wrote great things about Punto, but when it came to the final verdict, the winner will always be a Maruti, Hyundai or a Honda owing to reliability or "practicality" reasons. Though the video felt amateurish and hastily done (back then, I even thought it was biased :-|), they made their points very clear. This was among the rare true-blue reviews I saw which compared the cars strictly based on their abilities, completely ignoring the external factors.

    My interest in Punto was slowly starting to grow. I started reading a lot of reviews and ownership reports on team-bhp and teamfiat forums and most of them were generally positive about the car. If Punto was this good, why it is selling in such low numbers? Am I missing something obvious here? It was all very confusing. And so we decided to give her a visit.

    KHT Motors, Kundanahalli, Bangalore
    One fine Saturday morning, we went out to meet our nearest TATA/FIAT dealer, which was KHT Motors, located en-route to ITPL, in Bangalore. We met this guy named Sandesh over there who was courteous enough to explain the car in much detail. He was very knowledgeable and very polite, made quite an impression on us. Then we sat on the car. The doors were heavy and had very premium feel to it, and they closed with a lovely "thud". And suddenly I felt as if I couldn't even hear the footsteps of people walking around. I was not sure if I was being delusional, but it was a different feeling altogether. But the overall ergonomics was not up to the mark. The center console was bit of a disappointment in terms of design, but it had all the features (except AUX). And I loved its classic looking speedo. In terms of plastic quality, I would rate Polo on top and Punto second. I was so impressed by smaller details such as really smooth power windows with one touch up/down feature, loaded MID etc.

    Then we took it for a short test-drive (I was not very comfortable driving in the cities back then). Though the long clutch-throws and low seating position took some time to get used to, I quickly noticed its extremely pliant ride! There was very little road noise and engine noise creeping in and the steering and braking felt so damn precise :shocked! Every other car I drove before felt like toys in front of her. The car was indeed "built like a tank". While my heart was screaming "this is it", my brain was not ready yet to take the final plunge.

    So we left the showroom with much satisfaction. Just as we came out, we saw this Maruti dealership right opposite to it (guess it was Kalyani Motors). Since we had plenty of time left, I said lets give Ritz another look and see how it compares. We went to the showroom, but they kept us waiting and nobody came to our assistance for sometime. Since I knew every bit about Ritz, and since we only want to see the car once again, we went upstairs on our own. Everything about the car felt flimsy all of sudden. Even though the car scores well on the ergonomics front, the Punto effect was clearly showing in our attitude.

    Suddenly some guy with a ton of pan in his mouth came over for "assistance". He said he will brief everything about the car and he started. "The car has power windows on all four doors", he then took a long pause as if he wanted me to act surprised or something. I said, "okay" with a straight face. Before he could spill his mouthful of pan on us, we swiftly moved out of the showroom.

    The second and final test-drive!
    As I said, my brain was not ready yet to accept a car that is the lowest selling model in its segment. So I decided to take a second test drive from Kerala (Marina Motors). It was a Punto Active model and we took it through some really bad patches of NH 212. Now I knew I was not being delusional. The car was excellent and I fell in love with it for the second time! And finally, I got my answer to the most important question, "why Punto is selling in such low numbers?", I DON'T CARE :cool!

    But since the car will be driven mostly in and around Bangalore and also since our experience with KHT Motors was one of the best so far, we decided to get the car from Bangalore itself. The rest is history. We booked Punto Emotion variant from KHT Motors, Bangalore and received the same on December 2012. There was some confusion while choosing the right color for our car, but finally settled for Bosa Nova White. Dealership experience was good, no issues whatsoever, and Mr. Sandesh deserves a special mention. I specifically asked him not to put any stickers or ribbon on the car and he delivered. We also received Punto branded door sills, mud flaps, and body cover as extra accessories. We were happy with the overall experience at KHT.

    Punter begins to rock 'n roll! :redcar
    With trips to Kerala almost every weekend, Punto was becoming a mile-muncher. And I was starting to appreciate the car more and more. The braking and sure-footedness of the car was beyond anything I have experienced up to that point (Polo comes close, still I think Punto handles much better and has a lot superior steering feedback). Several times, my wife had to ask why I'm smiling so much while braking (no joke). The dynamics of the car will quite literally put a smile in your face. The difference becomes so apparent especially if you're coming from a Maruti/Hyundai/Honda background (like me).

    One of our first really-long drive was to Goa, from Bangalore. Thanks to KHT motors again, we had won their lucky draw contest for a 3N/2D stay in Goa :grin:. The ride to Goa via Karwar was one of the most memorable experiences we had with our Punter.

    I pushed the car to her limits, consistently touching speeds of 160s-170s with no real issues. Then it hit me. Its not about individual factors, but a combination of factors which makes any car great. Punto was heavy and had only a 75 BHP engine which on paper looked like a lose-lose deal. And i20, Swift etc will probably have better 0-100 kmph numbers on paper. But when it comes to consistently hitting very high speeds without causing any un-easiness to anybody inside the car under real world conditions, it requires the car to have extremely good braking, handling and riding manners. This is where Punto scores, and how! Punto generates so much confidence in you unlike any other car in its segment. Going at 150+ speeds (for science), you feel like you're doing 100+. If you like driving, this is the car you have to be in. Overall, I feel that Punto is quite an engineering feat that deserves more acceptance.

    IMG-20140425-WA0009.jpg

    That's her, at Goa.

    IMG-20140425-WA0002.jpg

    That's me, with her, again Goa. I will update the post soon with more pics and my service experience so far at KHT FIAT. Odo is reading 43,600 and will most probably breach 45K next month. Car is still running in mint condition. More on that later. Also, I'm sorry that I couldn't meet you guys while you were at Wayanad for the Team Fiat meet (I'm from Wayanad, I should've been there). Thank you so much for this amazing forum, without which I would not have even considered Punto as an option. You guys rock!

    Regards,
    Manuel Jose
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
    17 people like this.
  2. limraj

    limraj Superiore

    Messages:
    915
    Trivandrum
    Linea 1.3
    About 3000 km a month. That is awesome. Keep going!
    1 person likes this.
  3. Vighnesh81

    Vighnesh81 Novizio

    Messages:
    40
    Pune, MH
    3k km a month. Seriously good going


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    1 person likes this.
  4. vamsi

    vamsi Novizio

    Messages:
    31
    Bangalore
    Nice one. Happy miles ahead.

    Sent from my GT-N7100 using Tapatalk
    1 person likes this.
  5. Blackbox

    Blackbox

    Messages:
    2
    Bangalore
    Congratulations. It is always interesting to hear stories on how one ended up buying a FIAT car in India. Most of us go against the odds and sentiments to bring home a FIAT and this is also why we have a story to tell.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  6. cassini

    cassini Novizio

    Messages:
    42
    Bangalore
    Germany
    Grande Punto 1.3
    Thank you so much! May be I should try slowing down a bit, Punter is getting old a little too fast. Problem of plenty, I guess :A

    - - - Merged Post - - -

    You said it. I have also noticed that most of the new Fiat owners are actually second or third time buyers. First time buyers almost always choose "safer" options :(
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2014
  7. limraj

    limraj Superiore

    Messages:
    915
    Trivandrum
    Linea 1.3
    No you shouldn't.

    You should just continue enjoying it.
    I have seen people driving more often than that.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  8. jackharrisw

    jackharrisw Amatore

    Messages:
    146
    Chennai
    My Punto booking experience has been quite opposite to yours. When I thought of buying a Car I straight away went to FIAT showroom and booked it even without test driving it. That is the kind of faith I had in FIAT cars after my short drive experience in a Palio many years before. The next week after booking it, I test drove it and I was smiling all over like a Teen aged boy who fell in Love with a pretty girl for the first time in Life. After that, I test drove all other cars in that segment and came out smiling, since no other cars came close to a Punto. FIATs don't betray Enthusiasts. Driving dynamics,build quality and well sorted driving manners are in FIATs DNA. Congrats on choosing the best car in the segment and happy mile munching.
  9. cassini

    cassini Novizio

    Messages:
    42
    Bangalore
    Germany
    Grande Punto 1.3
    Wow, that's wonderful. I never really got to drive Fiat cars much prior to the purchase. Sigh!

    - - - Merged Post - - -

    Thanks for the assurance. I'm not worried about the car as such, it will last for sure. What I'm worried though is about the durability of the engine past 200,000 kms, being a turbo diesel 'n all. I haven't seen much multijets that has clocked over 200,000 kms. And I'm planning to use the car for 5 years at least.
  10. pabhishek

    pabhishek Esperto

    Messages:
    1,382
    Oslo
    Pune
    Linea T-Jet
    congrats cassini!! That's some serious driving;

    Happy Mile-Munching!!

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