Buying one’s first car is always the most awesome experience. The process of shortlisting a car amongst the myriad of choices too is something that is challenging and enjoyable at the same time. The thought of buying a car came to my mind somewhere in the year 2010, however, it wasn’t until the next year that the plan finally materialized. My father had a Premier Padmini that was bought in the year 1995 and after his demise in 2009, it had become increasingly difficult for us to maintain the car. In 2011, we sold it off for a paltry sum of Rs. 14,000. While selling it off was tough due to the emotional connect that all of us had with the car, it was also important to free up the parking space for the new car that was to arrive. I didn’t need a car that would be driven daily. I wanted a comfortable car that would be used for long weekend trips and photography trips. The shortlisting process Selecting my first car was a tough assignment. Back in 2011, I was a complete novice as far as selection criteria was concerned. I had learnt driving but by no means was I an experienced driver. I was on a tight budget of approximately 6L on road. I lapped up whatever information I had could find online about various cars. Speaking to friends, family members and colleagues only pointed me towards one direction –the Maruti showroom. After a lot of brainstorming and following the advice of many around me, I decided to book a Ritz VXI, rejecting other competent cars such as the Figo, the Vista and the i20. The car was supposed to arrive in a month’s time. In the meanwhile I kept reading a lot about my new found interest i.e cars and visited and joined a few automobile forums in the process. That was when I stumbled upon a glorious review of the Punto on another popular forum that showered rich accolades on the car. I also took note of the growing number of Puntos on the road and they looked fabulous – much better than other hatchbacks. I decided to have a test drive of the Punto and I was smitten by the Punto bug. It felt so much better than the Ritz that I had booked earlier. Little did I know back then that this test drive would bring about so much pain and agony in the years that followed. I started weighing up the pros and cons of the Punto. Service was apparently one grey area where Fiat lagged behind Maruti and Hyundai. Nevertheless, the Tata-Fiat network seemed quite extensive in terms of its presence in Assam, but nowhere close to the networks that Maruti and Hyundai could boast. Friends, colleagues and others laughed at the idea of purchasing a Fiat product, given its poor reputation in the market. I started reading ownership experiences and got to know a few people personally who had owned a Fiat product. I had, however, taken a decision and subsequently cancelled the Ritz booking against the advice of all those I had spoken to about the matter. Where could I go wrong?; I thought to myself. I received my answer in the next few years. In the month of April 2011, I booked a BNW Punto Active MJD, by paying a sum of Rs 25k to Pragati Motors, Jorhat. I couldn’t afford the higher variants due to the tight budget that I had. However, I had made up my mind to not buy the petrol variants. I took delivery of the car in the month of May 2011. I paid Rs. 5.57L on road. A 15k expenditure was incurred on ICE. Below is the first picture of my car. Aesthetic modifications Being an Active variant, my car came with steel wheels and blackened door handles and ORVMs. Neither did it have the blackened B pillars that were a feature of the higher variants. All these had made the Punto Active less visually appealing. Nevertheless, I decided to carry out these aesthetic modifications and provide the ‘standard Punto look’ to my car. This is what I achieved after these subtle mods. Alloys The OEM Punto alloys were initially very steeply priced. It was also quite tough to find a neat-looking set of aftermarket alloys in the 98pcd spec. I came across a set of League alloys that seemed quite attractive, but only came in the 14 inch size. I decided to purchase this set. I had to buy hub-centric rings to make the centre bore of the alloys fit the wheel hubs perfectly. TFian Royj’s thread on wheel upgrade helped a lot here. I also bought a set of four MRF ZLO tyres of the 185/70/R14 spec. I managed to sell the previous tyres and steel wheels (apart from the spare) at a price of Rs 7k. ^ My car with League alloys and MRF ZLO tyres of 185/70/R14 spec. Another pic below- From May 2011 to July 2012, it was all smooth sailing. My decision to go with the Punto seemed to be a good one, even though I wasn’t satisfied with the service quality of Pragati Motors. Problems, problems and more problems This is where things got ugly – really ugly! 1. The Startup issue: One morning when I tried to start my car, it just wouldn’t start. However, after 2-3 attempts, it started. I got concerned and took it to the TASS the next day. They couldn’t find any issues and passed it off as a random occurrence. Few days later, it happened again and subsequently it got worse. The SA was completely clueless, so was another TASS that I had consulted. It went from bad to worse to pathetic, with the car refusing to start even after 13-14 attempts. I have to say, however, that the problem never showed up at the service center. Sometimes, it would crop up during cold starts and on other occasions it would show up after being driven for a while. That issue is documented in the thread below http://www.teamfiat.com/threads/startup-problems.8249/ This problem lasted from July 2012 to August 2013. I kept escalating the issue to Fiat India, with copies of mails to Mangesh Kodalkar, but received no support whatsoever. After one year of trial and error, the guys at Pragati Motors finally solved it. 2.The sudden powerloss issue: This was another severe problem that my car had faced. The car would suddenly lose power while being driven on the highway. The only temporary fix was to stop and start the engine again. There were many scary situations that I had faced on the road thanks to this issue. On many occasions, I had to abort overtaking manouvres on single-laned highways and non-availability of power made it extremely difficult to get back to the left side of the road. As days progressed, the frequency at which the issue showed up just increased. At every 30-40 kms, I had to stop and start the car to fix this issue. My car had become so unreliable that I just stopped taking it out on the highway. Since I prefer using a two-wheeler for local errands, the car had to be pretty much confined to the parking space. I again tried escalating the issue to Fiat India, with copies of mails to Mangesh Kodalkar. I requested, pleaded them to help me out, but Fiat India simply passed the matter to Green Valley Fiat, Guwahati. Guwahati is located 320kms from Jorhat. Green Valley Fiat refused to send a team to Jorhat and my car wasn’t in the condition to endure a 320km journey. Later, Green Valley Fiat closed down. The power-loss issue is well documented in the below thread: http://www.teamfiat.com/threads/sudden-loss-of-power-while-overtaking.8952/ This problem lasted from January 2013 to May 2014. I can’t clearly say how this problem got solved. Either it got resolved on its own or it got fixed during the fourth service that I was forced to get done at a local garage. I haven’t experienced this problem since May 2014 (approximately 2000 kms). I hope and pray that the problem has gone for good and won’t ever return. Owing to issues 1 & 2, my car remained almost undriveable for a period starting from July 2012 to May 2014. There was a period of about 4-5 months when both issues existed simultaneously. On one hand, during drives, the car would suddenly lose power and to apply a temporary fix, I had to stop the engine. However, on attempting to start it back, it would just refuse. Once, while on a drive on NH37,this power loss happened in one of the sections that passes through the Kaziranga National Park. It was a scary experience as the car started only on the 22nd attempt and the place was devoid of human presence in the vicinity. Even mobile connectivity was limited there. On that occasion, I was travelling with my mom. That was when I decided to never take it out on long journeys until the problem got resolved. Needless to say, my mom wasn’t very thrilled with the experience. The image below would give an idea of the location I just referred to. Other comparatively lesser issues: 3. The rough idling issue: In an attempt to resolve the powerloss issue, Pragati Motors, Jorhat had replaced the EGR valve. While it couldn't solve that issue, the EGR replacement only gave my car a rough-idling problem during cold starts, with heavy RPM and engine noise fluctuations. That issue is documented in the thread below: http://www.teamfiat.com/threads/rou...old-starts-after-egr-valve-replacement.12605/ This issue still exists. 4. Lots of rattles and creaks: My car makes creaking noises even on idle. While on the move, it rattles like crazy in the dashboard and boot areas. Issues 3 and 4 are comparatively minor. They are nothing when compared to 1 and 2. They don’t prevent the car from being driven. I have started enjoying my drives again since the month of May. However, I am hoping to take my car back to its 2011 glory by getting rid of these issues too. During this three-year ownership period, I have only driven my car for 15096 kms. On the exterior, my car looks almost out-of-showroom as it has hardly been driven. During the time when it couldn’t be driven, I had detailed it myself using some of the best products available online. So, thanks to Fiat, I am now quite adept at detailing. The service scenario in Assam Back in 2011, there were many dealers in Assam from the erstwhile TATA-Fiat network. Infact, the number of dealers here was just behind those of Maruti and Hyundai. Pragati Motors, the local dealer was located just 3kms from home. The day I got to know that the Tata-Fiat alliance in sales and service was coming to an end, I started getting apprehensive, even when other owners from across the country had rejoiced. One day, Pragati Motors informed me that it would no longer serve Fiat vehicles w.e.f September 2013. Although, that didn’t stop them from selling the Fiat vehicles available in stock to unsuspecting customers, who were unaware of the crisis that they were to face in coming months. The September deadline was later extended to December. It is needless to comment on the quality of service during these last few months. A Fiat authorized dealership – Green Valley Fiat, about which I had briefly mentioned above, had existed for a few months. It closed down within a few months of commencing operations. Today, there is not a single Fiat dealership/service center in the entire state. I had requested Fiat India, again through mails with copies to Mangesh Kodalkar and through feedback on Fiat’s FB page to conduct service camps in Assam so that owners can get some respite. So how does Fiat respond? - by doing what it does best i.e sending automated responses that get on to the nerves. I fail to understand how or why it cannot conduct service camps at strategic locations to counter the non-existence of a service network. They apparently seem to have forgotten that the Tata-Fiat dealers who had sold cars to hundreds of customers here were their dealers too. Where is the accountability? Apparently, a new dealer- Mahesh Fiat, Guwahati is scheduled to start operations in the near future. I was told that it would come up by August-end. Today is September 1st. After continuous bashing on its FB page and after many unpleasant mails, Fiat India has assured me that all issues in my car will be addressed after this new dealer starts operations. I am not all that optimistic though. Even if the dealer does come up, it would never be easy to keep travelling 640 kms (up and down) to Guwahati whenever issues crop up. I do not see Fiat coming up with more than one dealer in the state. Moreover, after the treatment that owners here had received from Fiat, it is very unlikely that their cars will sell here again. How long a dealer will remain operational is debatable. Many Fiat owners whom I personally know have sold off their cars at throwaway prices and moved on to brands like Maruti, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota et al. Sometimes, I really regret cancelling that Ritz booking to buy the Punto. I am sure that car would have received much better support and would not have to be parked for almost 2 years. I had high hopes from 99rpm.com but now it seems even they have stopped stocking Linea/Punto spares. In the meanwhile, I have found a reliable mechanic who had carried out the last service on my car. Once 99rpm resumes normal operations w.r.t Punto/Linea spares, things would get slightly easier. Ironically, my car is still under extended warranty. I tried to be brief. However, as you can see, this report has been anything but brief. I plan to carry on with the car for as long as possible. Selling it off with just 15k on the ODO would be foolish – not that there would be many takers for a Fiat. But one thing’s for sure – never another Fiat, just never.