A couple of days ago I pulled up in traffic behind an Abarth Punto. It’s one of those cars I’d simply forgotten existed, partly because I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember when I’d last seen this hot hatch in the wild.
Having returned home and done some Google-based digging, I found out why - there are fewer than 1000 in the UK if the numbers on How Many Left are to be believed. Given that we’re one of the biggest hot hatch markets in the world, second probably only to Germany, a car like this selling in such smaller numbers raises an eyebrow.
The car it shared the Fiat showroom’s Abarth corner with, the 500, was such a runaway sales success that it’s still sold today some 13 years on from its introduction. The Punto, on the other hand, was quietly killed off in 2015.
It isn’t necessarily a bad car, but it’s not an amazing one either. In the talented, varied field of B-segment hot hatches available during the hot Punto’s life, mediocrity wasn’t something manufacturers could get away with. The first version made 155bhp from a 1.4-litre ‘Multiair’ inline-four turbo, leaving it comprehensively outgunned by Renault Sport’s Clio 197. 0-62mph happened in a leisurely 8.2 seconds, although the £3000 ‘Esseesse’ pack did drop this to 7.7 seconds thanks to a boost to 178bhp.
Sure, the Ford Fiesta ST of that era made a similar figure to the non-esseesse Punto, but it was considerably sharper. Abarth may have dropped the Punto by 10mm on stiffer springs, but road testers from the time of the car’s launch noted the numbness of its early electric power steering system and (rightfully) moaned about not being able to turn off the ESP.
In 2010, when the standard Fiat Grand Punto was facelifted and for some reason renamed the ‘Punto Evo’, the Abarth version got its own update. The power was bumped up to 163bhp, dropping the 0-62mph to 7.9 seconds, with the esseesse doing the same in 7.5. Still, though, it didn’t win over many buyers.
As with so many cars that were a hard sell when new, though, Abarth Puntos are a lot more tempting a few years down the line after depreciation has taken hold. These days, they start at a mere £3000 for higher mileage examples.
Ideally, we’d want an esseesse, since that power increase was bundled with a further 20mm drop in ride height and better brakes. You’ll have a hard enough time finding an Abarth Punto of any kind, though, so small is the pool of vehicles out there.
In any case, this 2010 regular model would be good for 200bhp after an inexpensive Stage 1 remap, and it’s well priced at £4590. It’s clocked a reasonably low 79,000 miles and has the rare leather interior option. There’s no mention of service history in the advert (it’s hilariously brief), so be sure to enquire about that if you do call.