All hands on deck for the international launch of Fiat’s new Punto Evo

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New Punto Evo is launched on an aircraft carrier!

“Nobody does it better.” When Carly Simon belted out those immortal words she could very well have been singing about Fiat. Frankly nobody does car launches better than the Italians and the launch of the all-new Fiat Punto Evo is watertight proof of this.

You see, the Punto Evo was presented to the international media on board an aircraft carrier, the Cavour, the new flagship of the Italian Navy which is the country’s largest post-war naval construction and the biggest technological investment by Italy’s Ministry of Defense.

To put it mildly Fiat went overboard – but then for a car that is at the forefront of engine innovation, respect for the environment, safety and style, the launch pad had to be that little bit special. And eye-wateringly special it sure was…

The press conference was raised lock, stock and barrel from the hangar to the 220 meter-long runway deck by the massive lifting platform that normally hoists aircraft and helicopters.

The Punto Evos were then given the opportunity to show off their tight turning circles on the 34-metre wide deck when they mastered a car ballet routine before screeching to a breathtaking halt facing journalists with headlights on under a star-struck sky; one could say they were between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Dinner (the usual Italian, multi-course, gastronomic extravaganza) in a marquee pitched on the deck was followed by an overnight stay in one of the carrier’s cabins, which usually sleep four crew but hosted just one scribe each – literally a case of giving someone a wide berth. Of course, the next day the marine juggernaut disgorged its four-wheeled brethren for a spot of ride and drive around Italy’s spectacular La Spezia coastline.

And, while one would think that the latter experience would take the wind out of one’s sails, the Punto Evo is more than a match for any mechanical whale.

The technological excellence of the Punto Evo is in evidence primarily through the broad range of Euro 5 engines, including the second-generation 1.3 MultiJet and the 1.4 MultiAir – the revolutionary technology developed by Fiat Powertrain Technologies that will gradually be adopted by all Fiat Group engines.

Alongside these innovative power units and the more traditional ones are the hybrid methane and LPG systems, combining to form the most complete and eco-friendly engine range in the segment, bar none. Still with reduced consumption and emissions in mind, the new Punto Evo offers Start&Stop, the system that temporarily switches off the engine when you stop the car. Start&Stop comes as standard on all new Euro 5 petrol and diesel engines.

Inside the car, there is also a debut for the new Blue&Me-TomTom infotainment system – the practical colour touch-screen allows one to manage phone calls, satellite navigation and all the driving information you need, which it downloads directly from the on-board computer systems.

The Fiat Punto Evo also raises the bar in the field of safety with its seven airbags. It is one of the few cars in its class to provide a driver knee bag as standard across all trims. As well as the usual ABS, EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and ESP (Electronic Stability Program) systems, there are other useful features such as the Hill Holder system, which helps the driver with hill starts by keeping the car stationary for a few seconds in order to prevent it from rolling backwards, and the adaptive cornering front fog lights that come on automatically on dipped beam according to the steering angle. Finally, the Fiat Punto Evo is even more attractive thanks to the work done by Fiat’s Centro Stile.

The interiors (dashboard, seats and instruments) have been completely revamped to make them more plush and elegant, and the car has a new eye-catching shape.

South African journalists were unfortunately not part of the international press contingency that experienced the car launch on the seven seas, but the good news is that at least one version of the new Fiat Punto Evo will make the voyage across the pond – expect to see the newcomer on our shores by the second quarter of 2010.

Apologies for all the maritime analogies – I promise you I was not three sheets in the wind when I penned this piece!