Grande Punto T-Jet boasts best performance in class

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Now also officially SA’s most affordable turbo-petrol car

You can’t argue with the facts: Fiat’s new Grande Punto Series II flagship, the 1.4 T-Jet in three-door Sport and five-door Dynamic outfit, is officially SA’s best performance car in the sub-R180 000 bracket; it’s also the only one in that category that can boast a turbo-petrol powerplant.

So, this is how the revitalised Grande Punto line-up looks now… Two models – the five-door 1.3 M-Jet and the three-door 1.9 M-Jet – fall away to make way for three new petrol variants, the most exciting being the aforementioned T-Jets.

The newcomers essentially top ‘n tail the range: the fizzy 88 kW 1.4 turbo-petrol mill now becomes the performance flagship and is shoehorned into the five-door 1.4 T-Jet Dynamic and the three-door 1.4 T-Jet Sport, while the three-door 1.2 Active becomes the new entry-level player.

Fiat’s Brand Manager, Ryan Curling says: “I’m tempted to call the Grande Punto T-Jet the perfect package – it’s stylish, spacious, one of the safest cars in its class (boasting ESP and Hill Holder) and it’s certainly the most brisk. Factor in its affordability and green credentials and it’s a no-brainer; why would you choose something else?”

1.4 T-Jet

In its ongoing quest to retain the ‘green’ crown as Europe’s most eco-friendly motor manufacturer, Fiat is downsizing its engines, as demonstrated to perfection by the new 1.4 T-Jet family. In particular, the adoption of a new-generation turbocharger, combined with a smaller capacity engine, allows Fiat to achieve performance levels that are comparable to or even better than much higher-capacity power units, but with lower fuel consumption and emissions.

And more: the presence of the turbo significantly increases the maximum torque, making it available at a very low rpm, thus offering greater flexibility and an unrivalled promptness of response compared to conventional aspirated engines. All this comes with an essential construction simplicity that benefits strength and reliability, not forgetting of course that all European-sourced vehicles in the Fiat range are already 95% recyclable.

In its Grande Punto application, the T-Jet delivers a maximum power output of 88 kW at 5000 rpm and peak torque of 206 Nm, with an amazing 200 Nm already available at about 1700 rpm. Both the three-door 1.4 T-Jet Sport and the five-door 1.4 T-Jet Dynamic boast sport-biased, 5-speed manual boxes to capitalise on the clout of the new engine.

Elasticity is outstanding, which means fewer gear changes and an enjoyable, relaxed drive, but if you want a gutsier response, you only have to put your foot down. This result is achieved thanks to the low inertia of the turbocharger which delivers the best performance in response to the accelerator.

The smooth acceleration enhances the ‘enjoyable drive’, generating the performance of a true sports car, with a top speed of 195 km/h and 0 to 100 km/h acceleration in just 8.9 seconds. Yet consumption remains low: just 6.6 l/100 km in the combined cycle and reduced CO2 emissions (155 g/km).

The outstanding reliability of the engines is guaranteed by the hundreds of thousands of kilometres driven by prototypes during the development stage, in addition to thousands of hours of static and dynamic tests on the bench.

The first maintenance is programmed after 30,000 km, and there is no need for any intermediate servicing. The oil/water heat exchange guarantees these results. The oil filter is of the environment-friendly type. The computerised engine control system manages all functions using sophisticated calculation algorithms.

The accelerator control is of the ‘drive-by-wire’ type, without mechanical connections, so that the driver can obtain the relaxed or sporty response he wants from the engine, without wasting energy.

These excellent results have been obtained by painstaking design and development of all the engine components, demanding over 120,000 hours of activity. State-of-the-art computer-assisted design and calculation systems were used, making it possible to simulate the greatest stress caused by the turboblower.

All the major components have been re-designed, so that we could describe the engine as completely new. Particular attention was paid to fluid dynamics and combustion, to minimise energy losses and to obtain top performance and low consumption, and the results were guaranteed by sophisticated experimental analysis.

1.2 Active

The current economic climate has spawned the return of the tried and tested 1242 cc Fire engine which makes its comeback in the three-door Fiat Grande Punto Active with a number of refinements designed to make it a champion of thriftiness where consumption is concerned, but without detracting from performance.

Married to a five-speed manual box, the engine delivers 49 kW at 5500 rpm and takes the car to a top speed of 155 km/h. That’s not all. With the 1.2 8v engine, the new car has very low fuel consumption, among the best in its category.

The merit goes to the engine configuration, which aims to achieve generous torque at very low revs (with benefits in terms of enjoyment and elasticity), and to the ratios chosen to optimise the balance between performance and consumption. The result is torque of 10.4 kgm (102 Nm) at 3000 rpm and consumption of 7.5 l/100 km (urban cycle), 4.9 l/100 km (out of town) and 5.9 l/100 (combined cycle).

Exceptional levels of equipment

We should also underline that in the second half of 2007 the Grande Punto range received a facelift, with significant improvements to the interior, to emphasise its young spirit and increase the impression of superior quality within the passenger compartment.

To make it even more attractive and original, for 2009 the new car now has new upholstery and colours, and more attractive, practical shades and surface treatments for the facia. The instrument panel is also new and more opulent with chrome rings.

In terms of spec, the Grande Punto is no shrinking violet. Despite its entry-level status, the three-door 1.2 Active for example, boasts such niceties as dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, remote central locking, power steering, front electric windows/mirrors and a trip computer.

The five-door 1.4 T-Jet Dynamic chips even with even more kit including air conditioning, a six-speaker audio system with steering controls, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, rear headrests, six airbags, ESP incorporating traction control and Hill Holder, colour-coded door handles and mirrors as well as 15-inch alloys.

The range-topping three-door 1.4 T-Jet Sport gets the ‘Full Monty’ treatment with the following items over-and-above the 1.4 T-Jet Dynamic: centre amrest, front foglamps, auto-locking doors, side skirts, rear spoiler, leather steering wheel and gear knob, and 17-inch alloys.

A whole host of options are available, ranging from sport decals to a rain sensor.

“ESP on board!” – Safety come as standard on the T-Jets

The range-topping Grande Punto 1.4 T-Jet versions are fitted as standard with ESP (Electronic Stability Program) to ensure maximum control of the car’s dynamic behaviour. In detail, the sophisticated ESP on the Grande Punto T-Jets cuts in under extreme conditions when car stability is at risk and also helps the driver to control the car.

To achieve this result, the ESP continually monitors tyre grip in both longitudinal and lateral directions. If the car skids, it cuts in to restore directionality and ride stability. It uses sensors to detect rotation of the car about its vertical axis (yaw speed), car lateral acceleration and the steering wheel angle set by the driver (which indicates the chosen direction).

It then goes on to compare these data with parameters generated by a computer and establishes – via a complex mathematical model – whether the car is cornering within its grip limits or if the front or rear is about to skid (understeer or oversteer).

To restore the correct trajectory, it then generates a yawing movement in the opposite direction to the movement that gave rise to the instability by braking the appropriate wheel (interior or exterior) individually and reducing engine power (via the throttle).

And herein lies the specific aspect of the device produced for the Fiat Grande Punto. It acts in a modulated fashion on the brakes to ensure the action is as smooth as possible (and the drive is not therefore disturbed). The engine power reduction is contained to ensure outstanding performance and great driving satisfaction at all times. The ESP is permanently engaged.

One specific feature of the ESP fitted to the Fiat Grande Punto is the incorporation of a Hill Holder system that assist the driver on hill starts. It operates when the ESP control unit perceives a change in vehicle gradient by means of a longitudinal acceleration sensor.

During hill starts, the control unit is ready to intervene when first gear is engaged and both brake and clutch pedals are pressed. Front calliper pressure is thus maintained for about 1.5 seconds after the brake pedal is released so that the driver can set off with ease.

The Hill Holder function does not operate when setting off downhill with the first speed engaged. The system performs in the same way with reverse engaged: during downhill starts, the system is active but deactivated during hill starts. Lastly, a HBA hydraulic braking assistant automatically increases brake circuit pressure during emergency braking.

The ESP System on the Fiat Grande Punto also includes an ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) system that optimises traction at any speed with the aid of the brakes and engine control. The device computes degree of slip on the basis of wheel rpm calculated by the ABS sensors and activates two different control systems to restore grip.

When an excessive power demand causes both drive wheels to slip (e.g. in the case of aquaplaning or when accelerating over an unsurfaced, snowy or icy road), it reduces engine torque by reducing the throttle opening angle and thus air flow.

If only one wheel slips (e.g. the inside wheel following acceleration or dynamic load changes), this is automatically braked without the driver touching the brake pedal. The resulting effect is similar to that of a self-locking differential.

This allows the Grande Punto MY 2008 to get out of trouble easily on road surfaces with low grip. The ASR is activated automatically whenever the engine is started but must be turned off by means of a switch on the central dashboard.

The ASR need be turned off only when snow chains are used because the wheel must be able to slip by tiny amounts to pile up the snow so that force can be transmitted to the ground and the ASR tend to prevent this occurring.

Last but not least, the MSR (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung) system, an integral part of the ASR, cuts in during sudden gear changes, while shifting down, to restore torque to the engine and thus prevent excessive driving of the drive wheels that could lead to a loss of vehicle stability, particularly under conditions of low grip.

Pricing & servicing

  • 1.2 3-dr Active MY2009 – R118 000*
  • 1.4 5-dr Active MY2009 – R132 800*
  • 1.4 5-dr Dynamic 16v MY2009 – R162 900*
  • 1.4 T-Jet 5-dr Dynamic MY 2009 – R183 600*
  • 1.4 T-Jet 3-dr Sport MY2009 – R191 900*

* VAT inclusive / Date effective – 1 Feb 2009

Enhancing the ownership prospect, the new Fiat Grande Punto Model Year 2009, as with other premium products in the Fiat stable, has 30 000 km service intervals and enjoys full after-sales support in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory (housed and distributed in an all-new, state-of-the-art facility) and the back-up of trained technicians at Fiat dealerships countrywide.