The Cherry on Top of the Grande Punto Range

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Every model needs a halo car, a range-topper that stands out above the rest, both aesthetically and dynamically. The new Fiat Grande Punto 1.9 MultiJet Emotion, which is due to make a big splash in the supermini pond this month, is just such a car.

Penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign, the top-of-the-range Grande Punto is exclusively available as a striking three-door hatch. (Unlike previous Punto models, the new Fiat’s design no longer differentiates between 3 and 5-door models. Both versions now share tall, upright tail-light clusters flanking a practical, top hinged tailgate which offers full-width access to the loadspace across a low-silled aperture.)

Its raison d’etre is its award-winning turbodiesel powerplant with variable geometry turbocharger technology. Not forgetting, of course, that in Emotion guise, the newcomer is literally brimming with standard kit. So it looks the part, it’s got the power and the specs, and it comes at the right price – suggested retail is a very credible R168 000.

1.9-litre 8-valve MultiJet engine

  • 1910cc
  • 4-cylinders, 8 valves
  • Power: 88 kW @ 4000rpm
  • Torque: 280 Nm @ 2000rpm
  • Top speed: 190km/h
  • Acceleration 10.0 seconds
  • Fuel consumption: in town: 7.5l/100km
  • out of town: 4.5l/100km
  • combined: 5.6l/100km.

The 1.9 Multijet powerplant features a common rail system which includes two new control strategies for automatically calibrating and balancing the diesel injection, to both lower noise and reduce vibration. The engine is further equipped with an electronically-controlled, variable geometry Garrett VGT 17 turbocharger for improved power delivery and the generation of high torque at low engine speeds; this unit delivers 90% of peak torque between 1750rpm and 3250rpm.

With a bore of 82mm and stroke of 90.4mm, the unit boasts an impressive 280Nm torque delivered at just 2000rpm, allowing acceleration from 0-100 km/h in just 10.0 seconds, whilst returning a fuel consumption of approximately 5.6l./100 km in the combined cycle and readily conforming to EURO 4 emissions requirements.

But, what exactly is MultiJet technology? Within a Unijet engine, a pilot injection raises temperature and pressure inside the cylinder to improve combustion at the time of the main stroke. However, by dividing the main injection into a number of smaller injections, a MultiJet engine affords a fuller, more gradual combustion, whilst the amount of diesel burnt at each stroke remains the same, thus promoting smoother, quieter combustion, reduced emissions and increased performance.

A MultiJet engine differs from its Unijet counterpart in two essential areas; the injectors and the electronic control unit. To facilitate multi-injection, the new injectors can both reduce the time lag between injections from 1500 to just 150 microseconds, and reduce the minimum quantity of fuel injected from 2 to less than 1 cu mm. In tandem, the new control unit modulates injection strategy continually to adjust to changes within three parameters: engine rpm, torque required at any given time by the driver, and coolant temperatures.

Thus, when coolant temperature is less than 60 degrees and torque requirement low, two small and one large injection are performed. As torque demand increases, the number of injections drops to two; one small and one large. Under conditions of high rpm and high torque demand, only one injection is required whilst, with coolant temperature at over 60 degrees, emissions are minimised with one small, one large, then one small injection in the sequence.

Start-up times and exhaust smoke are significantly reduced; noise levels and vibration are lowered to ensure a quieter drive and improved passenger comfort; fuel consumption is reduced by a further 10% and emission control reduction, via a close-coupled catalytic converter, amounts to 50%; enough to bring the unit within the strict EURO 4 emissions limits without the need for sophisticated exhaust treatment systems

Moreover, despite their ultra-compact dimensions and technical sophistication, the new Multijet engines (1.3 and 1.9) offer long service and minimal mechanical maintenance, whilst low viscosity oil change intervals have been increased to 30 000 km.

Some of the convenience/safety features the 1.9 MultiJet Emotion shares with the 1.4 and 1.3 MultiJet Dynamic:

  • Air conditioning
  • Centre armrest
  • Audio system with CD frontloader, six speakers and satellite steering controls
  • Height-adjustable driver’s seat
  • Electric mirrors and windows
  • Height-and telescopically-adjustable steering wheel
  • Power steering with City function
  • Trip computer
  • Rear headrests
  • 60/40 split rear seat
  • ABS with EBD
  • 6 airbags
  • Adjustable headlamps
  • Front and rear fog lamps
  • Remote central locking the auto-lock function

Those little extras the 1.9 MultiJet Emotion is equipped with (over and above the Dynamic 1.3 MultiJet):

  • Exterior mirrors which feature electric demisting and exterior temperature sensor
  • ESP (stability control) incorporating ASR/MSR, HBA and Hill Holder
  • Tinted windows all round
  • Leather steering wheel and gear knob
  • Alloys shod with 195/55 R16 tyres

As with all other Grande Punto models, the new 1.9 MultiJet Emotion features 30 000 km service intervals (remarkable for a diesel), and enjoys full after-sales support in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory and the back-up of trained technicians at Fiat dealerships countrywide.

Fiat Auto South Africa offers Fiat owners a 24-month Manufacturer Warranty, unlimited mileage and an additional 12-month Dealer Extended Warranty or up to 100 000km in total, three years on paintwork and five years on rust anti-perforation.

The new models are covered by the AA Fleetcare roadside assistance for 12 months. The service is active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is available by calling the dedicated toll-free number 0800 223 727.

The big news is that the price includes a 5-year / 90 000 km service plan – a first for this class of car.