It’s been a staple of young drivers and common sight on Britain’s roads, but Fiat has finally brought an end to one of its longest-running models ever sold – the Punto – and it might never return.
The hugely popular (by Fiat’s standards) Punto had been on sale in its current form since 2005, but has this month been ripped from the range with the arrival of new emissions regulations from 1 September.
This most recent Punto replaced the two previous incarnations dating back to 1993.
Last year, the Punto hit headlines for all the wrong reasons, becoming the first car to ever score zero stars in crash test ratings – an unprecedented feat in the 20 years Euro NCAP has been scoring models on their safety credentials.
Arrivederci Punto: After 13 years on sale as a new car in the UK, the Fiat Punto has finally been removed from showrooms
According to motoring title AutoCar, it looks unlikely that a new Punto will be introduced as a replacement, with the smaller 500 and marginally larger Tipo plugging the gap left by the former UK favourite.
It marks the culmination of one of the longest runs for a car to be on sale, with the average production cycle usually ranging from five to seven years.
Having hit the UK market under the guise of the Grande Punto in 2005, it was then renamed Punto Evo in 2009 as part of a model facelift and reverted to just Punto with a mild update in 2012.
Whatever the updates made, they did little to improve the safety rating of the cheap and cheerful Punto, that was available until earlier this year priced from £11,895.
When Euro NCAP subjected it to the latest crash test procedure, it failed miserably, scoring zero out of five stars.
The safety group had tested the Italian supermini the year it was originally launched and awarded it a full five-star rating – the first supermini to receive such an accolade at the time.
But after replicating a variety of controlled crashes to the latest standards last year, it deemed it ‘past its sell-by-date where safety is concerned’.
The current generation car first appeared in 2005 as the Grande Punto (left). In 2009 it was facelifted and had a name change – Punto Evo (right)
Crash test results for the Fiat Punto were revealed in December 2017 – and they weren’t pretty
The Punto became the first ever model in 20 years of Euro NCAP crash tests to score a zero-star rating
Euro NCAP rating scheme – which was massively overhauled in 2009 and updated most recently in 2015 – requires cars to score a minimum number of points in all four areas of the assessment to qualify for a one-star rating.
These assessment areas are adult occupant safety, child occupant safety, pedestrian protection and – most important for the Punto – safety assist.
It said the Punto was so lacking in modern assistance features that it did not rank high enough in the final assessment to be awarded with a measly single-star score.
At the time, Michiel van Ratingen from the crash-safety body said the Punto was ‘perhaps the strongest example of a manufacturer continuing to sell a product that is well past its best-before date, at the expense of the unsuspecting car buyer.’
A 0% score for ‘Safety Assist’ features meant the Punto couldn’t even be granted a lowly one-star rating
The Fiat Punto was available as a new car until this month, with on the road prices quoted from just under £12,000
Buyers who want an out-of-date but budget-friendly small car could haggle huge discounts on the little Fiat. Some 49,688 were registered across Europe in 2017, despite its age
He added: ‘We would urge consumers to check our website for the latest ratings and to choose cars with the most up-to-date five-star ratings, many examples of which we have seen in 2017.’
That said, just shy of 50,000 examples were sold across Europe last year, meaning the Punto was still attracting buyers who were able to haggle some seriously big discounts.
The WLTP emissions standards for vehicles, which manufacturers need to meet for all new cars on sale, have ultimately brought the Punto’s extended run in showrooms to an acrimonious end. Will it be missed in the UK? Probably not.
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