Image credits: © Fiat.

1998 Fiat Punto

Specially designated Project 178, the Fiat Punto debuted in September of 1993. A supermini vehicle, the Fiat Punto was the replacement for the Fiat Uno. For 1995 the Punto was awarded European Car of the Year. The first generation lasted from 1993 throgh 1999 and was styled exclusively by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

The Fiat Punto was an almost instant success, in part due to the legendary styling of Giugiaro, but also due to competitive pricing which beat out GM's Corsa and Volkswagen's Polo. The vertical taillights were considered to be the most innovative and recognizable Punto feature, and these weren't even designed by Giugiaro.

Though the very powerful 1.6 Sporting was available, entry level Punto were the 1.1 and 1.2 liter petrol engine, and the 1.7 diesel engine. The most versatile performing engine was the 1.4 GT Turbo was introduced, and was capable of reaching over 130 mph and could reach 60 mph in barely 7.6 seconds. At the time, the cabriolet convertible version was one of the cheapest open-top vehicles in the world.

Designated Project 188, the second generation Fiat Punto was introduced in 1999. All new styling was introduced though the classic Punto design remained the same. The chassis and the interior were completely overhauled. To celebrate Fiat's centenary, the second generation Punto became the first Fiat in decades to carry the original round Fiat badge. The mark 2 was produced from 1999 through 2003.

Due to emission problems, the 1.1 and 1.4 turbo engines were deleted, and the entry-level models featured only a 1.2 petrol unit or a 1.9 diesel engine. For this generation, there were two available sporty versions, the 1.2 16 valve Sporting model that came with 6 speed gearbox, and the impressive 1.8 HGT that was capable of 130 mph. Featuring much better handling, the HGT did have slower acceleration than its predecessor, the Mark 1 GT.

The 5,000,000th production Fiat Punto was produced in early 2003. The platform underwent even more extensive updates that included major styling changes, along with the deletion of the 1.2 liter Sporting and the addition of a new 1.4 16v engine. The 1.3 liter common rail diesel Multi-Jet engine was also introduced. The Mark 2 Revision B was introduced from 2003 through 2005.

Introduced on the tailgate of the Mark 2B, the round Fiat badge had previously only been found on the hood of Mark 2 models. Fiat produced its 6,000,000th Punto at the Melfi plant on June 1, 2005. In Europe, this Punto is the fourth-best selling compact vehicle at this time.

Zastava, a Serbian manufacturer purchased a license agreement with Fiat in October of 2005 to take this version.

Designated Project 199, the Mark 3 Fiat Punto was introduced in 2005 as the third generation model. Titled officially the Grande Punto, this model was debuted at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show. Once again styled by the famous Giugiaro, the Mark 3 was based on the Fiat/GM 'Small' platform.

This generation featured a variety of engines that included the 1.2 Fire 8v, a brand new 1.4 Fire 8v and four Multi-jet Diesels; two 1.3 16v units, and two 1.9 JTD Multi-jets with 120 and 130cv. The GT version was the top of the line model that was powered by a turbo-charged 1.6 engine that developed 180-200bhp.

Due to its inexpensive price, and the ease and availability of spare parts, the Punto has always been a popular ride for amateur racing drivers. The Punto Rally, the S1600 and the Punto Abarth are competition rally versions of the Fiat Punto.

By Jessica Donaldson

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