Friday, 5 January 2018

Ben's Corner #13: Punto gets zero star

The entire automotive world got shocked when Fiat Grande Punto secured a zero star safety rating in European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) results released a few days ago. While one may dismiss these results citing the lack of development of Punto's platform as the reason, there is more to it than meets the eye. I researched on this topic and will walk you through the things to ponder.



To start with, Grande Punto is a car made by legendary Italian brand Fiat since 1993. Though the vehicle didn't perform that well in the first decade of production with two generations passed, the third generation model introduced in 2005 was a solid hit. This one is still sold in India albeit with slight cosmetic changes as Punto Evo and Avventura. In addition to offering terrific performance from a slew of naturally aspirated as well as force-fed engines, Punto is also known for its solid build quality.

In India, auto enthusiasts usually use the tag 'Built like a tank' while referring to Punto. There are also instances where people have chosen Punto over the best selling car in the segment Maruti Suzuki Swift for this quality aspect alone. For example, Punto's doors are very heavy that they will make a powerful thud sound every time they are closed. In the past when Euro NCAP released the results for other made in India cars like Volkswagen Polo, Maruti Suzuki Swift, Ford Figo which fall in the same segment, many uplifted the Punto as the safest car among all those.

Now comes the question as to why the Punto has secured a zero star. According to engineers, Punto's cabin was still intact during the crash and the car would easily get good ratings if active safety systems like Airbags and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) are installed. On a similar note, Euro NCAP officials said that Punto has secured a five star safety rating back in 2005 when it was first introduced to the world but in all these years, safety norms they adopt have improved. So, unless and until Fiat equips the car to the present day standards, it cannot rest on its laurels, they added.


But the issue doesn't end here says experts. An enthusiast based out of the city Rhowni, said, 'There is still room for improvement when it comes to crash tests. Euro NCAP itself agrees that the world's safest car is literally unsafe if the crashing speed is over 100 Kmph. But presently the crashing speed adopted by the testing body is just 64 Kmph. As of matter of fact, most of today's cars including the Punto easily crack 150 Kmph speed barrier. If Punto has secured zero star at a mere 64 Kmph crashing speed, how would it fare at speeds a little above than that. It would be worse for sure. After all, not all crashing scenarios allow the driver to brake his / her car well below the 64 Kmph mark recommended by NCAP.'

In the end, the built-like-tank car is also unsafe for passengers even at a feeble crashing speed of 64 Kmph. So, it is time to stop believing in structural integrity of the car and start following safe driving practices.

Meet the Scorpion:

Fiat group have many sub brands under then wings. 'Abarth' is one among them whose prime job is to make performance oriented cars on the existing platforms of Fiat cars. With a Scorpion logo, the brand has a performance car from Punto which is also currently sold in India. Abarth Punto is presently one of the fastest accelerating hatchbacks in our country.

- S Ben Raja,
Chennai, Jan 5, 2018.

The above review/analysis is completely the perception of S Ben Raja alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only. This author is correspondent for an English daily working on auto beat stories for over a year. Reach him at benraja4@gmail.com.

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