It's not everyone who can boast that their van was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro – but if you drive a Fiat Grande Punto, that’s exactly what you can brag about.
The man himself, the great Italian doyen of car design, is responsible for this vehicle and I must say I couldn’t have done a better job myself.
The Grande Punto, which took over from the old Punto van in September last year, is as fine-looking a small LCV as you could wish for and it needs to be, as it goes head-to-head against other notable charmers such as the Vauxhall Corsavan and the Peugeot 207 van.
The micro van sector in the UK isn’t a huge one – in fact only around 6,500 are sold every year.
But in the past 12 months, this sector has been set alight by the above three offerings, making for a hotly-contested marketplace.
The problem is that none of the vans of this ilk carry a lot of cargo, so many potential buyers will look to heavier vehicles.
But if you need no more space than to carry the odd dog, tool box or cardboard carton, then there are rich pickings to be had.
On the plus side, the Grande Punto, Corsavan and 207 van are all commercial
vehicle versions of cars, so drivers can expect and will get – a totally car-like ride and handling experience.
That means good quality seats, relatively high standard specification
and road manners that will delight those with a penchant for speed.
Weighing in at £8,600 ex-VAT, the Grande Punto offers body-coloured bumpers and side panels, a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, electric wing mirrors, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and adjustable
Extras include air conditioning at £500, 15in alloy wheels at £375 and
reversing sensors at £275 (all prices ex-VAT).
Under the bonnet goes a single diesel powerplant, Fiat’s 1.3 MultiJet 16v,
which offers 75bhp at 4,000 rpm and 140lb-ft of torque at 1,750rpm.
That equates to a 0-60mph time of 13.6 seconds and a top speed of 103mph, while CO2 is a low 119g/km and fuel consumption is a claimed 62.8mpg on the combined cycle.
In the rear end, this van has a load length of 1,200mm, width of 1,034mm and
height of 842mm.
It will swallow one cubic metre of cargo and has a payload of 520kg.
Behind the wheel
THIS van’s a right little bobby dazzler and no mistake.
Even my neighbour, a usually taciturn sort of cove who would probably sniff
at a Ferrari, mentioned what a ‘nice little motor’ I had on the driveway.
In fleet terms, of course, looks don’t count for a lot.
Practicality, reliability and costeffectiveness are the key elements and the
Grande Punto didn’t disappoint on any of the three during the test week.
Entry to our test model was via remote ‘plip’ locking which will open the rear hatch too.
Once in the cab, it reveals itself to be akin to Dr Who’s Tardis.
The van looks petite on the outside but it’s enormous inside, mainly thanks to a windscreen that sweeps forward and a longish bonnet.
The driver’s seat is a figure-hugging one but I couldn’t help thinking that people of a more rotund nature than myself might not fit in.
There is, however, plenty of side and lumbar support and the seat adjusts for height.
The steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach too, so everyone should find a comfortable position.
At 6ft 4in I usually have the seat right back in small vehicles, but with the Grande
Punto, there was still more to go behind when I was in the right position.
Cubby holes, understandably, are at a premium but at least this van has two drinks holders in the centre console, which is more than can be said for most of the opposition.
The radio/CD player, meanwhile, is a good quality one and not one of those ‘cooking’ items you sometimes find in commercial vehicles
In the rear, the hatch is a tad on the small side and there is a sizeable lip under it, which means loads can’t be slid in and out.
But once inside, the load area is fairly square and our test model featured a sliding load cover to hide valuable items from prying eyes.
The 1.3-litre MultiJet powerplant is well-known to me – you’ll find it in vehicles as diverse as the Fiat Doblo Cargo, the new Fiat Fiorino and even the Vauxhall Combo believe it or not.
It’s a little gem, firing up smoothly and quietly and pumping out a lot more power than you’d imagine from so few cubes.
Meanwhile, the clutch action is ultra-light and the gearchange is one of the slickest I’ve ever come across in a van.
Under way, the Grande Punto proves to have power steering weighted just enough on the heavy side to give the driver plenty of
involvement on the bends.
All in all, it’s a pleasing package to drive – just as the car version is.
In fact, nearly 60,000 Grande Punto cars have been sold since its launch
last year, so the word is obviously getting around about this vehicle’s
On the fuel economy front, we didn’t exactly manage to achieve Fiat’s
claimed 62mpg but we clocked up a figure in the high 50s, which isn’t
at all bad.
FIAT is churning out some top notch new vans at present.
We wonder how long it will be before the fleet buying public cottons on to this fact and the Italian manufacturer’s sales start rising.
Gross vehicle weight (kg): 1,650
Power (bhp/rpm): 75/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 140/1,750
Load vol (cu m): 1.0
Payload (kg): 520
Price (ex-VAT): £8,600