Turin - The latest iteration of Fiat Auto's bread-and-butter car, the Punto, will be unveiled in Turin on July 11 in time for the company's centenary celebrations, and will go on sale in Italy in September.
At more than 500,000 units annually, the Punto is Fiat's volume leader and Europe's best-selling supermini. Maybe that's why the company took a 'German approach' to the car's styling, opting for a slow evolution in looks rather than a more dramatic remake.
Designers know you don't lightly mess with your franchise car for fear of screwing it up - although sources say Fiat is considering renaming the car Cento, pronounced 'chento.'
As seen in these prelaunch photos, the new model's proportions and shape are similar to the previous-generation car. But creases along the doors (both on the three- and five-door versions), the rear flank and along the top edge of the rear hatch convey a more 'edgy' feel.
The new car maintains the traditional McPherson strut front suspension, but reverts to a less expensive torsion-beam axle at the rear. Lighter and more compact than the Punto's all-independent setup, the torsion beam leaves more room for the fuel tank and trunk.
Engine possibilities include an all-new, 1.2-to-1.5-liter common-rail turbodiesel to be sourced from France's PSA Group for the 2001 model year. A 1.2-liter gasoline engine in eight- and 16-valve versions replaces the 1.1-liter, 55-hp Fire as the base powerplant.
The range is topped off by the 1.8-liter four used in the Fiat Coupe and Barchetta. It replaces the 1.4-liter turbo used in the Punto's high-performance version.