Technology in action

In its various previous guises, the Punto has been renowned for a high level of exciting and innovative technology. It became the first car in the supermini sector to feature an in-built infotainment system courtesy of Blue&Me. It was also the first car in its class to be able to analyse and give suggestions for improving driving styles in real time thanks to eco:Drive. The 2012 Fiat Punto builds on these attributes.

Blue&Me TomTom LIVE

Fiat recognises that it's vitally important for drivers to be able to concentrate on the road and not on finding directions or operating in-car entertainment systems, so the 2012 Punto can be specified with Blue&Me TomTom LIVE.

Designed for maximum user friendliness, this integrates mobile phones and media players with the car's built-in systems so drivers can use them in total safety without taking their hands off the wheel. Featuring a 4.3-inch high definition touch screen that mounts in a cradle on the dash board, this system is much more than mere satellite navigation.

Using Fiat's intuitive Blue&Me, phones and media players can be synched via Bluetooth, meaning there are no untidy wires. The devices can then be controlled through the touchscreen, with buttons on the steering wheel or using voice commands, without drivers taking their eyes off the road or their hands from the wheel.

The Blue&Me TomTom LIVE screen is mounted on the dashboard but can be removed so the driver can also use it as a portable navigation system. The navigation system features detailed maps, a routing system that chooses the best roads after analysing traffic conditions, and TomTom HD Traffic with detailed information on traffic, queues, road blocks and engineering works updated every two minutes during the journey.

Eco:Drive

Blue&Me also incorporates Fiat's revolutionary eco:Drive system. This enables users to download information about their driving to a USB stick. This can then be uploaded to their computer and by accessing Fiat's eco:Drive website, acceleration, deceleration, gear shifts and speed are analysed to give drivers a personal eco:Index of between 1 and 100. The eco:Drivers then receive tips on how to improve their performance and can become part of the eco:Ville on-line community. This has so far enabled 64,000 users to save 4300 tonnes of CO2 through improvement in their driving styles.

Start&Stop and Gear Shift Indicator

To boost economy further, all engines are equipped with Fiat's Start&Stop. This is specifically designed for city driving and switches the engine off when traffic signals or conditions require the vehicle to stop, while keeping all functions such as lights, windscreen wipers, climate control and the sound system operating. When it's time to move off again, lifting off the brake or touching the clutch triggers the engine to fire up.

The Start&Stop comes with a Gear Shift Indicator (GSI). This offers a discreet prompt to drivers to change gear at the optimum point to minimise fuel consumption. In urban driving fuel economy can be boosted by up to 15 per cent if both these technologies are employed.

Safety

As with every Fiat, the priority is to ensure the safety and well being of everyone on board. The vehicle body is made out of high strength steel and handling has been made as predictable as possible thanks to independent MacPherson strut suspension at the front and torsion beam at the rear.

Fiat's Dualdrive electric power steering gives the driver plenty of feedback without drawing too much power from the engine. Driver, passenger and window airbags are standard fit on every model, as are front and rear adjustable head restraints. But there are also plenty of features that are usually considered the preserve of larger models.

To ensure that drivers can see, adaptive cornering fog lights show the way round corners. To make sure that cars can be seen they feature Daytime Running Lights (DRL). These use less power than dipped beam headlights and are switched on automatically by the key going into the ignition. Using them doesn't illuminate the instrument panel so this maintains its visibility during daylight. As well as this, the front fog light flashes at the same time as the first indicator blink to signify a lane change manoeuvre.

The Punto is fitted with a powerful braking system that is supplemented by various electronic systems. There's ABS anti-lock braking that detects and prevents wheel locking in extreme braking or on slippery surfaces. The Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) helps increase the amount of control the driver has in all conditions. By monitoring steering inputs the ESP can tell if the car is deviating from its intended path and steps in to brake individual wheels so the car returns to its correct trajectory.

The same computer controls the Hill Holder which maintains braking pressure after the driver lifts off the pedal to ensure perfect hill starts every time. The 2012 Fiat Punto can also be specified with rain sensors. Using an infrared LED installed in the front of the screen these detect the presence of rain and automatically switch the windscreen wipers on if it's sufficiently wet.

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