| 16.8°C Dublin

FIAT's sporty GP is certainly worth a Punt-o

I love surprises - especially good ones.

Ah yes, every now and then one creeps up behind you and like my eight-year-old's favourite game ... leaves you tickled pink.

Now, bearing in mind that I'd just stepped off a plane from sunny Spain where I'd spent the previous 48 hours testing the new Audi A5 range including the bonkers 450 bhp RS, so one could be forgiven for not getting too excited about a rainy weekend in a FIAT Punto.

But this was no ordinary Punto - it was the Punto Evo GP to give her the full title.

On paper this little hatchback doesn't stand out in any particular way and didn't seem all that special - or so I thought.

Talk about an absolute assault on the senses. One found it hard to fathom that your tush was actually sitting inside a FIAT.


You see, I'd never sat in any FIAT, or for that matter any "bread and butter" hatch finished to such a high standard.

I kid you not. We're talking buckets seats - finished in the finest leather, double stitched in red to compliment the black hide which also featured on the sports steering, around the door panels and throughout the cockpit.

Setting off the cabin are sunken clocks trimmed in snazzy chrome and a central console finished in piano black.

But the best feature of all is the built-in TomTom sat nav - protruding at an angle from the top of the dash which can be removed (stalk and all) at the flick of a switch. (Only one glitch here it is quite bulky and took quite some fiddling to get it to fit in the glove box)

It also came with a panoramic double sunroof which gave the whole interior an airy and roomy feel to it.

Now, I know I'm sounding a little hysterical, but this is a bloody FIAT.

It is testament to just how far the marque has come in the last decade.

Now, it is not going to break any land speed records but the 1.4 litre 105bhp petrol has enough grunt to do what it was designed to do and a bit more.

It nips through the city traffic with ease and is more than capable of holding its own on motorway jaunts - hitting 0-100kph in just over 10 seconds.

She is pretty frugal too for a petrol with emissions of 134g/km, keeping the annual road tax bill down to €156.

Fuel consumption is decent - returning around 50mpg or 5.7 litres/100km thanks to MultiAir technology, Stop/Start (as standard).

Prices for the Punto Evo begin at €13,595 with the GP costing €16,495.