1996 Fiat Punto ELX 1.7 turbo diesel from Spain


Economical, reliable, practical, roomy and stylish


Electrical problems six months after buying the car.

Glow plugs needing replacing too often (about once a year).

General Comments:

Six months after I bought the car it had a serious electrical problem. When any kind of extra electrical consumption was needed (i.e. using the indicators, turning on the lights, brake lights, reverse lights, electrical windows, etc.) the whole electrical system would stop working completely for a second or two. It only affected the running of the engine once, but only for a couple of seconds, and as I was doing 90 km/h the engine restarted itself when the electrics came back. The problem occurred randomly, so it was impossible to pinpoint. FIAT kept the car for a week, but found nothing. I took the car to an independent garage, where they checked all the earth connexions and found a few loose. After that the fault disappeared.

I bought the car because I needed an economical way of transport, and the 1.7 TD engine has proved extremely economical, as the general maintenance of the car. It is stylish even now, and it is extremely roomy inside and bar the initial electrical problem, it has turned out to be extremely reliable, contrary to what most people think about FIATs.

Performance is not great, but then you don't expect huge acceleration from a 1.7 TD. The car is more than enough in most driving situations, and is specially swift in city traffic, thanks to short gearing. Which turns out to be a problem on the motorway. At a cruising speed of 140 km/h the engine is revving at 4000 rpm, and while the red line is still 1000 rpm away, the engine noise is just too loud for long journeys. I recently drove all the way from Belgium to Spain in a day (1423km) and the resulting headache was horrible.

The handling is OK for a small hatch, but I think that the dampers are too hard while the springs are too soft, which results in the car being uncomfortable over bumps and leaning too much on corners.

The general built quality is good, only now at more than 150000 km some cracks and squeaks start to let themselves notice in the cabin, otherwise all plastics and pieces of trim still look solid. My only complain in this respect is the bodywork. Living in Spain rust is not a problem :) but the steel is not very strong, so the car is full of micro-dents from other drivers hitting it when they open their doors in parkings and small stone-chips. And the paint on the front bumper has started to peel off near the license plate (not too serious, considering the car's age).

To sum up, a highly recommendable economical first car, that will happily do long journeys as well. FIAT was not very generous with the equipment list on this first generation, so even if they are more difficult the find, better get one of the well specced ones.

I hope this car lasts long enough (another 3-4 years) so I can afford a BMW 320td Compact or something similar.

Don't hesitate to drop a few lines if you have any questions:


Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 3rd March, 2004

1996 Fiat Punto 55 SX 1.1 from UK and Ireland


Good looks, great style, suspect reliability


Cam Belt broke whilst driving to work at 45000 miles. Replaced on warranty.

Failed MOT 1 year ago due to Offside Rear Radius Arm (Common fault). A side street garage replaced for under £100. More expensive at a main dealer.

New Brake disc's at 40000 miles.

Clutch needs replacing now (58000).

Last service (main dealer) showed a leaking shock absorber.

General Comments:

The car is surprisingly nippy for a small engine.

The car is very roomy for a small cabin size. Plenty of leg room for a big person like myself (6'+).

The insurance and tax are very, very cheap.

Decent economy. There are better, but there are definitely worse.

A general bit of advice for potential buyers:

Go for one with a full service history from a recognized and established dealer. Make sure you get a good warranty with it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 17th February, 2004

18th Feb 2005, 08:43

Yes I agree with the advice, make sure you've got the full history.

Snap! I've experienced the same faults, but nothing too expensive (<