New Punto On Sale In Britain | Part Four

To that end, a two tone, grey finish to the dashboard now brightens the cabin with the lighter colour dominant below the waistline. The dash remains uniformly dark grey on Active Sport, Sporting and HGT models to reflect their sporting nature and emphasise the crisp, aluminium paint finish on the centre console. New, white dialled graphics in the driver's instrument binnacle further differentiate Sporting and HGT models.

A new range of cloth trims identifies the model range, from the refined blue or pearl grey flock trims of Eleganza models to the 3-D, metallic effect finish of upholstery in Sporting and HGT models.

Much of the new Punto's equipment has previously only been available on higher segment cars: an instrument panel with multi-function display, dual-zone climate control, a six button steering wheel for comprehensive stereo control, a trip computer, rain and parking sensors, cruise control and five different telematics packages; stereo radio with tape player, CD player, CD and MP3 player, CONNECT OBN and satellite navigation.

Safety

The new Punto is one of the safest cars on the road, and both driver and passenger airbags are standard equipment across the range.

Airbags

New Punto may, however, be equipped with up to six airbags; driver and passenger front and side airbags, as well as two side curtain airbags providing head protection in the case of side impacts. Their operation is controlled by an electronic control unit that evaluates crash severity via a number of sensors located throughout the car.

The front passenger airbag may be deactivated manually via an ignition key switch on the fascia; a dashboard warning light indicates this condition. Though the seatbelt pretensioner remains active, a rear-facing baby seat can therefore be safely fitted.

Brakes

The servo assisted braking system features two independent crossover hydraulic circuits to ensure prompt, linear braking and shorter stopping distances.

The front discs measure 240 mm on versions equipped with the 1.2 8v engine, 257 mm for those with 1.2 16v, 1.4 16v, 1.3 16v JTD Multijet and 1.9 85 bhp JTD power plants, and 284 mm on new Puntos with 1.9 100 bhp JTD Multijet and 1.8 16v units. With the exception of those fitted to the 1.2 Fire engined cars, all discs are ventilated.

Drum brakes are fitted to the rear of all versions with the exception of the Punto HGT, which is equipped with front and rear discs.

To compensate for their slight increase in weight, diesel engined cars are fitted with a variable load-proportioning valve that distributes the braking effort correctly to the rear axle under all load conditions, and reduces stopping distances. The load proportioning valve is electronic on versions equipped with ABS.

The new Punto is equipped with the full range of braking, traction control and stability systems on the market today: ABS anti-lock brakes, complete with electronic brakeforce distribution, ASR to limit wheel slip during acceleration, MSR to modulate engine torque whilst changing down, and a sophisticated ESP to control stability through bends. Vehicles fitted with ESP also benefit from hydraulic brake assistance and a unique Hill Holder function to facilitate smooth hill starts.

continues | Part Five .

Published 16 July 2003 Melanie Carter

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