Being a Fiat fan,and having owned one of these for a few years,I thought its time to write a buyers guide.These cars make excellent first cars,and now they are so cheap,and getting on in years there are a few things to watch out for.
They come in various engine sizes,and both 3 and 5 door versions.Engine's range from the 55 up to the GT turbo,which is 1400.There is also a rare 1600 version,which is quite a little luxury car!
I'll major on the smaller engined cars here,but most of these points go for the bigger ones too.
Rust: Yes its a Fiat,but don't stop reading! These cars are actually pretty rust resistant,more so in my opinion than Fords or Vauxhalls. Fiat got their paint process and anti rust treatment sorted out by the time the Punto was launched,and you still see M and N reg cars running around in very nice condition. Check along the inner sills underneath,right on the edge of the floor, they can go here,also check around the front subframe at the back.Sills seem to be rust resistant,and are easy to see. check the bolt on radiator crossmember though, these can rust badly,and even break away,but easy to change and not structural.
Suspension. Jack up the rear and give the wheels a good tug top and bottom. Any movement here means the rear trailing arm bushes are gone. Not the end of the world as new complete trailing arms are about 50 quid and are not too bad to fit,but budget for replacement.Most will have been done by now as its a fairly common fault.You may hear a few knocks and bangs, the suspension is pretty noisy on these,especially the rear, but listen out for heavy clonks etc.
Brakes: fairly trouble free, and parts are cheap. Turbo's have rear discs,and calipers can sieze, so check handbrake operation and condition of the discs,pipes may have been changed,but are straightforward to replace,but much better on a ramp!Mine is an N reg and still on original pipes.
Engines: smaller FIRE engines are non interference, so no damage if the belt goes, but keep to the specified intervals, one of the easiest belts to change, but replace the tensioner at the same time.Check for misfiring and overheating,head gaskets do go, but usually caused by lack of maintenence.make sure the cooling system is bled properly by using the screw on the top of the radiator,and also on the heater pipe,failure to do this will cause overheating. Also make sure the fan works.Other than this these little engines are superb and very economical. Emissions problems are usually caused by a faulty Lambda sensor, a fault here doesn't usually put the management light on,and the car will hesitate badly.
Gearboxes: can be troublesome if neglected, usually obvious on a drive,as they will sound horrible. If gears engage OK and no noises,then no problems!
Otherwise, just check as with any used car purchase,parts are cheap,and they are easy to work on,so just adjust the price accordingly.One point to watch on turbo's is the fuel tank,as these are metal,and do corrode. New ones are unavaliable,so watch for this! Red and white paint can fade badly, but usually just needs an afternoon with the T Cut!
So if you are in the market for a first car or a cheap runaround,you could do a lot worse! Cheap insurance,cheap tax,cheap parts, great on fuel and much bigger inside than you may think!
Fiat Punto Mk1 Buying guide
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3 April 2009
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