First, Fiat Group's fortunes were turned around by the liquidity brought by GM's $1.5 billion contract buyout. Now it's hoping for a big seller to pull the Fiat brand back from the brink. The Giugiaro-designed Punto Grande, which will go on sale in Italy this fall and in the UK early in 2006, is a "supermini," a jumbo-shrimp grade incongruity that's practically unknown in the US market — but could be a serious value player for Europeans who are both cost- and style-conscious. In fact it's a larger version of the Punto II mini, from which it gets its first name. But if it's a relative by birth, it gets its looks from the other side of the family.
Compared to lesser Puntos, the Grande is far more attractively uo-to-date, considering designers appear to have cribbed much-needed frontal attitude from Fiat Group's Pininfarina-deigned Maserati. Still, mini is the name of the game, especially under the hood, with gas-powered 1.2- and 1.4-liter engines churning 65hp and 77hp, respectively. A rumored sporting version, with a 1.6-liter, 180hp engine, while tempting, is just a rumor. Two diesel engines, a 1.3-liter Multijet for economy (90bhp) and a 1.9-liter version getting a more substantial 130bhp, plus six-speed gearbox.