While Italians are renowned for their beautiful car designs, the South African market has not been an easy one for the Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands.
However, the folks in Midrand say they have come a long way to give up now.
It would be unfair not to recognise the fact that Fiat has introduced some stunning vehicles into our market in the past few years.
Though the brand has not received a thumbs up from the customers, Fiat Auto of South Africa is working towards changing this. Their plan includes introducing new cars at attractive pricing and specs.
For starters, the Italian giant last week launched the new Fiat Grande Punto T-Jet. The base model is priced at R118000.
Other than a blunder such as Sienna and "new" Uno, Fiat is on the right track. This car is in the form of the 1,2-litre fire engine producing 49kW of power.
Despite its entry-level status, the three-door 1,2 Active for example boasts such niceties as dual front air bags, ABS with EBD, remote central locking, power steering, front electric windows and electric mirrors and a trip computer.
Among other derivatives in the Grande Punto line-up are the 1,4-litre 5-door Dynamic, 1,4-litre T-Jet 5-door Dynamic and the 1,4-litre T-Jet 3-door Sport.
Enhancing the ownership prospect, the new Fiat Grande Punto Model Year 2009 has 30000km service intervals. However, Fiat Auto South Africa warns that this service plan applies to Model Year 2009/Series II versions only.
The Grande Punto comes with a three years warranty on paintwork and five years on rust anti-perforation as well as a standard five-year 90000km service plan.
Launched in Gauteng, the manufacturer did it on purpose to eliminate any doubts that the media might have about the performance of the T-Jet engine.
To make it even more attractive and original, the new car now has new upholstery and colours, and more attractive practical shades, and surface treatments for the facia. The instrument panel is also new and more opulent with chrome rings.
The five-door 1,4 T-Jet Dynamic boasts even more kit including air conditioning, a six-speaker audio system with steering controls, a height-adjustable driver's seat, rear headrests, six air bags, ESP incorporating traction control and Hill Holder.
The range-topping three-door 1,4 T-Jet Sport gets the "Full Monty" treatment with the following items over and above the 1,4 T-Jet Dynamic: centre armrest, front fog lamps, auto-locking doors, side skirts, rear spoiler, leather steering wheel and gear knob, and 17-inch alloys.
One specific feature of the ESP fitted to the Fiat Grande Punto is the incorporation of a Hill Holder system that assists the driver on hill starts.
Price range is from R118000 to R191900 for the top of the range, effective February 1 2009.