It’s been a while since I had to drive anywhere, but this weekend I picked up a Fiat Punto from Heathrow and headed to the southwest of England. After about 20 minutes, I had absolutely no sympathy for anyone in the auto industry. So many details of this car, intended as a small, economical runabout (the basic edition costs £10,600, about $22,000), were completely off. And every single one was a design flaw that’s simply not excused by the car’s price:
I’ve noticed this in other cars too, but on turning my head to check the blind spot for approaching traffic, I instead got a great view of the car’s interior B-pillar. This isn’t just a design flaw, it’s hugely dangerous.
Careful drivers remain alert. In my world, that means coffee, but I did not remain quite as caffeinated as I had hoped after my drink went flying after I had to change gears. Given that the Punto is a manual car, changing gears is hardly an unexpected activity. There simply wasn't enough space for the drink and the gearstick to coexist.
The windscreen wipers weren't bad actually, and could cope with both the torrential downpours and the drizzle that came down throughout my journey. But then I made the mistake of cracking open the front passenger window. And then watched, amazed, as a stream of water trailed neatly across the top of the windscreen and poured straight through the window and into my handbag.
I'm all in favor of small cars -- I'd love to see more of them Stateside. But details like this really matter and will hardly make a strong case for them. What's more, all of these problems show the benefits and importance of actually trying out a design. On paper, I'm sure none of these problems were apparent. In the real world, they're instantly obvious and immediately off-putting. As it happens, I'm not in the market to buy a car. But if I was then the Punto wouldn't make it anywhere on the list.
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