Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

There’s just the one engine offered in the Abarth Punto Evo - the 1.4-litre turbocharged MultiAir. It’s a lively and fun engine that produces 165bhp accelerating the car from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 133mph. More impressive is the pulling power with a maximum torque of 250Nm that is accessed from 2,250rpm. This gives the car the kind of low-down pull right through the gears that you might expect from a bigger diesel engine but the sporty rasp from the exhaust can sometimes sound as though it is being overworked.

The six-speed manual gearbox is more than adequate with a smooth and slick change. Despite the hot hatch looks and performance it manages 47.1mpg with emissions of just 142g/km. This is achieved mainly due to the car being fitted with start/stop that cuts the engine when the car is stationary.

This is where the Punto Evo really excels. Despite being on 17-inch alloys and stiff performance car suspension, it is surprisingly smooth with no bone-shaking ride. Handling is excellent and sharp and despite the use of electric assisted power, the steering its still weighty enough to make you feel reassured at higher speeds. As with other Abarth models the Punto Evo comes with a Sport switch.

This is positioned next to the gearknob and is actually a small lever that the firm says is inspired by a steering wheel-mounted controller on Ferrari’s Formula One cars. Pushing the lever forward selects Sport mode. This adds extra weight to the steering and quickens the throttle response, making the Punto Evo even better in the performance stakes but it does increase fuel consumption.

The sport button also engages TTC – Torque Transfer Control – that switches the amount of drive through the driven wheels depending on conditions. Essentially, it helps to increase grip in undulating roads.