Fiat shrinks 500 engine for economy

There was a time when many of our small cars had engine capacities under one litre. I’m thinking of cars like the original Mini and its would-be rival the Hillman Imp.

Coincidentally, the Fiat 500 TwinAir shares the Imp’s engine capacity at 875cc. But, where the Imp had four cylinders, the Fiat 500 TwinAir has just two.

Fiat 500 TwinAir

That, not surprisingly is one of the first things you notice when you fire up the engine. There’s a definite thrum to the engine note and the sound track is quite alien to those of us brought up on four, six, or even occasional eight cylinder soundtracks. It’s not unpleasant engine note and even sounds quite urgent in its own way.

Apart from the engine the rest of the Fiat 500 package is as before. So rather than go through the full story, you can simply look back to our original test of the Fiat 500.

Let’s just say the design is as cute as ever, with lines that pay homage to the original 500. The interior also successfully treads the fine line of retro and modernity. The ventilation panel, for example manages to look stylish, but also has a kind of Bakelite 1950s look.

Fiat 500 TwinAir interior

Fiat’s problem will be how to develop the 500. How do you evolve a retro design without losing the original purity of the design? It’s an issue that Mini has had to tackle in updating and expanding its range.

But, let’s focus on this car’s interesting engine and its resulting economy.

The power output from the two in-line cylinders is 85 bhp, It’s an interesting comparison that the Hillman Imp with its identically-sized engine only managed 55 bhp in its more sporting models – so the Fiat has notably more power squeezed from its small capacity.

It certainly feels quite remarkably lively. Even in the stern test (for a small engine) of accelerating hard out of an uphill dual-carriageway roundabout, this little car managed to keep pace with much more powerful cars – albeit not being driven with the same determination!

Accelerating 0-62 mph takes 11 seconds, which is a whole lot better than, for example, the 15 seconds it takes in the slightly larger-engined Chevrolet Spark 1.0.

It may be because I began my motoring life driving small engined cars and (on student finances, trying to eke out maximum miles per gallon) that I actually quite enjoy motoring at the micro end of the scale. There is a certain pleasure in trying to maintain momentum, while keeping up a reasonable pace. It’s a challenge that means avoiding harsh braking, sudden acceleration and scrubbing off speed with over-rapid cornering.

The Fiat TwinAir Pop test car has a quoted combined consumption figure of 68.9 mpg and carbon dioxide emissions of 95 g/km – meaning you pay nothing for your UK road tax. I am quite used to the gap between official combined figures and the actual economy, but I was disappointed with my figures.

Fiat 500

On a series of city and country drives the trip computer gave my average consumption as 42 – still creditable, but some way from the official combined figure. Maybe I was just revelling in driving the TwinAir, or maybe I should have used the ‘Eco’ button more.

That is the truth. It is a fun car. It looks like fun and it is fun. It maybe lacks the dynamic refinement of other superminis, but it is enjoyable to be with and enjoyable to drive at least in the relatively short five-days acquaintance I had with it.

The price of the Fiat 500 TwinAir Pop is £10,865 and the test car had the addition of £525 air conditioning, Bue & Me hands free at £265, 15-inch allow wheels at £315 and a rather nice leather steering wheel with audio controls for £105.

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