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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Found this interesting article on the Fiat 500 TwinAir.

source - mirror
You know that a new Ferrari is going to be red, very fast and will go round corners so quickly that your head will try to fall off.

A Rolls-Royce will have acres of cow hide, wool carpet and hectares of other organic materials inside it.

And it'll probably have an optional drinks cabinet fitted that costs the same as a two-week holiday in Barbados.

Although I haven't driven it yet, I've a pretty good idea what the new McLaren MP4-12C supercar will be like. Very like a Ferrari to drive but a different colour.

My point is that you don't often get surprises in this game or not know what to expect.

Enter the Fiat 500 TwinAir. As you might guess from the name, it is powered by a two-cylinder engine.

They are common on motorcycles, snowmobiles, jetskis and other machines that don't have to purr along smoothly with a toddler asleep in the back. This is because the more cylinders an engine has, the smoother it will be. Which is why BMW is building a touring bike with six cylinders and why the Rolls-Royce Phantom has a 12-cylinder engine. So why has Fiat bothered to make a two-cylinder engine when the 500 already has a choice of four different four-cylinder engines? Two reasons: firstly, a two-cylinder engine should be lighter and smaller, and second, because it can.

The original Fiat 500 from the 1950s and '60s had a two-cylinder engine, as did the 126 and the early Pandas.

They had a lot of character but they shook, were noisy and had very little power. Technology has come on a bit since then and the new engine is much cleverer. It's water-cooled, which means it's quieter. It's fitted with a balancer shaft which makes it smoother and it is turbocharged so it has a decent amount of power.

The 875cc engine has only 84bhp but a lot of torque (107lb/ft at a remarkably low 1,900rpm). Because of that wodge of grunt the TwinAir engine feels just like a diesel and pulls remarkably well from low down.

Fiat's massive advertising campaign for the TwinAir focuses on the car's economy and record-breaking low emissions. That's the reason for buying it of course, especially if you live in London because you won't pay any congestion charge.

With a claimed combined consumption of 68.9mpg, Scrooges in all parts of the country will smile.

Lots of fuel-sipping motors are a bit dull to drive but the TwinAir is almost as fun as the Abarth 500.

The engine has a lovely thrummy noise when you rev it that sounds unlike any other engine.

It's also got an impressive turn of speed and feels faster than the 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre 500s.

You can order both hardtop and convertible with the TwinAir engine. A semi-auto gearbox is available but we've got the five-speed manual which is more fun.

For extra economy you can press a button labelled Eco which reduces the torque to 74lb ft for town driving and makes the steering lighter too.

There's also a stop/start system fitted but I used the button to switch it off because I got annoyed when I didn't press the clutch pedal down far enough to restart.

The twin-pot engine is only 10% lighter than the 1.2-litre four cylinder motor so the car doesn't feel any different in handling or braking. Or ride comfort. So the TwinAir is great fun to drive with an engine that's technically interesting, full of character, and can cover an astonishing 68 miles on one gallon of fuel. What's stopping you ordering one right now? Only my advice not to, I hope.

The trouble is I was unable to get the 500 TwinAir to do 60mpg. Or 50mpg. In fact, getting 40.1mpg on the mileage computer took some very, very careful driving.

And it's not just that Hammond wears heavy shoes. In all the tests I've seen, the TwinAir failed to average better than about 38-40mpg. Quite why Fiat engineers let the marketing department make bold claims for the TwinAir that it can't match is a mystery.

They must have known the engine wasn't as economical as hoped.

And how did it do 68.9mpg in the government tests? If Fiat can sort out what is wrong with the engine and make sure it does sixty-something to the gallon in the real world then the car will be well worth buying.

As it is at the moment, the 500 TwinAir is frustratingly flawed.


Mini One 1.6DUnder 100g/km from the diesel but it's not as fun or cute as the Fiat.

Also a pricey £14,175

Smart ForTwo CDI Only two seats but if you really want to avoid collecting Nectar points at the garage it really will do 80mpg £10,340 Volkswagen Polo BluemotionSensible family transport that's not cute as its rivals but is great on fuel, space and practicality £15,045


Fiat 500 TwinAir

Three-door hatchback

Price: About £12,000

Engine: 0.9-litre two-cylinder, 85bhp 0-62: 11.7sec

Fuel consumption: 68.9mpg claimed
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