Road Test: Fiat 500 TwinAir Plus
Sector: Supermini Price: £12,760 Fuel: 68.9mpg CO2: 95g/km
An interesting part of getting to try lots of different cars is seeing first hand just how much big power figures aren’t a direct indication of how much fun something is. Hundreds of horsepower will always get you there faster, but it’s not always necessary to put a smile on your face.
The 500 TwinAir is a perfect example. It’s a real front-runner in the race for more efficient petrols, and at 95g/km it’s a smart buy in the CO2-taxed UK. But while it’s not so great at reaching those ambitious fuel consumption figures, it’s about the most fun you can have with a couple of cylinders missing.
For a start, it’s bloody noisy. A refreshing thing in a world where small cars have become thoroughly grown up, four-cylinder 500s included. Squeeze the throttle and the rev counter needle spins around the outside of the clock face to a very abrupt 6,000rpm redline with a deep and loud growl. It’s so entertainingly raucous that economical driving takes real willpower.
Then there’s the power delivery. The TwinAir makes 95bhp, but delivers each one with a hilarious urgency that makes it feel much faster than it actually is. It’s not as smooth as the revvy 1.4-litre engine, nor is it as well sorted as a MINI, but snatching through the short gears with that gruff drone of the engine, it feels more like a warm hatchback than an eco model.
That’s an effect helped by the added kit on the TwinAir Plus. Introduced last year, it sits on tough-looking satin black wheels and comes adorned with satin silver highlights and sports seats. The 500 has always been a pretty little car, and this slightly more masculine version is still adept at turning heads.
But there’s a reason why it works. The engine might be in the wrong end, cooled by water instead of air and with the pistons upright instead of horizontal, but the TwinAir is as close to the original car as you can buy. The difference is, it’s now in a solidly built, more spacious and very modern bodyshell.
The TwinAir engine puts out some impressive factory figures, but figures in the mid to high 40s are more realistic in real-world use. This isn’t a deal-breaker though. View this as a chic, fun, city car with low eco-tax penalties and it’s a real pleasure to spend time with.