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Fiat 500 Lounge 900cc TwinAir

Click to view picture gallery“If it isnt broke, dont fix it is a well
  known saying, and it applies to the
  latest Fiat 500 City Car range which
  has 1,800 changes
however,
 
youd need to be a Fiat 500 fan to
  spot many of them. Obvious updates
  include new bumpers, new front
  and rear lights and a range of new
  colours, options and personalisation
  features...”


AND WHILE IT HASN'T GROWN lengthwise it has, say Fiat, grown in maturity included in the updates are improved fuel consumption and lower emission engines.

Other changes include an enhanced cabin that retains its retro feel and look, along with a new Uconnect infotainment system. The most sensible options include DAB radio for £100, while £350 will buy you TomTom SatNav software plus live connected services. There's also a new palette of body colours in bright and pastel shades plus customising 'Second Skin' vinyl graphics to satisfy creative tastes.

Trim levels are Pop, Pop Star, and the most popular, Lounge. All versions have LED daytime running lights, Start & Stop, and a space saver spare wheel (one-up on the unliked 'tyre repair' kits). Mid-range Pop Star additions include 15-inch alloy wheels, AirCon, split-folding rear seats and heated door mirrors. Lounge spec adds a panoramic glass sunroof, touchscreen, Uconnect Bluetooth, front fog lights and rear parking sensors.

“With the 1.2 petrol unit
costing £1,300 less
than the 900cc TwinAir
you can see why the 1.2
is chosen by most
buyers. The TwinAir
might be better for fuel
economy but the lower
outlay for a 1.2-litre
model is, in reality, more
appealing...
Engine choices, depending on the equipment/trim level chosen, are: 1.2-litre 69hp four-cylinder petrol (the most popular) with a choice of five-speed manual or auto gearbox; the 900cc TwinAir 85hp two-cylinder petrol unit, again with manual/auto options; and the TwinAir 900cc petrol 105hp with a manual six-speed gearbox. Diesels are also on the menu: a MultiJet diesel unit will become available in time for 2016 sales.

The best Combined Cycle fuel economy comes from the 85hp TwinAir manual and is officially given as 74.3mpg. The lowest CO2 emissions are 88g/km from the same engine, but fitted with the auto gearbox.

Both the Hatchback and Convertible models are available with Pop, Pop Star, and Lounge specification, with prices for the Hatchback starting from £10,890 and rising to £14,420 and for the Convertible from £13,540 to £17,070. Wealth warning: if you're tempted to spec-up your 500 from the options and personalisation goodies list it will significantly add to these standard on-the-road prices.

With the 1.2 petrol unit costing £1,300 less than the 900cc TwinAir unit you can see why the 1.2-litre unit is chosen by eight out of ten UK buyers. The TwinAir might be better for fuel economy (and with greener emissions) but the lower purchase cost of the 1.2-litre unit is, in reality, more appealing.

Fiat UK chose to make available only the 900cc TwinAir unit for us media types to try at the recent industry press event. The exact version was the Hatchback TwinAir 105hp unit in Lounge specification which costs £14,420 but with options this test car was several thousand pounds more expensive…

Accounting for the extra outlay were 16-inch alloy wheels at £180, leather upholstery (£780), £270 for auto climate control, Bi-xenon headlights (£610), an electric sunroof costing £260, DAB radio and TomTom navigation (£350), pastel shade Glam Coral paint at £300 and Second Skin 'Scottie' roof graphics at £460. Body stripes added a further £110 to the inflated price.

“One of the issues with
the 900cc two-cylinder
TwinAir has been the
relatively poor real-life
fuel economy.
Officially this new
version of the Fiat 500
has a Combined Cycle
figure of 67.3mpg —
driving around
Hampshire’s country
roads my real-world
figure came out at
46.4mpg...”
Over its eight-year life the current Fiat 500 has received improvements to its handling refinement and the latest version has a slightly more refined ride. The 'new' 500 seems more stable and less unsettled by poor road surfaces although there is still bodyroll during cornering and the road-roar from the tyres is very noticeable.

However, the handling is agile and ideal for driving around town. The steering remains sharp though still lacking in feel; the Sport button just adds weight without delivering any more feedback to the driver.

One of the issues with the 900cc TwinAir two-cylinder engine has been the relatively poor real-life fuel economy. Because of its two cylinders, the fuel consumption is more affected by the driving conditions and weight carried than a more responsive four-cylinder petrol unit.

Officially this version of the Fiat 500 has a Combined Cycle figure of 67.3mpg driving along Hampshire's country roads my real-world figure was 46.4mpg.

The 105hp (103bhp) TwinAir unit is characterful and you'll hear and feel its unique twin-cylinder throb in the cabin. Its single pair of cylinders produce 106lb ft of torque at 2,000rpm which is enough to give good low-to-medium speed punch and a fair amount of flexibility driving in busy traffic.

On the open road it performs best if the driver takes note of the gearchange driving prompts because it isn't the usual case of changing gear when the engine revs sound right, as found with engines with more cylinders. Driving the TwinAir, considerable use has to be made of the six-speed 'box to keep 'in tune' with these gearchange prompts, something not helped by the long-throw gearlever.

In its favour the subtle updates keep the 500 fresh and desirable as the UK's best-selling City Car. But while there's improved ride comfort it still has its handling limitations, the steering lacks feedback, and personalisation options can make it expensive although that hasn't stopped it becoming a hot-seller.
David Miles

Fiat 500 Lounge 900cc TwinAir
| £14,420
Maximum speed: 117mph | 0-62mph: 10 seconds | Test Average: 46.4mpg
Power: 103bhp | Torque: 106lb ft | CO2 99g/km