The engine is a 0.9 litre unit and, unusually, has just two cylinders. It is distinctive for the sound it makes, which is aural Marmite, you either love it for its endearing quirkiness, or hate it for its irksome oddness
Very small, highly efficient petrol engines are becoming a bit of a vogue. Fiat has one of the most intriguing units, the award-winning TwinAir. It is officially the world’s lowest CO2-emission petrol engine, using ‘MultiAir’ technology to reduce carbon dioxide in the exhaust by 15 per cent while maintaining zippy performance.
The engine is a 0.9 litre unit and, unusually, has just two cylinders. It is distinctive for the sound it makes, which is aural Marmite, you either love it for its endearing quirkiness, or hate it for its irksome oddness. Longer acquaintance only seems to entrench whichever instinctive view you veer towards from the start.
At the same time as introducing this new engine into the Punto, Fiat has given the car a very minor makeover, to give it some mid-life freshening. You have to be a real Fiat aficionado to notice the difference, as the changes are cosmetic and very minor. The most interesting thing about the car is its new TwinAir engine, because the Punto has been around a while now and is starting to feel a bit outdated by younger and newer supermini rivals, most notably the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta.
The Punto TwinAir comes in both the three-door version tested here, priced £12,100, and a five-door version priced at £12,700. Their performance and economy figures are identical.
An 875 cc engine sounds very small to lug around a modern car, with all its safety structure and kit, and especially with only two cylinders pumping away under the bonnet. But the Punto weighs only just over a tonne – its kerbweight is 1,075 kg – and the diminutive two-pot motor is turbocharged and feels pretty well up to the job.
You have to rev it quite hard to get the engine working, and you have a crisp six-speed manual gearbox to stir things along. The engine’s peak punch point, where the torque tops out with 107 lb ft, is at 2,000 rpm. The power keeps rising all the way up to 5,500 rpm where it peaks at 83 bhp.
Around town the Punto TwinAir feels nippy and as responsive as you can expect of a car with a sub-one litre engine. It isn’t that quick off the mark with a 0-62 acceleration time of nearly 13 seconds, but it doesn’t feel that sluggish either. With a top speed of 107 mph the little car has adequate oomph at legal motorway pace for a comfortable cruise, with an accompanying slightly thrashy engine note.
An automatic stop-start system is fitted to save wasting fuel in traffic, and there is a gearshift indicator to encourage economical driving habits. Fuel economy is a strong point with this car, and its 67.3 mpg combined fuel figure is good for a petrol car, but liberally using the car’s performance will quickly sap the return.