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Top eco engine for Fiat 500

Blue, and green: Fiat’s 2012 model 500 will be much more environmentally friendly thanks to its new award-winning small-capacity but high-tech engine.

Turbocharged 0.9-litre ‘twin’ set to replace 1.4 as new standard Fiat 500 engine

Fiat logo28 Nov 2011

By DAVID HASSALL

FIAT importer Ateco Automotive has reversed its decision not to import its award-winning ‘TwinAir’ engine to Australia after successfully concluding long-running price negotiations with the factory in Italy.

It will now introduce the low-emissions 875cc turbocharged two-cylinder petrol engine early next year as the only variant in the 500 light car, replacing the current 1.4-litre model.

Ateco Automotive spokesman Edward Rowe told GoAuto the company aims to sell the new single-variant 500 for the same price as the outgoing 1.4-litre model, which is priced from $24,990 (plus on-road costs).

Having told us in May that the engine would not come here because Australia – unlike many other countries, especially in Europe – offered no tax breaks for more economical vehicles, Mr Rowe said this week that “endless” price negotiations with the Italians over a period of nine months had finally come to fruition.

“Basically, we told them (Fiat) that we need to have this technology so they needed to change their price,” he said.

He said that shipping disruptions caused by the Thai floods have caused havoc in the region, so it was not yet possible to say exactly when the revised 500 will arrive in Australia, but he expects it will be some time in the first quarter.

36 center imageAteco had already rationalised the 500 range, dropping both the diesel-powered model and the 1.2-litre petrol in September 2010, leaving only the 1.4 petrol.

The TwinAir engine was voted the 2011 International Engine of the Year in May, as well as trophies for best engine in its class, Best New Engine and Best Green Engine.

Though it has only a 0.9-litre capacity, the TwinAir provides comparable performance to the current 1.4-litre non-turbo, producing 63kW of power (compared to 74kW for the four-cylinder) and 145Nm of torque (versus 131Nm).

While it is half a second slower accelerating from 0-100km/h at 11.0 seconds, the new engine slashes fuel consumption by some 30 per cent, recording an official average of 3.6 litres per 100km while emitting just 92 grams of CO2 per kilometre (versus 149g/km).

Fiat claims the TwinAir engine “is able to provide this remarkable combination of performance, economy and low emissions thanks to a wealth of new technology, including the latest application of the Fiat invented MultiAir electro-hydraulic valve management system, next generation turbocharger, cutting edge designs for gas flow management and technology developed by the Ferrari Formula One Team to reduce internal engine friction”.

Fiat Australia general manager Andrei Zaitzev believes the new engine will strengthen Fiat 500 sales in Australia.

“Until now we have been unable to bring TwinAir to Australia because we do not have the differential automotive tax system that enables advanced low emission/low consumption technology to be sold at market competitive prices in Europe through reduced taxation,” he said.

“However, we could not accept that Australia should be denied this remarkable technology and its ability to make an environmental contribution to our environment because of a shortcoming in our tax system.

“We have therefore negotiated hard to enable it to arrive in Australia and to do so at market-competitive prices.

“We have no doubt that this remarkable technical advance in engine design will be as warmly welcomed in Australia as it has been in Europe.”

Fiat released the retro-styled 500 in Australia in February 2008, but it has never quite lived up to launch hype, when former company boss David Stone claimed they could sell “many, many, many thousands” but for supply restraints.

Despite claiming that the first year allocation was 1000 cars, Fiat sold only 584 that year, followed by 342 units in 2009 and 344 last year.

With this year’s introduction of sporty Abarth-badged models, combined 500 sales to the end of October this year amounted to 442 – consisting of 275 standard cars and 167 Abarths.

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