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Fiat releases cheaper 500 TwinAir

500 twin: Two-cylinder Fiat now opens 500 hatch range at $22,990 plus on-road costs.

Ateco to boost Fiat 500 sales by up to a third via price cuts and new TwinAir model

30 Jan 2012

A NEW turbocharged 875cc twin-cylinder engine and a base price cut of $2000 are expected to boost the pint-size Fiat 500’s popularity by up to a third in Australia this year.

Local Fiat distributor Ateco Automotive has released a revised 500 line-up, powered exclusively by the Italian car-maker’s award-winning TwinAir engine, following a successful conclusion to “endless” price negotiations with the factory.

As we reported in November, Ateco reversed its decision not to release the low-emissions turbo-twin in Australia’s Fiat 500 following tough talks on price, and the company has now announced a lower than anticipated base manual price of $22,990 plus on-road costs.

Fitted with a Dualogic automated manual transmission, the TwinAir-equipped Fiat 500 hatch costs $24,990 – the same as the 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol-powered manual model it replaces.

The same 0.9-litre engine now powers Australia’s 500C convertible, which now costs $25,990 (down $3000), with the self-shifting Dualogic version adding a further $2000 at $27,990.

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

The advanced twin-cylinder TwinAir engine combines Fiat’s patented MultiAir electro-hydraulic valve management system with turbocharging to return freeway fuel consumption of just 3.6 litres per 100km and a combined average of 3.9L/100km in Dualogic auto form, ranking it among the most fuel-efficient cars available.

Acceleration to 100km/h is half a second slower at 11.0 seconds, but the new engine slashes CO2 emissions by more than 30 per cent, emitting just 90 grams of CO2 per kilometre (versus 149g/km).

Fiat says that means the TwinAir emits less CO2 than any production petrol engine, while the five-speed manual version emits 92g/km and consumes 4.0L/100km.

It also says that, compared with Fiat’s best-selling 1.2-litre petrol engine in the Fiat 500, the TwinAir delivers 23 per cent more power yet 15 per cent lower emissions and fuel consumption.

Despite this – and the fact it displaces just 875cc – the TwinAir mill provides comparable performance to the current 1.4-litre non-turbo, producing 62.5kW of power (compared to 74kW for the four-cylinder) and 145Nm of torque (versus 131Nm) from just 1900rpm.

The TwinAir engine – which weighs only 85kg – was voted the 2011 International Engine of the Year last May, as well as receiving trophies for best engine in its class, Best New Engine and Best Green Engine.

36 center imageIn Australia, it is now the only engine available in both the three-door 500 hatch, which was first released here in February 2008, and the 500C convertible, which arrived here in September 2009.

In the absence of the large Punto light car and Ritmo small car (the latter is known as the Bravo in Europe) due to the unavailability of an automatic transmission, the 500 continues to be the only Fiat model on sale in Australia, where 299 examples of the 500 were sold last year.

The Fiat soft-top version is forecast to continue to comprise the majority (about 60 per cent) of Fiat 500 sales, with Dualogic versions expected to account for 70 per cent of both hatch and cabrio models.

However, Ateco spokesman Edward Rowe said the company expected lower pricing and the more efficient new engine to boost Fiat 500 sales substantially.

“With the new drivetrain, the revamped specification and the keener pricing, we are aiming at between 350 and 400 Fiat 500s in 2012,” he said.

“Abarth is on top of that and we sold 233 versions of the Abarth 500 and 500C in 2011. This year we expect these to total around 250.”

Mr Rowe said the strong Australian currency and great economies of scale had combined to make the TwinAir-equipped 500 affordable here.

“When TwinAir was launched it was not on our shopping list as it was priced to take account of tax benefits in Europe and its limited production volume,” he said.

“Now that the engine features in a range of Fiat Group products, especially the new Panda, it has had a substantial leap in its production volume. This is reflected in its 2012 model year price and that, combined with the strength of the Australian dollar, has enabled us to provide it to the Australian market.”

He said Australia’s 500 TwinAir gained a number of high-end specifications compared to the budget-conscious model offered as standard in Europe, as well as fresh cosmetics for the 2012 model year.

“The TwinAir replaces entirely the 1.4 variant and it is a trim/equipment variant in its own right. We took this decision for two reasons: firstly the changes to the drivetrain and specification keep the 500 fresh and different, and secondly the TwinAir engine’s technology and environmental credentials are attractive to potential customers.

“Combined, they provide a fresh new 500 for 2012 which we believe will maintain and develop ownership of the Fiat 500 in Australia.

“In Europe, TwinAir was originally launched as an engine variant for existing trim and equipment variants, but such is the interest in the engine amongst European customers that most key markets have launched a TwinAir variant of the 500 as a variant in its own right.

“It is this car on which the Australian car is based, but we have added the ‘Luxury’ equipment pack to ensure it meets the market requirements of Australia.”

Standard Fiat 500 equipment continues to include electronic stability control, ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and seven airbags, helping it achieve a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

However, for 2012, both the 500 hatch and 500C cabrio models add as standard 16-inch matt-black wheels, a metallic-effect dashboard, sports seats, a piano-black roof and spoiler finish, and a satin-chrome finish for the door mirrors, doorhandles and bootlid trim.

Fiat 500 pricing:
500 TwinAir $22,990
500 TwinAir (a) $24,990
500C TwinAir $25,990
500C TwinAir (a) $27,990

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