New TwinAir is worth a Punt

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The latest Fiat Punto might have smartened its act up a bit on the aesthetic front, but the most interesting addition is the tiny 875cc TwinAir engine that’s on offer. With 85PS on tap, there’s enough about it to impress.

Downsizing engines is one of the most effective ways to improve a car’s efficiency, on paper at least. There comes a tipping point where the engine is just too feeble to haul the car about with any verve, which means that economy then suffers as drivers are forced to leather the thing about at all times.

I once drove a 1.8 litre petrol Freelander on a fast run to the south of France and returned worse fuel economy than the 3.9 litre V8 Range Rover that accompanied us, so I’ve seen this first hand. So does the 875cc engine in the Punto make any sense at all?

It would appear to. Fiat’s entry level 1.2 litre engine fronts up with just 69PS, so the additional 16PS of the TwinAir lends it a little in reserve and the fact that it generates a fairly meaty 103lb ft of torque at just 2000rpm will allow it to step off the line briskly enough.

The baby twin has an in-built balancer shaft but, to finesse refinement further for the Punto, it gets a dual-mass flywheel, sits on a new design of engine mount and is surrounded by extra engine bay sound proofing.

It’s a really clever piece of technology, with an electro-hydraulic valve propulsion system which cuts pumping losses and improves efficiency by around 10 percent.

While it’s no ball of fire, the Punto TwinAir is capable of hitting 60mph in 12.3 seconds and run onto a top speed of 107mph.

The Punto is already one of the most handsome small cars on sale and the latest developments pare back a few of the excesses of the previous Evo model. The bumpers have been re-profiled and are now body coloured across the entire range.

The colour palette has been adjusted too, with Brit Pop Blue, Tango Red and Underground Grey now offered. New designs of alloy wheel are also available.

The interior looked quite good to begin with, so radical surgery hasn’t been required. Instead Fiat has concentrated on improving materials quality with what they call ‘sportier’ seat fabric and ‘refreshed’ dashboard trim inserts.

The Fiat Punto TwinAir is one of those cars that had to happen. What’s not to like? Aside from the caveat about not getting too hung up on Fiat’s optimistic-looking fuel economy figures, the TwinAir is a very appealing proposition. With 85PS on tap, it’s never going to be a hugely quick car but the broad spread of torque belies the tiny swept volume of that two cylinder engine.

The key quality this car boasts is simple likeability and the pricing is competitive.

The Punto might have evolved in a seeming haphazard manner, but the stars have aligned in a very positive way for the birth of the Punto TwinAir.