It’s strange to see how diesel engines have become so popular in the last decade. Sure, they’re much more powerful than they used to be, more refined, fuel efficient and are cheap on road tax. But they’re expensive to buy and the engines are getting increasingly complicated. That means they’re more expensive to service and prone to mechanical failure – the introduction of the dual-mass flywheel and the diesel particulate filter has led to some very expensive tales of woe from some diesel drivers.
So it’s nice to see that some manufacturers haven’t given up hope on the petrol engine. Fiat in particular are sticking with petrol and have invested £300 million in their new TwinAir engine. This takes their latest MultiAir fuel injection technology and combines it with a tiny two-cylinder engine that somehow manages to extract more power and economy than the old four cylinder unit it replaces.
The first of the TwinAir units is available in the 500 this month. With just 887cc and only two cylinders you’d be forgiven for thinking that this would be a pretty asthmatic unit, yet it manages to achieve 85bhp. Not only that but it’s supposedly capable of 68mpg and qualifies for free road tax.
Compared with Fiat’s best-selling 1.2-litre petrol engine in the Fiat 500, the TwinAir delivers 23 per cent more power yet combines this with a 15 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
While an 85bhp engine might not have you excitedly rushing off to the nearest Fiat dealer, there’s going to be a turbocharged version of the engine that will serve up 105bhp. Now we’re looking at a much more interesting prospect. Stick that into the Panda 100HP (already a fun hatchback with its perky 1.4-litre engine) and you’d have slightly more power and even cheaper running costs.
It’ll be interesting to see what sort of performance Fiat can extract from their TwinAir technology, but the combination of a responsive, high-revving engine and decent economy should make them much more appealing than diesel. It’s also innovations like this that’ll go some way to keeping the eco-mentalists off our backs.