If you think a car has a personality, then the Fiat 500 Lounge TwinAir 105hp is a small, excitable child.
The phrase “terrible twos” comes to mind because a child is full of unrestrained energy and cheek at that age but in the case of the Fiat 500 Lounge with boosted 105hp engine it really means the car is terribly good at its job.
TwinAir 105hp has two cylinders and turbo-injection to transform it from city runabout to smile inducing warm hatch. Weighing under a tonne and with 105hp punching out it is lively, very lively, but the real surprise is that its both fun and frugal.
The three-door Fiat 500 has been in production for over eight years with sales exceeding 1.5M and it’s spawned a family of its own in that time with longer wheelbases and even a part-time four-wheel-drive transmission.
The full Fiat 500 range includes 1.3 diesel engines and a 1.2 petrol and its won numerous “green” motoring and “city-car” awards over the last few years.
All well and deserved, but what’s it like to drive? Fun.
I have been a fan of the Fiat 500 since it was relaunched and I cannot think of a small car with as much character.
Certainly, the woman sitting next to us in a car wash was very complimentary of the eye-catching coral red paintwork and multi-spoked alloys.
It stands out because it has a friendly face, not a bland design but dares to be different.
Certainly, the engine is not what most expect, the 875cc unit develops 145Nm at just 2,000rpm and 105hp at 5,500rpm and while it needs to be wound up it does deliver a good motorway abililty.
Think of it as a small child taking a few faltering steps, realising it can get going and then breaks into a run.
The engine noise is distinctive, throbbing at times and rumbling at others, but when cruising at 60 or 70mph it is s subdued buzz.
That is down to the ratios of the six-speed manual gearbox, with a short first gear and longer intermediate ratios before you pull back into top and calm returns.
We recorded a low of 35mpg but overall 41mpg and that was without trying to be economical over a wide range of urban, country and motorway miles.
The long travel clutch may catch out a few until you get use to it but it comes with a slick short throw gear-lever high mounted close to the power assisted steering wheel.
There is a dashboard button to firm up the steering and give the engine a sharper response and it also changes the fascia display to emphasise elements of its sporty or economy nature.
Brakes are progressive and fairly light in action so you need and good shove to effect rapid deceleration but it stops with a lot of control and no drama.
I liked the simple secondary controls, mostly grouped on the wheel or column but the stalks felt a bit clumsy. Instruments were big and clear with a multi-function panel spacing the tachometer and speedometer and containing various features you could select. Heating and ventilation was simple and effective, powered windows were appreciated at toll booths and our Lounge came with a sunroof and pull-over shade.
Oddments room was tight with good sized door bins and some trays on the central tunnel and a fairly useful glovebox but just a solo seat-back pocket.
Boot space expands from 185 to 550 litres with an equally split rear seat and the third door lifts high to reveal a fairly deep boot and high sill, with a good shape to load items.
Access to the back two seats can require some agility but the big doors open wide for the driver and passenger, visibility is very good and the attractive cloth covered seats have good adjustment range and support but they can require some manoeuvering to return to upright.
The Fiat 500 wheelbase of 2.3M is short but the car’s ride is surprisingly good and while biased towards softness it still manages to gamely hang on when hurried along twisting roads.
Handling is responsive and unconcerning with good reactions to throttle and brake and it never went off line over a mid-corner bump.
It is not a cheap car and with a few options our test car was almost £16,400, but while you can get bigger rivals for the same money, I don’t think any are as characterful as this car.
|Fiat 500 Lounge TwinAir||Price: £14,420|
|Insurance Group: 15U||Mechanical: 105hp twin cylinder 875cc petrol engine, six speed|
|Max Speed: 117mph||0-62mph: 10 sec|
|Combined MPG: 41mpg on test||C02 emissions: 99gkm|
|Bik rating: ZERO||Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles|
For: Nimble, economical, easy to park
Against: Performance, noise, rear seat and luggage room.
© Robin Roberts WheelsWithinWales