Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir

Lounge

Fiat 500 TwinAir, 2015, side
Fiat 500 TwinAir, 2015, front, action
Fiat 500 TwinAir, 2015, rear, action
Fiat 500 TwinAir, 2015, interior
Fiat 500 TwinAir, 2015, engine
Fiat 500 TwinAir, 2015, seats

GOODNESS, what a difference a choice of engine makes. Of course, most people buy the little Fiat 500 because they love its cute looks - and who could blame them.

A recent styling revamp was so light of touch you hardly notice the face of this Italian tiddler is adorned with new look lights and bumpers. Inside, there are modest upgrades too.

Fiat insists this latest 500 (the first of this modern line was launched to huge sales effect eight years ago) incorporates a heady 1,800 changes. Well, all I can say is they're subtle - and thank goodness for that.

Techno-savvy users will appreciate the ability to buy a new 500 that (for a little extra cash) is clever enough to read out your incoming emails or find a place on its sat nav via a barked order from the driver.

The new 500 comes with the choice of a diesel or four petrol engines, the latest of them a special Eco model designed to use even less petrol than the others - none of them gas guzzlers to start with.

Well, if you enjoy driving your Fiat as much as gazing upon its achingly chic retro lines, the choice of what you have under the bonnet is critical.

Most buyers go for the older, larger 1.2-litre petrol version, costing from £10,890. They look a happy bunch as they climb out of their 500s in the Waitrose car park - but the car on test here would broaden that grin.

Parked under the pert bonnet is a modern miracle of petite engineering, its mere two cylinders emitting a gentle thrum and producing performance when prodded that belies its tiny capacity - a modest 875cc.

Push a Sport button on the dash (snazzily painted the same colour as the car's bodywork - in this case £300 worth of Glam Coral) and the growl turns to slightly angry lion and the throttle pedal turns hyperactive.

The result is a car that feels far faster than simple figures suggest and a decided joy to punt along your favourite road, where the smart alloy wheels (£180) do their best to keep all but the worst of our road surfaces from upsetting the equilibrium in the cockpit.

Talking of interiors, the pale grey and red checked trim and sunroof (fixed as standard or opening electrically for £260) make the 500 Lounge a smart and relaxing place to sit awhile and a world away from the black-on-black that's the default setting of most cars today.

It all feels well put together; rather let down by the switches for adjusting the electric door mirrors diving deep into the driver's door at first press, never to be seen again.

It's a little car and you expect limited room in the rear; enough for a couple of growing children but a squeeze too far for anyone of longer limbs or more mature years. The boot was plenty big enough for a supermarket shop.

For a saving of £480 you can have the new TwinAir engine with a bit less power. It will still make the same enthusiastic noises as its fiercer sibling but not go quite as quickly.

FAST FACTS

Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir Lounge

Price: £14,420

Mechanical: 104bhp, 875cc, 2cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 117 mph

0-62mph: 10.0 seconds

Combined MPG: 67.3

Insurance Group: 14

C02 emissions: 99g/km

Bik rating: 14%

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