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 105bhp engine it really means the car is terribly good at its job.
The TwinAir 105bhp has two cylinders and turbo-injection to transform it from city runabout to smile inducing warm hatch. Weighing under a tonne and with 105bhp punching out it is lively, very lively, but the real surprise is that its both fun and frugal.
It stands out because it has a friendly face and not 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 105bhp at 5,500rpm and while it needs to be wound up it doe deliver a good motorway abililty.
The engine noise is distinctive, throbbing at times, 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 41mpg and that was without trying to be economical over a wide range of urban, country and motorway miles. With 99g/km it also qualifies for zero Benefit In Kind.
The long travel clutch may catch out a few until you get use to it but it has a slick short throw gearlever 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 facia 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 central 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.