TEST DRIVE – Fiat Punto TwinAir

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A PLANET_SAVING two-cylinder petrol engine with green credentials is available to cope with rising fuel prices. Motoring man Les Oliver looks at the Punto TwinAir.

IN a bid to keep pace in the supermini sector which accounts for a quarter of all new cars sold, Fiat gave its Punto a subtle makeover.

It installed a turbocharged version of its award-winning two-cylinder TwinAir 875cc petrol engine which produces 85bhp.

Switch on the engine and takes you by surprise. It sounds at first like there’s a hole in the exhaust. Surely not, this was a new car

Could it have been deliberately engineered in a bid to give a throaty sporting effect?

In fact this was the sound of a two-cylinder engine warming up. A mile or so along the road at city speeds the sound is muted to a normal engine hum.

This tiny engine is planet-friendly with diesel-rivalling -economy of 67.3mpg and 98g/km CO2.

It was voted International Engine of the Year and Best Green Engine.

It is also installed in the Fiat 500 and the Panda with a five-speed manual gearbox, but in the Punto TwinAir is mated to a six-speed boxc with modifications to refine vibration..

The supermini is available with three or five doors and is light and easy to drive with start/stop technology to save fuel while idling in traffic.

With such a small engine and 1075kg to lug around the TwinAir is never going to be a boy racer and in fact the emphasis is on economy and the environment rather than performance.

You can drive it in normal mode with maximum pulling power (107lb ft at 2000rpm) or by pressing an Eco button in the dashboard reduce the torque and follow the gearshift indications for best economy.

There’s not much fun in this sort of motoring however and unless you are out on a easy Sunday-morning amble you are most likely to ignore it.

I was unable to achieve the headline-grabbing official economy figure of 67.3mpg.

This isn’t a large car and after a test that included a 250-mile mostly motorway run with the car jam packed with gear after a camping trip I managed only 49mpg.

In normal everday use a better return might be possible.

Also new for this car was a fresh interior with new fabric seats and dashboard.

Standard equipment includes steering wheel-mounted controls for the radio/CD/MP3 player, 15in two-tone alloy wheels, remote central locking, folding rear bench seat, air conditioning, window airbags, driver’s knee airbag and electric front windows.

So should you buy one? Well, the price is competitive and you will save money on petrol instead of diesel.

And if you are light-footed it will reward you with fewer visits to the forecourt

You will certainly score in tax and green considerations with emissions below the 100g/km target.

But there are a lot of other superminis out there and several diesel rivals that will outperform it..

TECH SPEC

Fiat Punto TwinAir Turbo

Engine 875cc petrol

Power: 85bhp

0-60: 10.7 secs

Top speed: 107mph

Economy: 67.3mpg

CO2: 98g/km

Price: £12,700