Explaining two-cylinder technology with the Fiat 500 TwinAir

The idea of a car being fun and frugal is usually a tough one to realise; frugality is something achieved by reining in power and engine dynamics and therefore has the knack of removing a predominant element to the driving experience. However, there are some manufacturers looking to turn that around, although the premise of their ideologies wouldn’t have you think that.

If someone said they were going to drop one or even two cylinders from a car’s engine, you’d have thought them mad, and for them to say the driving experience would still be fulfilling, even more so. The fact is, many manufacturers are beginning to use such tactics in order to bring down fuel costs and raise economy figures.

In truth, this technology has been around for a number of years now, but the likes of the Fiat 500 and the Ford range are really trying to push forward with these smaller engines as very capable alternatives to hybrids and electric vehicles. Cars such as the Toyota Prius and Vauxhall Ampera can offer very economical choices, but they are also very expensive cars to buy in the first place; vehicles such as the 500 and Focus offer a great return on fuel as well as not asking the potential buyer to break the bank.

But what makes them so efficient and desirable to those asking for frugality without compromise?

Well, looking at the Fiat 500, the Italian firm’s TwinAir technology sees the car drop two cylinders and gain about 30 per cent more fuel efficiency from an engine less than 900cc big, yet has the performance similar to that of a normal 1.4 four-pot unit.

To achieve this, there are a few factors, with one of the most effect ones being weight. Thanks to having such a small engine, the already lightweight 500 is 13kg lighter than the 1.4 equivalent, the two-cylinder being 23 per cent shorter than a conventional four-pot. The second reason behind the TwinAir’s magic is the fact that the tiny engine is very effectively turbocharged, with this matched to just two-cylinders allows the power plant to rev freely to a 6000rpm redline. A boost of around 25 per cent more torque at just 1900rpm also does its part to help the engine perform like a standard car.

Despite such encouraging performance, the 500 still gives a return of a staggering 69mpg under normal driving conditions, and with a CO2 level of just 95g/km, there’ll be no need to be sending any money every time your tax runs out, as the government will let you have it for free.

Motoring publications all over have been applauding this radical but effective creation from Fiat, plaudits praising its frugal underpinnings and fun driving elements. Two-cylinder and even three-cylinder (BMW) cars are fast becoming popular alternatives, not only to hybrids, but also to consumers who have never considered such options before.