Fiat brings hybrid motoring to the city car
Fiat is taking sustainability very seriously indeed.
At least that's according to the blurb accompanying the announcement of two new models due out between now and Easter. It might be tempting to write this off as a marketing move to appeal to the urban driver but there wouldn't be much point in the case of the Fiat 500 and Panda. It's not as if they suffer in the popularity department.
These two new models represent Fiat's first foray into the hybrid city car sector and both will be fitted with a new petrol mild-hybrid system. Order books are already open for both of them with the 500 due on the road in February and the Panda following in March. So if you were thinking of leasing a city car the choice just got a bit more complicated.
This is the first part of Fiat's drive to electrify the brand and will be followed by an all-electric version of the 500 at some point in the next year or so. In the meantime the hybrid versions should help to make what are already two popular car choices into more economical and less environmentally harmful choices.
The 500 and Panda will share the same hybrid system that combines the latest 3-cylinder FireFly 1.0-litre engine with a 12-volt electric motor and a lithium battery that delivers the electrical equivalent of 70hp. In a car this size that's more than enough to be nipping in and out of traffic, and it's actually a tiny bit more than you got from the old engine too. Compared to the outgoing 1.2-litre 69hp petrol engine, the mild hybrid version improves fuel efficiency and reduces CO2 emissions on the road by up to 30 per cent as well as using the hybrid system to smooth out the Stop/Start mode and makes the engine a little quieter.
This isn't a true hybrid as the electricity bit doesn't really power the car directly. Not that it really matters because it still makes a sizeable difference to the running costs. The hybrid system is mounted on the engine and recovers the energy usually lost in braking and slowing down and stores it in the battery. That slug of electricity can then be used to give the acceleration a bit of a boost or simply to restart the engine when you're in stop/start traffic.
Both the 500 and the Panda get a six-speed manual gearbox to improve the economy a little more, and a handy by-product of the new petrol hybrid is that the engine now sits a little lower in the car so handling and stability are even better.
To mark the occasion Fiat is introducing a special Launch Edition that takes the ecology bit to a whole new level.
The Launch Edition boasts the first seats in the automotive sector to be made of Seaqual Yarn.
Don't worry, we didn't know what it was either. Turns out it's a special material made from recycled plastic, 10 per cent of which comes from the sea and 90 per cent from land. Seaqual Yarn is produced by transforming these plastics collected from the sea into flakes of polyethylene terephthalate. These flakes are then used in the yarn from which the fabrics are made. In the weaving phase, marine polyester is mixed with other natural, recycled or recovered fibres. This process is completed by the application of dyes and finishes which minimise the use of water and energy. We aren't entirely sure how all of that actually happens but it sounds good, and it demonstrates what big companies can achieve with recycled stuff when they put some thought into it.
To top it off the special series feature the ‘Hybrid' logo on the rear and the exclusive ‘H' logo, formed by two dew drops, on the centre panel. The new and exclusive ‘Dew Green' exterior that suits both cars is, in Fiat's words, in harmony with the themes of nature and innovation. In other words, here's a hugely popular city car that just got a little bit better, and it's really, really green and trendy.
Both the 500 and the Panda have been around long enough to prove their worth, and this is just another reason why they're such a good choice. The only downside is that if you want to lease one you'd better get a move on or you're likely to find yourself at the end of quite a long list.
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