back to article Fiat 500 TwinAir

As a rule, I loathe retro car design. The people responsible for VW’s re-imagining of the Beetle, and BMW’s not-that-mini Mini should have passed water on the graves of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and Sir Alec Issigonis, and had done with it. Such is the intellectual perfidy of this despicable and lazy philosophy of car design. Fiat …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    IT Angle ???

    Is there one ?

    1. Anton Ivanov

      The windows logo on the steering wheel

      Ugh... That is one vehicle that is definitely NEVER going to make my shopping list. Windows logo on the steering wheel? No thanks...

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        If it has a Windows logo...

        Then the car will only steer left. This will be cited as a design feature.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Jobs Horns

          Could be worse

          It could have an Apple logo, then it would cost twice as much and would only run on fuel approved by Apple and priced well above market rates. And you'd probably need a rubber bumper over the steering wheel as you're surely holding it wrong :-)

          But worst of all it will only come in one color and if you don't upgrade yearly you'll be ridiculed for driving such an obsolete vehicle.

          1. Filippo Silver badge

            Could be even worse

            It could have a penguin logo - then it would be really cheap, but you'd need to use a command line interface to steer or brake, and you'd need to modify the engine yourself if you wanted to use a new brand of oil.

    2. Hellcat

      Yes, but you need to read the article.

      Fiat's eco:drive is a internet based application. It pulls in data from the vehicle, data on fuel prices and combines them along with other users data on fuel efficiency.

      This immediatly makes the article more IT relevent than the next 'a different colour i-product is rumoured to be in development'.

    3. farizzle

      check on the right-hand side...

      of the 'Hard Facts' section (page 5) - says you can buy it from Amazon.

      If AMAZON isn't IT enough i just don't know what is..

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I guess it's only a matter of time until The Register gets a Stig-a-like

    Cars are boring

    1. Ralphe Neill

      Or maybe ...

      ... a Stig-a-trix??

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      If you think cars are boring, you are driving the wrong one. Get a 7 or similar. Then you might get a girlfriend too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        wow, that's quite aggressive and personal

        compensating much?

      2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


        Cars *are* boring. As are most girlfriends after a while...

        Cars are for moving from A to B. If you want excitement - get yourself a plane.

      3. Jan 0

        Cars are boring

        but useful for taking big junk to the tip, going glamping, or buying the year's supply of big rolls and washing powder from a hypermarket.

        A "7or similar" is a car for people who can't cope with a motorbike test.

        Ok, I can't see that the "500" fills either of those roles.

        1. Danny 14


          "As are most girlfriends after a while"

          Cant agree with you there sorry.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Up

            Girlfriends aren't boring....

            ....Until you marry them.

            Married, hence AC in case she's reading (looks over shoulder)...

        2. Steven Raith

          Mmm. Motorbike.

          "A "7or similar" is a car for people who can't cope with a motorbike test."

          Or who want a road legal go kart...

          I fancy a 7, and an R1, and a leggy old diesel merc for motorway schleps.

          Shame I don't have the money to buy, insure, or fuel any of them. Bah.

          Steven R

        3. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          RE: Cars are boring

          "....A "7or similar" is a car for people who can't cope with a motorbike test....." Nah, it's for those that want to be able to survive a 30mph shunt without extensive surgery. Unlike bikers. I can also offer from experience the fact that most girls will get into a Se7en, even in a cocktail dress, but won't be happy to put on leathers or mess their hair up with an helmet, and then perch on a pillion. Bikes are great for solo thrills, if that's how you like your thrills....

          Now, Se7ens with bike engines are fun, so why don't Fiat make a small, mid-engined sportster with this turbo twin? They could call it the new X-19.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        W4 NKR

        >>> If you think cars are boring, you are driving the wrong one. Get a 7 or similar. Then you might get a girlfriend too.

        Beamer drivers are all wankers.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          re: Beamer drivers are all wankers

          You don't know what a "7" is, then?

          Anyway, didn't you know Audi drivers are the new BMW drivers?

  3. Conrad Longmore
    IT Angle

    The IT angle is..

    The IT angle is.. that the car runs Windows (Windows Automotive) which handles various control functions and the media player. (And El Reg has covered low emission cars for a while!)

    We bought one of the first new 500s in the UK early in 2008 - apart from the weird random flashing odometer thing and some issues with external trim, it has been a reliable little thing and it really is fun to drive. It's pretty high-tech underneath the retro exterior, and there are zillions of different options which means that no two are exactly the same.

    1. NightFox

      British Leyland - Before Its Time

      "...which means that no two are exactly the same."

      The same could be said of every car British Leyland ever churned out.

  4. Ed 11

    IT angle

    Well it does have a USB port...

    I was also excited by the "Buy from Amazon" link, thinking the online behemoth had made the move into the automotive industry. Clicking on the link was something of a disappointment as I'm not sure "The 2011 Electric Car Guide: Discover the Truth About Owning and Using Electric Cars" will serve my motoring needs too well. Although I imagine it has very low running costs.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    Retro cars.

    I have to say that I agree with everything said on that subject.

    I also reckon that FIAT have nailed it here. I must get my paws on one of these.

  6. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Ah, but....

    Can 6 people carry it up 2 flights of stairs and leave it on the landing?

    Mine's the one with the photo of the Fiat500 that got parked outside the 5th floor lab.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Sun Roof

      There was always the sun roof which could be opened up to allow extra passengers who could sit on the laps of those in the seats (no, not like that, not with nine people in the thing). Just something I heard about, a mate of mine etc.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Sun roof

        The orginal also came in a roofless version with wicker seats called a Jolly, see here:

        I remember once reading an article about this beastie in a Classic car mag, which closed with something like; "There. I managed to write the whole article without once mentioning Noddy..........damn.".

  7. Zog The Undeniable

    Is that price right?

    11 grand? You could buy a car for that sort of money!

  8. BrianP

    'lazy philosophy of car design'

    This is a glibb comment that misses the work required to bring a car to market, designers are offering the public what they want ... right?

    Or perhaps we are all lazy for not designing a better wheel?

  9. Nick L

    engine weight - how much?

    This sort of thing is definitely the near future of motoring: it has to be. Much better suited to short town journeys than any diesel, too... (My wife has a golf TDI with a DPF, and it needs an occasional longer drive at motorway speed to empty the crud from the dpf)

    definitely worth checking out.

    Saying that, how come a 2 cylinder, 875cc engine weighs 85kg? What's it made out of? The BMW N52 3 litre 6 cylinder engine weighs 161kg... Three times the size, three times the number of cylinders, three times the power - but under twice the weight & co2 emissions. If they'd taken the same approach it could have been down to just over 50kg? I guess there's a turbo, multiair cleverness etc but I'm surprised a 2 cylinder engine would weigh that much: it doesn't strike me as particularly light.

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      re: weight

      It's not really my area of expertise, but a modern engine is a complex thing - surely there are many parts that simply don't scale with size.

    2. Andrew Bush

      Extra cylinders?

      The extra cylinders are actually just empty space and as such don't weigh any more

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looking forward to having a go in one of these

    I've driven a bunch of 500s and so far never failed to have an enormous amount of fun. One note: that bit of painted metal across the dash: it's actually plastic.

  11. johnnytruant

    Oooh, nice

    The 500 series is based on the 2003 Panda chassis, iirc. I like my Panda, it handles well for a low-end non-sports car, but it's not quite as fun as it could be. It's comparable to a Pug 205 in terms of driving experience, which is good, but it's no Mini (and by Mini, I mean an actual Mini, not the fat ugly crap BMW make)

    If this compares well to a Mini, I might be interested. Does better mpg than my current Panda diesel too. I agree on the styling, I think the 500 is one of the few reimagined classics which actually works. The Panda is too, thinking about it. Fiat are doing a lot right these days.

    1. Conrad Longmore


      The Panda is also jolly good, but usually overlooked in favour of the 500. I remember a year or so ago that James May raised the idea of a "Save the Panda" campaign..

  12. fixit_f
    IT Angle

    Free car anyone?

    My spidey senses detect a backhander from Fiat. Not that I object, the reg has to pay for it's costs somehow I guess..

    1. Aaron Em

      You did see it costs eleven grand?

      That's a hell of a lot of money to spend on a laudatory article in a newspaper which, frankly, nobody is reading for its automotive coverage. If this were the Car & Driver comments section, I might think you could have a point, but here?

  13. Kravex

    Windows on the steering wheel?

    Certainly brings a new meaning to the 'Blue Screen Of Death' if it 'crashes'...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    At least Fiat have refrained from making a 500 4x4 SUV in the style of the "Countryman".

    That is the type of bloat that would make Microsoft proud.

    1. Conrad Longmore


      OK, it's not a Cuntryman, just a 500 with a similar AWD system to the Panda, which is reportedly very simple and rather effective.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Company car

    This is ace as a company car - I have one, pretty well spec'd with hi-fi, ESP, glass roof, blue&me and it's incredibly cheap, even for a higher rate tax payer.

    I get nowhere near the claimed 67mpg though :(

    @johnny It is based on the panda chassis, yes.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Company car

      Company cars never get anywhere near the mpg that other drivers of the same vehicle get, let alone the manufacturer's claimed mpg.

      Something to do with the accompanying company fuel card positively encouraging hefty use of the "lead welly" to get yer money's worth on the associated tax liability.

      One of my colleagues reports that by attaching a roofrack, a huge roof box and two surfboards, loading the car+box to the gunwales and thrashing the living goolies off it all the way to the south of France, you can get a Prius to do under 40mpg on a run. I was impressed.

      My all time fave scheme was that of a mate whose car policy said that you could take the cash alternative and still get the fuel card. He did so and bought a 4 litre V8 Land Rover Discovery. It's amazing how much you can get one of those to drink when you're *really* trying......

      1. SirTainleyBarking

        Ahh that would be the reverse fuel consumption figure

        Of Gallons per mile rather than MPG

  16. Lottie


    I think I've found my next car. I love the design of the new 500 (it reminds me of a space age toaster) and I found the old cinquecento to be a hoot when driven hard.

    I also love the whole concept of fuel economy dropping into the 40 mpg range if driven hard. That's good for a lot of cars if driven cautiously./

  17. sebacoustic


    i congratulate you about the sentiment regarding the "new Beetle" and "new Mini", the latter also known as the "Twatmobile"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only for ignoramuses who have never driven one for any length of time.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Blue and Me

    Speeaking as someone who's had a hire car with the predecessor, Microsoft Sync...

    HELL NO!

    I always thought needing to pull over, stop and restart the car was from the 'what if microsoft made cars' joke. But when it got stuck in a loop 'Please say command...please say command...' barrelling down Highway 1 at midnight I didnt find it THAT funny.

    1. Hellcat

      rule 1. Never judge a car on a hire car

      My previous car was a 2007 Fiat Bravo with blue&me.

      Brilliant system. If there was too much noise for the voice detection to work (you would need to be driving through a roadworks with the windows open) you simply use the menu/enter, up/down and back/esc buttons on the steering wheel. Of course if it was that noisey the person you called couldn't hear you.

      The mp3 playing and eco drive worked very well too. The only problem was DRM.

    2. Nev Silver badge

      Blue and Me

      I've been using it for 5 years. No issues.

      Voice commands for phone dialling etc. blow every other system out of the water.

  19. Cosmo


    I've heard various claims that the >60mpg is very difficult to achieve and that lots of TwinAir owners aren't getting anywhere near that. Of course the manufacturer's claimed figure is always pie in the sky, but it seems for some reason that FIAT's seems to be well off for this model

    1. Tim Spence


      Interesting read here:

      Apparently the manufacturer's quoted MPG values were likely derived in Eco mode, which is a bit naughty without clarifying that next to the figures.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Now if only someone would teach Fiat's TV advertising people the difference between "Less" and "Fewer". ..

    1. Anonymous Coward

      And BMW

      Same goes for BMW's EfficientDynamics ads, where they make the exact same mistake.

  21. Steve Foster

    Surprised no-one has posted this yet...

    And, for those who'd like to hear the song used in the adverts, it's here:

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. SplitBrain

    You are all missing the point here....

    There is no IT angle, but there is an engineering angle, and we geeks love good engineering. Fact is this is the most radical departure in the way a petrol engine is built in decades, they really havn't changed all that much since the birth of the combustion engine.

    I applaud FIAT for the multiair, it's a potent little engine.

    Mine's the Alfa Giulietta 1.4 170hp :)

  24. trashbat

    Blue&Me reliability

    I don't have it on mine, but I frequent an Alfa forum and there seem to be very few issues with the Blue&Me kit - definitely one of Microsoft's better developments. As for the engine, FPT have done pretty impressive things with MultiAir, e.g.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Blue Tooth linkage is hardly cutting edge these days

      Nissan have the n-tec system that does all that the Fiat system does plus you can stream Blue Tooth music into it. So play music on your Jebus phone or ipod touch through the car and in the Jebus (or Android) phone's case it will also interrupt it to make and receive calls hands free.

      Available on nearly all their range, standard kit on the n-tec versions of micra,note, quashqai etc..

      Sat Nav too.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Filippo Silver badge

      re: reliability

      IIRC, Blue&Me is based on Windows CE, which doesn't share anything with the desktop OS line. An entirely different dev group made it from scratch.

  25. R J Tysoe

    How Much?

    How much are FIAT paying to plug this car? There seems to be an endless stream of ads and reviews for it over the last couple of months.

  26. SkippyBing

    Can you fit a suitcase in it?

    Seriously. For some reason work ordered a Fiat 500 convertible as a hire car to get to the airport, try as I might I couldn't get my suitcase in the boot. Ok it was a biggish suitcase because I was going away for two months but still. Couldn't get it in the back seats either as the front ones wouldn't lean forwards enough, the massive rollover bars either side of the roof meant I couldn't lift it in without a second person to assist who strangely wasn't available at 5 in the morning. Eventually it ended up sitting next to me in the passenger seat.

    The annoying bonging noise when you break what it thinks is the speed limit is quite annoying as well, especially when you're late because you spent an age trying to get your bloody suitcase in the thing...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      you can if it's not a convertible

      I have the hard top and a week's worth of luggage and a laptop will fit in the boot fine.

  27. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Suggested improvement

    Replace the auto gearbox with a CVT unit. If in doubt, license multimatic from Honda. That way you know you'll always be in exactly the right gear.

  28. mafoo


    The inappropriately placed phantom "Buy this now from Amazon" button rears its ugly head again.

  29. Stephen 10

    Pointless in Australia

    but only because it's from Europe and therefore 'luxury'.

    The price here is equivalent to GBP19,500 - just a bit of a mark-up...

  30. Getter lvl70 Druid

    I Hate You All <yet in a positive way>

    Not available in the US, I tried. We get the POS 4banger one with 37mpg.... Why? Dunno... bastard politicians bitch and moan about conservation and shit like that AND block companies like Fiat to protect fucking Detroit and those goddamned unions.

    Enough to piss you off, you know?


    1. Kristian Walsh

      Look closer...

      Read the specifications a bit closer: (

      The engine in the US 500 is a 1.4 litre MultiAir unit, so it uses exactly the same airflow control system as this two-pot. It's normally-aspirated rather than turbocharged (all the 1.4 MultiAirs in Europe are also turbos, but Americans don't seem to like turbo engines), but it's the same clever technology.

      Also, the MPG figures quoted here are for Imperial gallons (4.54 litres), not US Gallons (3.78 litres), so you'll need to multiply them by 0.83 to convert to US.

      MultiAir itself is a major advance in engine technology - probably on the scale of electronic fuel injection or Common-Rail diesel (the latter also a FIAT invention, incidentally), but time will tell.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Good things come in small packages...

    "...the 500 TwinAir is the most fun you can have in a small car with your clothes on."

    In a car that size, I'm not sure how much fun could be had without any clothes. Or am I just getting old?

    1. SirTainleyBarking

      Well I hate to break it to you

      But you probably are.

      And before anyone else chips in. Solo Don't count

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      re: without any clothes

      Ah, fond memories of an old Mini. :-)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Engine controlled by Windows Automotive?

    I think I'll just walk, thanks.

  33. Nev Silver badge

    Flashing Odometer...

    ..that's a CANBus error in Fiatworld.

    Something has failed to respond in time during the pre-start-up checks.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    The only problem I found with mine...

    ... is that occasionally the entire windscreen goes blue with random white text on it. Very irritating.

  35. Lars Silver badge


    From "Fix it again Tony" Fiat has come a long way. Still I have to admit that, somehow, a Alfa Romeo bye Fiat does not "feel" the same (in my head) as the original.

    As far as I know Fiat now owns more or less the lot of GM. There are those, I suppose, who

    hope that Tony will be able to fix it again.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Great engines

    Test drove the Alfa Giulietta 1.4 Multiair 170bhp last month. My Scirocco 1.4 TSI now feels a bit of a slouch. I think this may be the future of petrol engines, genuinely new and inventive tech, well worthy of El Reg's attentions.

  37. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. dant

      Maybe it's because...

      ... most of the car designers are Italian?

  38. Nick Galloway

    Souped up sound

    This car sounds great but as an option pack could Fiat supply a 90°C crank so it can sound like a hot V-twin, along the lines of a ucati or Moto Guzzi, which happen to have engines in this displacement capacity. Understandably the bikes have slightly better 0 - 60 times given the much lower weight.

    I don't care, I want one!

  39. dant

    Why making just making silly comments?

    I've seen a lot of ill-informed comments and really don't understand why...

    Fair enough Fiat has a shameful past to live with but what has been done since 2005 to resuscitate it has been amazing. It is now own 46% of Chrysler (the Twin-Air is due in America later this year and a full electric one next year) and the partnership goes from strength to strength.

    On the IT angle: the Blu&Me system was launched back in 2006 when other car makers were well behind! It allows hand free phone connection and voice control as well as media play (got all my music on a USB stick), also voice controlled. Recently a partnership with TomTom has been made which integrates the Eco:drive, Blu&Me and TomTom systems. This has nothing to do with the engine controls as someone suggested.

    Oh: the TwinAir doesn't pay for the congestion charge in London. Not bad for a city car! Stop comparing it with bigger cars!

    One last comment for all the chronic sceptics: please give it a break!

  40. Scott Broukell

    They got this the wrong way round, shirley ...

    If they had stuck with the economy mode by default, and clearly related the mpg figures to that setting, then they could have called da ting a "Boost Button" (not "Eco"), much more exciting all round nest pas ?

    Oh! wait a minute, now Bernie Ecclestone's Scaletrix set has "Boost Buttons" I suppose it would have sent the wrong message or given it expectations it couldn't attain.

  41. Leona A
    Thumb Up

    love the car,

    cheeky little thing, like the styling and the eco'ness' of it, but I wouldn't trust Anything with M$ logo on it, so would opt out of that right away.

  42. MJI Silver badge

    Is it 180 or 360?

    Important question for a parallel twin.

    90 degree V is better than both.

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