The Fiat 500’s bulging trophy cabinet has just picked up another award to join, amongst others, the European Car of the Year award, with the chic little Italian being named as Best Small Diesel Car by the UK’s “What Diesel Car?” magazine.
With more than half the cars sold in the UK now diesel-powered, it is an ideal market in which to assess the best diesel-engined cars as, unlike Australia, there is a full range of rivals in each class to contest the title. Therefore, for the Fiat 500 to be picked as the best small diesel, it can truly be said to beaten all its rivals.
The diesel powered Fiat 500 is proving popular in Australia, with its market-leading economy of just 4.2 litres per 100 km pushing demand to the point where Fiat has added an extra diesel model to the local range, the Fiat 500 1.3 JTD Lounge, that matches economy with the top trim and equipment package to produce a unique combination of luxury, economy and chic style.
“This award for the Fiat 500 could not come at a better time for us,” says Edward Butler, General Manager for Fiat cars in Australia. “It is a clear reminder that the Fiat 500 is not just about style and appearance. It is a car that has a real depth of technical ability, environmental concern and safety. It doesn’t just look great and drive beautifully; it also protects its occupants and, thanks to its low fuel consumption, protects the planet. What more could be wanted from a car for the 21st Century?”
In Australia, as in every market in which it has been launched, the Fiat 500 has been an outstanding success, with demand running well ahead of supply. Fiat provided customers with details of the new car months ahead of the first deliveries, so that customers eager to be the first owners of the new 500 could specify their new car to their personal requirements. Deliveries have just started and the Fiat 500 is sold out for the next four months.
“We are working with Fiat to get an extra allocation of cars for Australia for 2008,” explains Mr Butler. “But even with the boost in Australian supplies for which we have asked, there’s little doubt that demand will continue to run well ahead of supply.”
At launch the Fiat 500 equipped with Fiat’s advanced 1.3 Multijet Turbo Diesel came with the ‘Pop’ equipment package, which is, by no means, a basic package, including as it does air conditioning, trip computer, electric front windows, remote central locking, ABS brakes and six airbags to give it class leading EuroNCAP five star safety.
However, the lounge pack takes the luxury and style to a new level for the highly economical Fiat 500 JTD.
The air conditioning system becomes a climate control unit, a fixed glass roof with a sun blind is standard, as is the chrome exterior trim pack, alloy wheels, front fog lights, the Blue&Me voice-activated Bluetooth communications package with steering wheel mounted controls, leather steering wheel and gearknob, and luxury cloth interior with the option of a leather trimmed interior. The Lounge pack also adds electronic stability control (ESC), hill holder, HBA and traction control as part of its comprehensive equipment package.
With the 1.3 JTD engine, the Fiat 500 guarantees excellent performance: it has a top speed of 165 kmh and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 12.5 seconds. Fuel consumption is, quite simply, the best on the market: 5.3 l/100 km in the urban cycle, 3.6 l/100 km out of town and 4.2 l/100 km in the combined cycle, and CO2 emissions are among the lowest on the market at just 111 g/km.
The straight-4 engine with a capacity of 1248 cc, a bore of 69.6 mm and a ‘long’ stroke of 82 mm is fitted with a Borg-Warner fixed geometry turbo with a waste-gate and an intercooler and delivers a maximum of 55 kW at 4000 rpm and torque of 145 Nm at 1500 rpm. There are four valves per cylinder, governed directly by a twin overhead camshaft with maintenance-free hydraulic tappets and automatic play take-up.
That is not all. The 1.3 Multijet 16v is a miniature masterpiece: ‘dressed’ with all its accessories, it weighs just 130 kg, it is small, just 50 cm long and 65 cm tall, and the component layout was designed to take up as little space as possible. Designed by criteria of maximum rationality, efficiency and reliability, the engine guarantees excellent efficiency and is practically ‘for life’: it was designed to travel 250,000 km without needing any maintenance to the mechanical components.
The compact, sophisticated engine is also extremely eco-friendly, thanks to an emissions control system that envisages an EGR valve triggered electronically and managed directly by the engine control system, a heat exchanger to cool recirculating exhaust gas (EGR) and a ‘close coupled’ catalytic converter. A particulate trap (DPF), the ‘for life’ system that abates fine dust and does not need additives to be regenerated, is standard equipment.
The 55 kW 1.3 Multijet 16v therefore represents a technological leap forward which, for the customer, translates into lower consumption and emissions, without even taking into consideration the reduction in noise (due to the multiple injections), the increase in comfort (fewer alternating masses means less vibration), the smooth, responsive steering (due to the really smooth torque delivery, which is guaranteed by the improved combustion control), the torquiness and prompt response of a diesel that resembles a petrol engine with its wide engine speed range (for example, there is no longer a fuel ‘cut-out’ just above 4000 rpm), and the ecological elements that enhance the diesel’s main environmental credentials (low fuel consumption and particulate reduction).
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