When Fiat slotted its innovative TwinAir two-cylinder engine into the 500 two years ago, it instantly boosted the driving characteristics of the little city car.
So, perhaps not surprisingly, Alfa Romeo has tucked the latest version of the 875cc engine into its supermini, the MiTo.
Already fitted, also, into the Fiat Panda, the TwinAir ensures the MiTo is capable if returning close to 70mpg. As important is the fact it emits just 98g/km of CO2.
And so confident now is Alfa of the “bombproof’ nature of the engine that they have given it a five-year warranty.
Where Alfa has scored another winner is by incorporating its excellent DNA gear selector into the car. In its latest form, in addition to ‘All-Weather’ and ‘Natural’ (a change from the previous ‘Normal’ setting), there’s a ‘Dynamic’ setting which changes the character of the engine and returns lively performance from the same small power unit.
By dint of its high speed turbo, the performance is equivalent to that of a four-cylinder 1400cc engine, but through the DNA selector you can decide how you want to drive, either economy or performance.
Set to Natural, the car is pretty subdued with lighter steering for city work, but by flicking it up to Dynamic the car leaps into action with an immediate surge in power and altogether better response. It also delivers higher speed gearchanges and stiffer suspension to keep it more firmly on the road.
Despite being 10% lighter and 23% smaller than the standard unit, the new TwinAir delivers the goods with amazing torque at low revs.
It’s so versatile it’ll pull away happily in third gear at less than 1500rpm. The All Weather setting is for when the conditions deteriorate: the TwinAir accommodates those changes by adjusting the steering and braking for safety. Without any specific badging, the only indication of the presence of the small engine from the outside is on tickover where there’s a distinctive two-cylinder firing from the exhaust.
Inside the cabin of the MiTo TwinAir — which enters Alfa showrooms at the beginning of August, with prices starting at £14,150 — there are a number of clever design cues which will pacify the green brigade.
Alfa is confident the new TwinAir will rapidly account for one-third of the model’s sales, and on the evidence of my time in the car, I definitely wouldn’t question that.