In what's described as the beginning of the electrification of FCA - better late than never, right? - Fiat has released to the world a pair of hybrid city cars: the 500 and Panda. Yes, they are still being made, and with technology will surely continue for a little while longer.
The Mild Hybrid models - that's the name, not just the technology - will be powered by a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder from the 'Firefly' family of engines, allied to a 12-volt Belt-integrated Starter Generator (BSG). It's mounted directly onto the engine, driven off the auxiliary belt, and is capable of energy recovery during both acceleration and deceleration. That energy is then stored in a 11 Ah lithium battery, which can assist the Panda and 500 during acceleration and also get the engine going again when stop-start is employed.
In addition, the mild hybrid system can also allow the combustion engine to be turned off entirely; Fiat says a prompt will appear on the dash telling drivers when to shift into neutral. All told, CO2 on the Panda and 500 is said to improve by 30 per cent against the old combustion-engined version.
That shifting will be done via a revised (more efficient lubricant, low-friction bearings) six-speed manual gearbox, which will probably see pretty regular use given power and torque peaks of 70hp (at 6,000rpm) and 68lb ft at 3,500. Still, wouldn't be a small Italian car if it didn't need to be driven with some brio, would it? Drivers will be encouraged to do so, in fact - or so it seems - by the fact that this replacement engine for the 1.2 weighs just 77kg and is mounted 45mm lower than before, benefitting the centre of gravity.
Hybridistas don't have long to wait for their small Fiat fix, either, as the 500 is in showrooms next month and the Panda is following in March. Initially a Launch Edition will be offered, boasting Dew Green paint, 'Hybrid' badges and Seaqual Yarn seats, made from recycled plastic. But of course. Prices and full specs to follow soon!