Tiny Italian newcomer is set to be baby brother for stylish Fiat 500

Say ciao bella to the Fiat 500's little brother! This compact city car is aiming to repeat the success of the rec­ently resurrected classic by offering buyers plenty of style - but in an even smaller package. ( AE )

Codenamed 'Topolino' after the original model, which arrived in 1937 and was one of the smallest cars in the world at that time, the newcomer is Fiat's answer to a raft of forthcoming micro machines. These cars, such as the VW up! and Toyota iQ, are all aimed at reducing the average CO2 outputs of manufacturers' ranges.

With a body length of less than three metres, the Fiat will also rival current cars such as Smart's ForTwo.

As you can see from these pictures, produced using insider informa­tion, the Topolino takes some styling inspiration from Fiat's existing range, with large, bold headlights and a neat lower grille. However, its tiny dimensions mean that elsewhere it's a radi­cal departure for the firm and represents a new design direction.

It also features a new layout. As with the up!, the Topolino will be rear-wheel drive and have its engine mounted underneath the boot. This allows engineers to maximise interior space and ensure the car complies with crash regulations. Power will be taken from Fiat's forthcoming 900cc two-cylinder petrol engine.

The unit was first previewed by the Panda Aria concept at last Septem­ber's Frankfurt Motor Show, and will debut in dealers in the 500 later this year. While the 500 is likely to come with two versions of this engine - a 105bhp turbo or a normally aspirated 65bhp unit - it will be the latter that powers most Topolino models.

This is mated to a VW DSG-style twin-clutch gearbox, while the car is also equipped with a stop-start sys­tem, which can switch off the engine when it's not needed in traffic. As a result, the Topolino should return fuel economy of more than 80mpg and emit less than 90g/km of CO2.

The latter figure will give the car a key role in cutting Fiat's overall car­bon output, helping it comply with Euro­pean Commission plans to impose an average 120g/km limit on the model ranges of all firms selling cars across the Continent by 2012.

What's more, Auto Express has already reported on Fiat's hybrid plans (Issue 1,009), and engineers are working on a petrol-electric version of the new two-cylinder unit, which could see the Topolino boost its economy and slash its CO2 emissions even further. Inside, the newcomer is set to feature a flex­ible seating arrangement, taking the '3+1' layout first seen on the brand's Trepiuno concept car - which previewed the 500 at the Geneva Motor Show in 2004 - into production.

It will feature a front passenger seat that can be slid fore and aft to increase or decrease legroom, in addition to an occasional flip-down 'fourth' seat in the rear.

With all seats apart from the driver's capable of being folded flat, the Topolino promises to offer amazing flexibility and space for its size. Fiat has yet to confirm exactly when the model will be launched, but it's likely to hit showrooms in 2010.

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