The Fiat Punto Twinair has just gone on sale in the UK, joining the 500 and Panda in getting the manufacturer's turbocharged two-cylinder 'Twinair' engine.
Although we've already put the car through its paces in Europe, this is the first chance we've had to drive it on British roads.
It certainly stands out; the Fiat Punto Twinair benefits from a few styling embellishments over the rest of the range, including two-tone alloys, gloss black mirrors and door pillars, and burnished, darkened headlamps.
The Twinair is also the only Punto available in 'Unplugged Green' paint.
What's the 2012 Fiat Punto Twinair like to drive?
First impressions hit you right in the eardrums, due mostly to the noisy two-cylinder engine.
Fiat's engineers have deliberately tuned the exhaust for a throaty note, but with questionable success – it sounds loose and flaccid; more glottal than guttural. OK, there's a certain amount of pleasure in firing it up. However, if the gurgly thrum isn't to your taste, it could quickly wear thin.
Fiat Punto Twinair is noisy, but its turbo ensures it's powerful enough
Noisiness aside, this tiny engine impresses thanks to its turbo. It's got more than enough power to get you away from the lights quickly and is unfazed by inclines.
It can hold its own on the motorway, too, and once you're settled at a steady cruise the engine becomes much less vocal.
As a bonus, a tremor-absorbing dual mass flywheel – unique to the Punto Twinair – means the vibrations that two-cylinder engines are renowned for are impressively subdued.
Vibrations in the cabin from two-cylinder engine are kept to a minimum
The ride is mostly smooth, too, although the Punto isn't completely immune to imperfections in the road surface and there's a fair amount of body movement if the road isn't entirely even.
The controls are rather vague, but they are at least light and easy to use.
What's the 2012 Fiat Punto Twinair like inside?
Fiat has refreshed the interior right across the Punto range, and to good effect. Smooth sweeping lines and subtly lit dials combine with black gloss panelling and chrome-effect detailing to lend the cabin a sophisticated feel.
There's a sophisticated feel to the Fiat Punto Twinair's cabin
The seats are comfortable and well padded, too, and overlaid with Sportex mesh-like fabric that's been engineered to keep passengers cool in hot weather.
As with all Puntos, front electric windows are standard, while the Twinair also gets air-conditioning. However, it's disappointing that Bluetooth connectivity and aux-in and USB sockets are standard on only the range-topping Lounge model.
More positively, there's room for four adults in the Punto and the boot is pretty large and well shaped.
Should I buy one?
If you're looking for a roomy supermini that's exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge, the Punto Twinair stacks up well on paper.
It's more than £2000 cheaper than diesel rivals such as the Ford Fiesta Econetic and VW Polo Bluemotion. What's more, if you buy before September, Fiat will slash £1000 off the list price and throw in £1090-worth of extras, including cruise control, climate control, rear parking sensors and the Blue&Me infotainment package (which includes Bluetooth and smartphone compatibility).
Bear in mind, though, if your annual mileage is high, diesel models could still make more financial sense; our experience suggests they get much closer to their official fuel economy figures than Fiat's Twinair engine.
You might struggle to get close to the Twinair's claimed average fuel economy
The best diesel rivals are also better to drive and a lot more refined.
Read the full Fiat Punto review
What Car? says…
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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