Fiat 500 TwinAir two-cylinder engine

Fiat 500 TwinAir two-cylinder engine

In Europe Fiat sells its funky 500 minicar with an optional 0.9-liter two-cylinder engine that when equipped with an automatic transmission returns an impressive fuel economy of 57.4 mpg for the European combined cycle. With Volkswagen now working on a similar sized vehicle, the upcoming Up minicar, there were hopes that the German automaker would follow Fiat’s lead and release a downsized two-cylinder model of its own.

Those hopes have since been quashed following comments from Volkswagen’s R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg. Speaking with Autocar, Hackenberg explained that downsized engines were reaching their limits when factoring in performance, cost and fuel economy. Subsequently, Volkswagen has ruled out using a two-cylinder engine its new Up minicar, which is due to go on sale in Europe late next year.

“Improvements can now only be made in performance and economy, not in making the engines any smaller,” he said. Instead, the Up will make use of three-cylinder engines that “will really advance the technology and make strong use of it”.

One of the biggest problems with such small engines is their harshness, especially at lower revs. Volkswagen is still in a process of refining its three-cylinder engines, which are proving to be quite expensive to develop because even they are not as smooth as the automaker would like.

The German auto giant is no amateur in this field, however. Back in 2003 the automaker rolled out its 1-Liter concept car, a fuel miser powered by a 1.0-liter one-cylinder engine that returned a claimed 235 mpg.