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Fiat has introduced its first mild-hybrid engines to the 500 and Panda models.

Due into showrooms in February and March respectively, Fiat said the introduction of mild-hybrid technology is the first step towards the next-generation 500, which will be an electric-only model.

The mild-hybrid 500 and Panda models will be available with a new petrol mild hybrid engine that combines the latest three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine with a 12-volt BSG electric motor and a lithium battery that delivers 70hp.

Compared with the outgoing 1.2-litre 69hp petrol engine, the mild hybrid version improves fuel efficiency, reducing CO2 emissions on the road by up to 30% without impeding performance, Fiat said.

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Prices, CO2 emissions and mpg figures are yet to be finalised and a Fiat spokeswoman told Company Car Today these should become available by the end of this month when order books open.

The mild hybrid propulsion unit used in the Panda and 500 is mated to a manual six-speed transmission, which Fiat said is aimed at improving fuel economy in out-of-town driving, thanks to new low-friction bearings and gaskets and the use of a specific high-efficiency lubricant.

Meanwhile, the seats in the Launch Edition are said to be the first in the automotive sector to be made of Seaqual Yarn, the weaving of which produces a material, certified by Seaqual, derived from recycled plastic –  10% of which originates from the sea and 90% from land.  Seaqual Yarn is produced by transforming plastics collected from the sea into flakes of polyethylene terephthalate. These flakes are then used in the yarn from which the fabrics are made. In the weaving phase, marine polyester is mixed with other natural, recycled or recovered fibres. This process is completed by the application of dyes and finishes which minimise the use of water and energy.