In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, communities around the world are gradually resuming activities that used to be routine, like driving. To help owners do that in an ecological and safe way, Fiat now offers a "D-Fence" package on the recently introduced 500 Hybrid and Panda Hybrid, on sale in European markets starting at 9,820 euros and 10,714 euros, respectively ($10,878 and $11,868 at current rates).

This package, developed by Mopar, consists of a high-performance air filter and purifier and an ultraviolet light, which help disinfect the surfaces of an interior that get touched and used the most, like the steering wheel, shift knob, and seats.

The filter cleans the air before it enters the car's HVAC system, while the air purifier complements the cabin air filter to eliminate micro-particles like pollen and bacteria. For its part, the UV lamp cleans components of the interior, acting as a germicide that might kill viruses – although UV light hasn't been proven to break down the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, it works on similar germs, like the ones that caused the SARS outbreak of 2003. And right now, disinfection is an important consideration for many, making some of the D-Fence package's items potentially very attractive to consumers.

Gallery: Fiat Panda Hybrid

Not only does the Mopar package respond to current health sensitivities, so too do the 500 and Panda in regard to the environment. The small Fiat hybrids connect a naturally aspirated 1.0-liter "FireFly" inline-three to a belt-starter generator, lithium-ion battery, and surprisingly, a 12-volt electrical system (mild hybrids of a similar design often boast 48 volts of jolt). The generator only produces about 4.8 horsepower (3.6 kilowatts), while the engine itself makes 70 hp (52 kW), so owners of the 500 and Panda should expect to make liberal use of the standard six-speed manual transmission. 

Among other functions, the mild-hybrid system allows for "sailing," wherein the gasoline engine shuts down while coasting to save fuel and reduce emissions. It also enables smoother and more responsive engine idle stop/start and assists with acceleration in some cases. Compared to conventional 500 and Panda models powered by the 69-hp gasoline engine, the mild hybrids emit about 30 percent less carbon dioxide.

As part of the D-Fence announcement, Fiat also created a very attractive financing campaign, wherein a buyer can acquire one of the two hybrid models for only 4 euros per day without a down payment. With this Europe-only FCA Bank proposal, Fiat is establishing itself as an alternative to public transportation, since the driver pays the same per day as a pair of bus or metro tickets in urban areas like Paris or Rome. The payment plan (and the D-Fence package) are part of Fiat's way of helping people return to normal with cheap, hygienic motoring.

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