Italian car giant Fiat’s suave and sophisticated looking Bravo family five-door hatchback has been a big hit for the company with sales ahead of targets in Britain and Europe since it was launched about a year ago. We sent Russell Bray to Italy to try the new 1.6 MultiJet engine
If you were always taught that size matters, or that in the words of some of my American chums, that you can’t beat cubic inches, then the new 1.6 litre engine in Fiat’s Bravo is going to surprise you. Available in two power outputs, 105bhp or 120bhp, the engine replaces the popular and punchy 120bhp 1.9 MultiJet engine. And in one of those cake-and-eat-it feats that engine makers seem to achieve these days, the 120bhp engine tested produces more pulling power than the 1.9 and at lower revs, so that the latest addition to the Bravo range actually has more brio than before. Torque is up a whopping 25 per cent, which is good news for acceleration, and fuel consumption isn’t any worse as a result. It’s actually up to eight per cent better, which means less environmental impact in terms of exhaust gas emissions. Fiat says the 1.6 MultiJet Bravo is the first car in its class to meet the tough Euro 5 emissions legislation due in 2011 and has the lowest HCNOx emissions in its class.
It’s uncanny how elastic the engine feels, pulling from 1,500rpm in sixth gear even on a rising incline, thanks to a whopping 221lb ft of torque at those revs. The engine is state of the art with four valves per cylinder, rather than two for the 1.9, and is intercooled and turbocharged for strong, consistent power delivery. Most of the improvement, though, has come from new fuel injectors and an increase in the fuel line pressure from 1300 to 1600 bar. Fiat leaves the really sporty cars to Alfa Romeo these days, so the Bravo is biased towards comfort and driving ease, with a Ford Focus a more agile companion on a twisty road. Driven briskly, the Bravo feels reasonably nimble, but even though the new engine is 10kg lighter than the 1.9, if you charge into a bend, the car wants to plough straight on, or understeers, but if you ease back on the power it comes back on line nicely. Straight line performance is brisk, with 0- 60mph in just over ten seconds, and overall refinement impressive. Fiat quotes a five per cent improvement in noise levels at 80mph, making the 120 feel as quiet as a petrol engined car. Engine shielding, thicker side windows and an insulation windscreen reduce noise, make motorway cruising very relaxed. An indicated 70mph cruise was just 1,900rpm, which should be good for economy. The Bravo rides lumpily on poor roads, but it isn’t harsh and there is plenty of feedback through the nicely proportioned, thick rimmed steering wheel.
Bravo prices are expected to be competitive with rivals like the Peugeot 308 or Ford Focus starting at around £13,800 for the 105bhp and £14,500 for the 120. Drivers wanting the best economy potential can choose an “eco” pack for around an extra £300 on the 105, with optimised aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tyres, which improves the combined cycle fuel figure to 62.7mpg. Build quality was fine and with its great looks, five-star Euro NCAP rating, big boot, hands free phone set-up and easy iPod link up, the Bravo is an appealing package. The new Bravo strikes a good balance – it respects the environment with low running costs without sacrificing driving pleasure.
On sale: March/April 2008. // Price £14,500 (estimated)
- Price: £14,500 (est)
- Engine: 1598cc, four cylinder turbodiesel
- Max Power: 120bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 221lb ft at 1,500rpm
- Max Towing Weight: tba
- Combined Consumption: 57.6mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 129g/km (C)
- 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
- Max speed: 122mph
- Insurance group: tba
Great looks maturing nicely and classy interior now matched by a quieter, smoother, more powerful and more economical engine. Well equipped
Ford’s Focus still handles better, ride can be lumpy at low speed, rear seats claustrophobic