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Fiat Bravo 1.6 MultiJet 105 Dynamic Eco

Click to view picture galleryFiat face up to the Bravo New World
  by launching three fresh additions to
  their five-door, mid-sized C-segment
  Bravo range. Buyers now get a
  choice of new 1.6 Multijet and Eco
  models along with a five-year
  warranty offer and a ‘money-back-if-
  not-satisfied
guarantee...”

FIAT IS INVESTING MILLIONS in the brand with new technologies and model ranges, and the quality is now getting much better. As far as their Bravo range — launched last June (2007) — is concerned, there are three new variants in the line-up. And that's in addition to the Bravo's already improved appeal — Fiat UK recently introduced a five-year warranty offer and a 'money-back-if-not-satisfied' guarantee. To date, they've not had a single Bravo returned.

The three new additions to the Bravo range are two 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel engines (105 and 120bhp) and a 295 Eco pack option consisting of taller fifth and sixth gear ratios and low resistance tyres for the 105bhp Active and Dynamic models. Fiat expect that customers keen to reduce running costs will mean that 50 per cent of buyers opting for the new 1.6 MultiJet engine will also choose the 105bhp Eco variant. Of the remainder, they expect 20 per cent to buy the standard 105bhp unit and 30 per cent to go for the 120bhp engine option.

Fiat UK says the three new additions to the Fiat Bravo range now means that they are the 'greenest' manufacturer in Europe — the average CO2 emissions for their entire model range is 137.3g/km. The latest 1.6-litre MultiJet 105 and 120bhp turbodiesel engines, the Eco model option and other technology being introduced by Fiat puts its cars in the lowest pollution bands. Impending changes to the VED rates in the UK will make them particularly attractive to financially-stressed and highly-taxed motorists. For the record, the Eco pack slips the Bravo under 120g/km, so the Vehicle Excise Duty is a very affordable 35.

The Bravo range in Britain is now extended to 17 models priced between 10,995 and 16,355 with five trim levels. The Bravo range is a C-segment (Ford Focus size) five-door hatchback. The new diesel engines are turbocharged to give exceptional performance for their size, and come with manual six-speed gearboxes to improve economy and, at the same time, reduce noise.

The tuning of these engines also ensures they can produce greater mid-range pulling power which does away with the necessity for frequent fuel-sapping gear changes — together these individual elements result in an improvement of eight per cent in fuel efficiency as well as lower pollution — and lower VED rates.

The five trim levels (Bravo, Active, Active-Sport, Dynamic and Sport) and the new engines bring the power units available to six after the Bravo was launched last year with 150bhp 1.9 MultiJet and petrol 1.4 T-Jet units developing 90, 120 and 150bhp.

With the Eco pack the new 1.6-litre MultiJet 105bhp diesel unit has average fuel consumption close to 63mpg compared to almost 58mpg in the 'normal' 105bhp version and the 120bhp derivative. Top speed and 0-62mph for both 105bhp units (standard and Eco) is 116mph and 11.3 seconds, while the 120bhp model exceeds 120mph and is almost a second quicker from standstill. The figures bear out Fiat's assertion that the Eco changes really make a difference to the fuel consumption without hindering performance.

Prices of the 105bhp 1.6 MultiJet begin with the Active at 13,855. The 105bhp Active Eco is 14,150 and the likely best-selling specification (Dynamic) adds 1,000 to the price. The 120bhp 1.6 MultiJet Dynamic costs 15,605.

Most versions have anti-lock braking, air conditioning, remote locking, six airbags, electric front windows and door mirrors, CD player, two-stage selectable electric steering, front foglights and headlamp delay. Active-Sport includes figure-hugging seats, leather trim details, alloys and spoilers. Dynamic level gains powered rear windows, advanced sound and telephony systems, dual-zone AirCon and cruise control while Sport specification tops the range with firmer suspension, electronic brake assistance, sports instruments and red brake callipers.

The all-important Electronic Stability programme is only available as standard on Sport versions and is a 350 option for other variants except the base Bravo where it not available at all. Not very clever. Still, the Bravo does have a five-star Euro NCAP adult passenger safety rating.

The Bravo as we know is an attractive looking five-door hatchback, reasonably roomy for five passengers and with a big boot. However, for driving dynamics it lags behind others in this sector. The ride is choppy and jittery, the body control is not tight and the steering lacks feel and feedback. The rear visibility, because of its rising wedge design, is not great but the new 1.6-litre MultiJet engines are real gems. Quiet, refined, responsive and, given the right conditions, very fuel- and CO2-efficient.

The 1.6-litre MultiJet 120bhp unit is particularly responsive and compares with most 1.9-litre turbodiesel units for performance but betters them for fuel economy. The 105bhp unit is sweet as well, but lacks that extra bit of power. In Eco form, with the higher ratio fifth and sixth gears, the driving is better suited for open road and motorway work. On country roads more time is spent driving along in fourth gear because the torque of the engine cannot easily cope with the high gearing and struggles for response. Changing up and down gears is a full-time job.

Interestingly, during a rain-soaked test drive this week over A and B roads, the 105bhp Eco Bravo returned only 48.5mpg in real-life conditions — well below the 62.8mpg target figure. The 120bhp unit returned 46.6mpg instead of the published 57.6mpg but the Hyundai i30 Estate 1.6-litre 113bhp diesel estate (roughly the same size of car) I was using to get to and from the Fiat event returned, in the same driving conditions, 51mpg. However, the Hyundai's CO2 figure is higher than the Eco Bravo and costs 120 in road tax a year instead of the Fiat's 35.

The additional new power units and the Eco model option make the Bravo slightly more appealing. But it is a tough marketplace and with most other volume manufacturers offering similar 'greener' models I'm not convinced the demand for Bravo will greatly increase. Demerits include lots of gear-changing on country roads, indifferent handling and ride quality and ESP not fitted as standard. Plus points include low running costs, engine refinement, relaxed motorway driving, five-year warranty, 'money-back-if-not-satisfied' guarantee and, a possible bonus (unless Boris changes the rules), it could also be London Congestion Charge-free. — David Miles

Fiat Bravo 1.6 MultiJet 105 Dynamic Eco
| 15,150
Maximum speed: 116mph | 0-62mph: 11.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 48.5mpg
Power: 106bhp | Torque: 214nm lb ft | CO2 119g/km | Insurance group 7