23.1.2009 Fiat Bravo Eco review
With every carmaker in an understandable rush to place more economical models in the marketplace, Iain Robertson says that the latest newcomer to Fiat’s line-up – the `Eco` Bravo - should help to chivvy its sales.
Fiat's engineers have effectively taken the `120` versions of this car, lost a few BHP but gained a few pounds-feet of torque, added a new set of low rolling resistance tyres onto the regular wheel rims, smoothed out some of the underbody aerodynamics and lengthened the internal ratios of the 6-speed manual transmission. In essence, a lot of work has been undertaken for just a few hundred quid extra, which on the face of it, whether you are a committed eco-warrior or just a seeker of greater frugality, would appear to be good value for money.
Although I was unable to confirm the claims, the official combined average fuel economy figure is now given as 62.8mpg, which is a healthy increase of 5.2mpg over the standard non-eco model and is enough to help buyers to shoulder the burden of the extra fuel costs as they stand.
Of course, you might expect that the performance would suffer from the modifications carried out. While the through-the-gears acceleration is slightly slower on paper (not only for 0-60mph, which is now increased to 11.3 seconds, but also for the important 30-50mph and 50-70mph increments), the actual feeling of reductions at the helm is masked somewhat by a substantial wave of torque from just above 1,900rpm, which makes the Eco Bravo feel somewhat zippier than it is.
Interestingly, the engine sounds far quieter than ever before and the slick six-speeder always seems to drop the revs lower than you expect. Refinement certainly does not suffer with this model, despite the harder rubber on the road. In fact, I found myself comparing it with the VW Golf BlueMotion - VW's answer to the current need - which is not only markedly more raucous across the speed ranges but also significantly less punchy despite similar power and emissions figures. The Golf is also a lot slower than the Fiat, so for those seeking out higher performance, the Fiat should be your first consideration.
Actually, it's not a bad trade-off, as the Bravo is so Golf-like in its build quality, even though the actual materials used to produce the Italian car are not quite in the same league as the German machine. Its handling remains wieldy and fun and the car's appearance is hardly a challenge, as it looks neat and stylish from any angle. There are no driving fripperies either, with no buttons to depress to access greater fuel economy, and the overall driveability remains largely unaltered from the standard model.
Comfort levels are excellent and, in Dynamic guise, the better trim level provides good air-con, electric windows all-around, the Bluetooth mobile phone connection system, an MP3 connector and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Fiat has a satisfying character of its own and this Eco alternative may help to make it a more popular sight on our roads, because I feel that the Bravo might be the best-kept secret in Fiat's present line-up, which is not a status that it deserves.
Model tested: Fiat Bravo Eco 1.6 Multijet
Body-styles: 5-door hatchback
Engines: 1.6 (TD4)
Trim grades: Active, Dynamic
Prices: from £14,150 to £15,150
In the showroom: Now
Review star rating: 5 STARS
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles
Iain Robertson © Next Green Car.com 2008
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