Diesel may now account for 50 per cent of Europe’s 17.7 million annual car sales, but that means there’s still a very healthy market left over for petrol-powered cars. Fiat is among the first manufacturers to try and revitalise petrol power with a small capacity, high output turbocharged engine. The idea is that, even when boosted by a turbocharger, the engine’s relatively modest size will allow impressive economy. Fiat didn't release much in the way of technical detail about its new T-JET family of engines, other than that they will come in 120- and 150bhp versions, both offering 151lb ft or torque between 1750 and 2000rpm. The 150bhp version gets a neat, dash-mounted ‘Sport’ button, which activates another 19lb ft. Information was limited because the T-Jet test cars we tried in Rome were pre-production and not due for launch until June (the same time that the Bravo arrives in the UK – Fiat thinks it will be popular in Britain).
What's it like?
Ahead of driving a Sport-spec 150bhp T-Jet I tried a 150bhp Bravo diesel, and I’m glad I did. This production-ready oil-burner was very refined, and had plenty of push. The equivalent petrol-powered Bravo wasn’t, and didn’t. At low speeds the 1.4 T-Jet engine lacked torque (hardly surprising for a 1.4-litre engine) and it needed plenty of stoking to get it up to speed. Under hard acceleration the engine’s note was rather insistent and, to my ear, more intrusive than the diesel which didn’t need to be pushed so hard. The big wheels that come with the Sport spec also took away the ability of the standard Bravo to round off the harsh edges of poor surfaces. These, and a few other flies in the ointment, can still be improved before June though.
Should I buy one?
On the basis of the impressive showing that the production Bravo put in on Roman roads, we can overlook many of the shortcomings of the T-Jet prototype. The finished car's gearshift was first rate, the driving position good and well-judged pedal weightings included excellent brake feel. It rode pretty well on the standard-issue suspension and wheels, even if did crump on really bad surfaces. The biggest Bravo problem is probably over-light steering, which feels disconnected from the road surface, but that's a familiar Fiat failing. However novel and interesting the 1.4-litre turbo is though, I can’t see it eclipsing the diesel version. For the time being, the M-Jet will remain the Bravo of choice.