Theme: Engines – A Survey of Fiat’s 2004 and 2014 ranges

Then and now: how does Fiat’s present engine range compare to that of 2004? And are they making use of the engines available from Chrysler?

2014 Fiat Qubo
2014 Fiat Qubo

Today we are asking “How bad is it exactly for Fiat, in real terms”? A vibrant company puts effort into engines if only to confuse punters and gain sales. But it can also offer a better match between the car and the complicated needs of the hundreds of millions of potential buyers. If you have a car with just one or two engines for it then it’s a safe bet there are 78 million people who simply won’t consider that vehicle. Think of the Bravo, for example.

Looking back first, let’s see how hot Fiat was a decade ago. In January 2004 Fiat (in the UK) sold seven different passenger vehicles: the Seicento, Punto, and Stilo hatchbacks, the Barchetta roadster, the Doblo family van, the Multipla MPV and the Ulysse (a body shared with PSA and Lancia).

Propelling that lot around Fiat had eleven or thirteen different engines, depending on how you count them. Most burned petrol and the power range started at 54 bhp and rose to 170 bhp. The biggest motor came in the form of the 2.4 20-valve unit which was offered in the Punto Abarth but not on the bigger bodied Stilo or Ulysse.

And now the “now” part. As Eóin has been carefully documenting elsewhere here, things are not so excellent in the Fiat empire. FCA have just moved their legal address to London (and with barefaced cheek the chairman John Elkann said this was great news for Milan). This move will save FCA a bit in corporate taxes, no doubt, and help expedite the wind-up process that’s due any year now. Now, how badly are Fiat cars doing on the engine front? Have they made use of Chrysler’s stock of engines?

2014 Fiat Freemont
2014 Fiat Freemont and also a 2014 Dodge Journey. Dodge?

As of today, a look at Fiat’s (German) website, turns up nine bodies and thirteen engines (depending on how you count). First, the body count is inflated as some of those car bodies are not solely Fiat’s. The Qubo is shared with PSA. Chrysler uses the Freemont body elsewhere in the world. And Suzuki designed and made the Sedici.

Opel sells the Doblo under its own name. Four from nine makes five bodies unique to Fiat. But it’s worse as the 500 L is spun off the same platform as the Grande Punto and Doblo. The way I count this, Fiat have two or three platforms and some bought-in or shared platforms they couldn’t manage to develop on their own.

The Grand Punto is supposedly a heartland car and has only five engines. For comparison, Ford in the Germany offers eight engines for the Fiesta. The Bravo, that game old stager, has but one engine, a 16V 120 PS diesel unit. That is quite some surprise if you consider what the Golf, Astra and Focus sell in engines alone. Then consider body variants – the Bravo is a five-door only car whereas the Golf is sold as 3 and 5-door and in estate and saloon guise too.

1986 Fiat Croma 2.0 i.e., a car from the days when Fiat could sell a moderately large family car.
1986 Fiat Croma 2.0 i.e., a car from the days when Fiat could sell a moderately large family car.

So, in essence the Bravo is a model on the way out. In 2004 the Bravo’s predecessor, the Stilo hatchback, was sold with five engines and even then that was fewer than the 2004 Focus (seven engines, but far more range in power outputs).

There’s a marked lack of Fiat diesel engines. I counted three and one of those is in the Freemont only. Of the nine petrol engines, three have only one application each, in the Sedici (a 1.6 16-valve), the Doblo (a 2.0 16V) and the Freemont (another 2.0 litre unit which I think is a Chrysler device). If it’s not a Fiat unit then then they only have eight petrol engines of their own design. Make it seven engines then.

2011 Fiat Twin-Air engine. It has been a success.
2011 Fiat Twin-Air engine. It has been a success.

My colleague Sean elsewhere here offered the view that Ford, VW and Opel’s superfluity of engines was just meaningless choice. Most people could make do with two or three well-chosen ones, he suggested. Well, here we have a more limited range than even that. In the case of the Bravo there is no choice at all, just one lonely diesel.

Most of the vehicles have three engines, with one model, the Qubo having six. By and large, Fiat’s diminished model range of five unique bodies and 12 engines means they are not even offering a simple choice of small, medium and large but sometimes just small, also small and a bit bigger. This won’t do. Not at all.

Respect due though to Fiat for explaining what the engines were for on their website. When you drag down the list on the configurator they do say quite clearly what the variants are supposed to do for the customer: is it a sporty, economical or standard engine on offer. I wish VW, Opel and Ford did that.

Finally, the answer to our second question is “no”. Fiat are not making use of Chrysler’s range of engines because they have no vehicle appropriate for those engines, with the single exception of the Freemont which is a rebadged Dodge Journey anyway.

Fiat Engine range August 2014 (source: http://www.Fiat.de)

  • Petrol

1.2 8V mit 51 kW (69 PS)

0.9 8V twin-air turbo (85 and 105 PS),

1.4 16V Motor (77 and 95 PS and 120)

1.6 litre (90 and 105 PS)

1.6 16V (120 PS) Sedici only

2.0 16V (135 PS) Doblo only

2.0 litre with 170 and 280 PS Freemont only

  • Diesel

1.3 16V MultiJet ( 75, 85, 95 PS)

1.6 16V MultiJet Motor (105 PS, 120 PS).

a 2.0-MultiJet-II (140 PS) (170 PS) Freemont only

  • Gas/Petrol engine

1.4 Natural Power (77 PS on petrol and 70 PS on gas)

1.4-16V-T-Jet-88-kW (120 PS)

Fiat Engine line-up January 2004 (source Car, Jan. 2004)

  • Petrol

1.1 litre with 54 bhp,

1.2 litre 8-valve (60 bhp),

1.2 litre 16-valve (70 and 80 bhp),

1.3 litre multijet (70 bhp),

1.4 with (95 bhp)

1.8 HGT (130 bhp)

1.6 16-valve (103 and 115 bhp

1.8 16-valve (130 and 133 bhp)

2.0 16V (136 bhp)

2.4 20V offering 170 bhp.

  • Diesel

1.9 multijet (100 bhp)

1.9 JTD (80, 85 bhp and 115 bhp)

2.0 JTD (109 bhp)

2.2 JTD (128 bhp)

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “Theme: Engines – A Survey of Fiat’s 2004 and 2014 ranges”

  1. The 1.2 69 PS is the same (FIAT) engine that I said was in the Ka.

    This analysis underlines how sick FIAT is. It does read rather terminally. Shame!

  2. That is such a sad catalogue for a once great company. The only engine that attracts me is the TwinAir but, even then, am I just being a victim to novelty? I would qualify my theory that 5% of the engines would please 95% of the customers by saying that would be the case in a vacuum of alternative opinions. However, as soon as Top Clarkson says ” … but what a disappointing range of engines. I’ve seen more choice in a packet of Rolos” it then becomes accepted opinion. After hearing that, what sensible, careful driver, who looks after his passengers and never exceeds speed limits could look bring themselves to buy a car from a range that at least doesn’t offer a 320PS twin turbo.

  3. And then there’s FCA in North America and their engines.

    Fiat sells only their 1368 cc four cylinder petrol engine in North America, iron block, MultiAir head. Four states of tune, 100hp NA, 130 hp turbo, and 160 hp turbos  but with two different levels of torque. Some are made in Dundee, Michigan, at the rate of 500 per day when sales permit, the rest from some part of Fiat somewhere in Europe.

    It appears to be a sturdy unit, but is a bit underwhelming in terms of performance except for the 500 Abarth with the low torque 160 hp turbo and 1200 kg weight. When burdened with 1500 kg or more of leaden vehicle plus passengers and a diabolical single clutch auto with the 160hp high torque unit, well, even the car-as-a-foreign-object brigade of eco-punters notices. Grunts. Not of pure delight. The FWD only 500X version with manual gearbox, which only a few ex-hermits even consider, is apparently lively. Well not everything can be dreadful, just most of it.

    So, now that FCA Chrysler has finally dropped the 2.0 World Engine here (same block as Hyundai Sonata turbo and Evo X) which must have been all of 110 hp at full chat in the real world and which exhibited no other points of merit whatsoever, their only other four is the block of the bigger 2.4 World Engine complete with new MultiAir naturally-aspirated head that took a good four years to develop, for some unknown reason. It even has a name: TigerShark, and that is diametrically opposite to the reality of PussyMinnow. Supposedly 180 hp and same torque as the hottest 1.4 turbo, but is paired exclusively with the ZF 9 speed transverse automatic.

    This latter piece of junk has evaporated all the goodwill ZF has ever gained with carmakers, their having sold it to FCA, Honda(!), and into the dastardly awful LR Evoque and Disco Sport to resounding choruses of “What the hell is this thing anyway.” Having driven it in five different vehicles now, I can baldly state that it is even worse than you ever could even imagine. Then add in the PussyMinnow and any hope of life fades in a few seconds of constant ratio dither, jerks, and two second delays when real power such as is actually available is requested. Honda TLX V6s with the ZF are equally affected. It must be a German plan for world domination cunningly disguised as a high-tech product sold at a predatorily cheap price to ruin carmaker’s reputations. No German car sports this piece of rubbish.

    The 1.4 turbo and this Tigershark comprise the two engine choices in 500L, 500X, and Jeep Renegade here in North America, with the TS also pulsing its feeble life through the even bigger Dart, Jeep Cherokee and Chrysler 200. Flashing performance is NOT delivered. You’d think FCA, incorporated in the Netherlands and headquartered in London (say what? Well is Apple Irish?) for Agnelli tax purposes upon wind-up, would try to inject a bit of life into their Fiat line-up in North America, a bit of brio, a bit of “look at me!”. But the deadly sodden, overweight tubs of lard keep on coming, nothing more than dour cheap motoring along with a dose of a nose of outright ugliness in the 500L just to drive home a sick point – Italian design no longer exists.

    Sales of the 500 were on a steady decline as all the romantic adventurers, daydreamers and part-time poets had already bought theirs two or more years ago and were moving on to real cars like the Hyundai Accent. Groan.

    My friend’s daughter is just one example, and is in no doubt the Hyundai  is far superior, as a 30 year-old up-and-comer not willing to waste money on expensive vehicles. Her black Accent now sports loud pink wheels with luminescent green trimmings, so her Fiat 500 fantasy lasted 28 months before its flame died out. She’s a pretty devastingly attractive woman with a sense of style and well-spoken, so if you want to tell her off for her taste face-to-face, good luck. You will lose. For her, the 500 had little acceleration past 40 mph, while the new Accent has no such trouble, has a better seat/steering wheel arrangement to boot, and better fuel economy.

    The 500L never sold anyway in quantity, so increases or decreases in sales are partly due to whether the Full Moon occurs at the end of the month when dealer sales managers attempt to sweep the back lot clean with an offer “you jest cain’t afford to pass up, friend. This is a one-time-only giveaway, and you jest hit the jackpot!” Mullet hairsyle, gold chains and rings and drainpipe trahsers with a spiffy suit vest top and loosened tie ensure you know the man means business. Yet hundreds of thousands easily resist the temptation, not willing to appear as gorfs in public. Let’s face it, almost anything else is better. No, I take that back. Everything else IS better, considering that French cars aren’t sold here.

    However, the new 500X has debuted well in the US, with well over 2000 sales just in November. In Canada here, where there is a much higher appreciation of smaller cars than in the US due to higher prices and more expensive fuel, and sales by model are commonly at 8 to 12% of the level reflecting population proportionally, only 48 were sold. It is a dud. So is the companion Renegade, identical under the skin except for the macho hoho Trailhawk version, with all of 345 total sold. The whole sorry sales story can be examined at goodcarbadcar.net, right back to Fiat’s 2011 debut in North America. The eyes water. Is this the way to make money?

    If you include VM Motori, as a wholly-owned sudsidiary of Fiat in Italy, their V6 3.0 litre diesel is selling well as the green alternative in RAM pickup trucks. The only bright light except for Jeep and RAM itself. Although rumours now are developing of fuel injection problems. Probably true. Going the other way, the Chrysler Pentastar 3.6l V6 has been sleeved down to 3.0l to give thicker cylinder walls, equipped with “Ferrari”-designed heads and a turbo or two, and now shuffles Maseratis about complete with their new cheaper-to-produce angular styling travesty of originally gorgeous bodies.

    It is all a bit of a shame. FCA North America sells at abject discounts, often a third off RRSP’s  that notionally match the other manufacturers on paper on RAM pickups, for example. That is if you hang around a salesman for more than 4 minutes on a single visit and keep pressing the poor soul by looking up other dealer “offers” on your smartphone while you wait. “Buyers” with awful credit are accepted on FCA account, and overall, sales have risen pretty steadily based on this walk-the-plank swashbuckling I-don’t-give-two-hoots Italian style of bravado. Because they really don’t seem to care at all. Bit of a game.

    Profits run about 3% in North America, not enough to sustain new research and development let alone new factories, and anyway this small excess is sent back to Italy to pay Fiat workers still on the payroll at Montefiori and elsewhere who haven’t actually worked in yonks but are on extended leave and moonlighting as Uber and pizza delivery drivers. A one-way dole.  

    All FCA vehicles in North America lie at the very bottom of the various reliability surveys as well. Just check Consumer Reports. FCA Purchasing drives suppliers to ruin by insisting on paying only $1.36 for a $4 item, which is subsequently fashioned out of recycled soy bean hulls to meet the cost but not design requirements. Well, you have to make money somehow, don’t you? A giant bubble waiting to pop.

    And by the way, my aforementioned  friend is the warranty administrator at a local FCA dealership and drives a Hyundai, courtesy of the fact that his employer owns dealerships for nine different makes and has outright loyalty to none – they court him. They don’t even bother to stock the bigger Chrysler cars. You want one, you order it. They have stock rooms full of replacement parts like Fiat 500 rear licence plate light and hatch lever assemblies. Want a 90% good infotainment/nav unit dubbed U-Connect? “There’s the garbage bin, help yourself – no, look up the pinouts on the Internet, whaddya want for nothing?”

    Warranty claims are treated generously, because Fiat is still in the mindset of the 1980s. Nothing’s perfect, OK? Real men accept that, goes the reasoning. Statistical process control? “‎Cos’è quello?” say the brains-trust in charge. No changes that all other manufacturers underwent in chasing the Toyota Way since 1991 ever happened at Fiat, and the concept of Quality Assurance that Chrysler itself actually did have before FCA took over, has been thrown away and replaced by shoot-from-the-hip Italian know-it-alls managing from an out-of-date perspective, but really believing at heart they’re shit-hot hombres, to steal a Spanish expression. An analog approach in a digital world.

    It is a depressing state of affairs.

    Even before you look at the Alfa Romeo fiasco. And of course, you also have Marchionne plying the world, tin cup in hand, badly clothed in rumpled sweater with eggstains, sucking on yet another coffin nail, exhorting other manufacturers to merge with FCA to manage “synergies” for profit. Have to pay for all those Italian workers on extended leave somehow. Fiat doesn’t even do petrol direct injection outside of Ferrari and Maserati. No wonder everyone else has run as far away as possible from this emissary of low expectations.

    An economic deck of cards masquerading as a vehicle manufacturer waiting for a mild draught of air to expose the faulty construction.

    Here endeth my squawk.

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