Sophisticated technologies for record-breaking development time
'A good product is always a well designed product'. This was the guideline that convinced the Fiat Bravo team to take advantage of the best design processes to develop the new car, exploiting virtual methodologies because they could optimise both individual performances and their trade-off in real time. The development of the Bravo is an excellent example of this original approach: only 18 months separated the moment that the product specifications were frozen from the market launch. This is a record in the automotive world, and an important competitive advantage, since being able to develop a car rapidly means responding better to market demands.
But to be not only fast, but rigorous and excellent too, requires cutting-edge technology and extremely precise engineering processes. This rigour has been applied at all stages of the development and industrialisation of the Bravo, applying the most advanced, innovative reliability methodologies. It was a winning project, which had three specific objectives: outstanding safety, enjoyable driving and the best quality of life on board.
Engineering excellence that goes a long way back
To build a revolutionary engine, innovative systems and cars that are a success overall, a manufacturer must employ cutting-edge technologies and methodologies that interpret the customers’ wishes, to achieve a level of comfort and performance that set them apart from the competition, low consumption and emissions in all conditions, and the highest levels of safety, quality and reliability. Ambitious goals that have always placed the Fiat Group among the pioneers in the application of virtual analysis to design. Even in the 1970s, the structural components of a vehicle were verified by computerised calculation techniques, and early in the 1990s, the company acquired one of the first 'super-calculators' for commercial uses (the famous Cray supercomputer), only the third in Italy, when there were very few in Europe, generally used for scientific calculations in universities or large research centres. And the company has always kept up with the latest virtual technologies on the market, in many cases actually anticipating them thanks to the work of its own Research Centres.
The Fiat Bravo is the outcome of a winning development process
At Fiat Auto, the development process starts from stringent objectification of performance, as seen by the customer first and foremost. This allows all objectives to be measured, so that the development process can be organised in three main stages: target setting, target deployment and target achieving. It is the latter that has been revolutionised by the introduction of virtual verification cycles, which drastically cut development times and costs, increasing the team’s confidence in the possibility of achieving its initial goals. Research in the field of simulation has focused on the creation of mathematical models that can provide an increasingly exact estimate of the physical parameters that are most representative of a vehicle’s performance.
We should point out that there has not only been an evolution in physical simulation calculations. Take the huge graphic potential of the new IT tools, which make it possible to visualise physical objects with the utmost realism. From the evaluation of the styling to verification of layouts and access to components, virtualisation of the assembly line and immersive verification of physical and cognitive ergonomics: all the systems on the vehicle and the plant necessary to produce it can be 'seen' by specialists exactly as they are in reality, immediately after they have been drawn by the designer.
That is not all. The development process is backed up by powerful planning, checking, technical data filing and monitoring systems. The integration and close connection between the system that established a single BoM for engineering and manufacturing, known as CAD/CAE PDM, the archive of standards and the unified system of product objectives and the authorisations, both physical and virtual, that constitute a 'backbone' for the management of information that is practically unique in the automotive world. These systems are constantly updated in real time and available both to suppliers and, obviously, to all the Fiat Auto design centres all over the world.
But we must not forget that to achieve a quality product like the Fiat Bravo, state-of-the-art CAE methodologies must be adopted at all stages of its development. To do this, the company has relied on the collaboration of its best suppliers, and has created its own model which programmes all the stages organically: from the initial scenario, through the strategic configuration, innovation, standardisation and analysis of the initiative, right down to final technical and technological development, the integration of suppliers, final quality verification and manufacturing build-up.
From styling to 'perceived quality': how the entire process is organised
As soon as the styling starts to take on a possible configuration, the feasibility of the individual parts is verified virtually, and the aerodynamic behaviour of the shapes of the vehicle are assessed; then preliminary ergonomic checks are performed on the first styling proposals. In the meantime, the styling and the virtual checks consolidate the choice of the definitive model, triggering the real design process. The skeleton takes shape, and work can begin on the shape of the bodyshell. Today, Fiat Auto’s CAD designers are in a position, when necessary, to perform the first static verification on the most crucial CAD parts using calculation tools that are totally incorporated into their CAD environment, simply and rapidly. The most detailed, complex calculations are performed by specialists, but even their work has been simplified, because they have direct access to CAD mathematical calculations through the company database which includes the drawings of all our models.
The DMU, the digital mock-up of the assembly of all vehicle components, is integrated into the database, which makes it possible to verify their layout, ease of assembly and access for service, even using totally immersive virtual reality techniques. As soon as the 'body in white' has been completed designers receive immediate feedback from the ergonomists, who verify the visibility zones and reflections by calculation, to correct the design of the space, the interior systems (seats, facia, etc.), the primary and secondary controls, the mobile parts and the communications interfaces. At the same time, the first vehicle dynamic calculations begin, as does verification of the mechanical components. Specific simulation models have been developed in the field of Handling and Ride Comfort, that include all the controlled active systems that are present today, from ABS to stability control.
The bearing structure of the early stages of technical development is based on milestones of the CAD drawings present in the database. The virtual structural verification of the safety, rigidity and fatigue resistance aspects gets underway from a very clear level of maturity. In the safety field, Fiat Auto applies the latest methodologies to simulate the effects of impact on the structure, on the human body and on pedestrians, including simulation of the activation and control of the active restraint systems. These include crash and biomechanical methodologies, to ensure that the passenger compartment cell protects occupants and that the front of the vehicle is compatible with vulnerable subjects (pedestrians, cyclists, etc.), respecting current and future legislation. This means that it is possible to verify the objectives set by the initial project much earlier using virtual methods than would be possible with real simulation, using prototypes.
All the other performance parameters are approached in a similar manner: fatigue, acoustics, climate, performance and consumption. For example, CAE methodologies have been applied throughout the development of the chassis, with particular reference to the performance targets for both fatigue resistance and NVH (Noise-Vibration-Harshness) quality. First of all, the fatigue resistance of the chassis was developed and approved by calculation, using FEM methods to virtually simulate typical missions that generate fatigue, a system already in use for bench testing. Good consistency has been achieved between the calculation and the experimentation, thanks above all to the integration of multi-body calculation methodologies (dynamic simulation of the vehicle during its mission) and FEM calculation methodologies (structural calculation of stress and fatigue damage).
Even the smallest details linked to quality are carefully analysed and calculated. Design of Experiments techniques are used to explore all the possible cases related to manufacturing variables (geometries, material characteristics, coupling, etc.) in order to ascertain that there is no anomalous behaviour (bangs, squeaks, creaks, etc). Virtual approval activities related to steering-wheel vibration (crossbeam and column), engine noise (structural measures at the anchorage points) and advancement noise (suspension blocks and bushes) are all part of this process.
The end result of the entire development process is the Fiat Bravo, a top quality car that is absolutely innovative, created in record time, and the fruit of expertise that is unique in the automotive world.
A project that refutes two myths regarding virtual verification
Until now, it was widely thought that virtual verification could not completely replace the tests on physical prototypes used to reach the final approval of a project. At most, people recognised that virtual verification eliminated a few experimental cycles on the first mock-ups, which were known to be of little significance, and that they could be useful during fine-tuning and problem solving. Which is why, even with significant disadvantages (slowness, high costs, need for test tracks and laboratories), physical prototypes continue to be used, even when they were obsolete with respect to the stage of development of the project. This was certainly the case at Fiat. Until the Bravo.
But now a new approach to design was needed, to cut time and costs, while respecting the demands of an innovative, top quality project like that of the Bravo. So, taking into consideration the increase in hardware performance which has stimulated the growth of increasingly sophisticated calculation applications, the team used the latest resources in this field, drawing on the expertise gained in this field by Fiat Auto in years of experience, also verified outside the automotive field. The Bravo was the first car to be developed adopting exclusively virtual verification systems.
Another myth was that virtual verification could at most replace the corresponding physical experiments; in actual fact there is more to it than that. Virtualisation of the vehicle creates a practically infinite number of prototypes which can be subjected to a practically unlimited number of tests. This also makes it possible to apply the most advanced statistical methodologies in the field of optimisation and 'robust design'. It means that Fiat Bravo has been subjected, virtually, to many more tests than would have been possible using traditional methods and physical prototypes; plus the fact that with these tests it is possible to measure a quantity of information that cannot normally be managed by classic experimental measurements. In practice, the construction of the mathematical models and their interactive use, allows the Fiat Auto engineers to acquire much more detailed understanding of the vehicle than in the past, and to explore its behaviour in the tiniest detail. The project is therefore 'optimised' (i.e. with greater quality, obtained with less trouble and cost) as well as 'robust' (the end product will be more insensitive to the inevitable manufacturing deviance and changes over the years of its use by the customer).
Fifteen thousand hours of calculation, 60 crash tests, one hundred and fifty simulation cycles with a HyGe sled, and one hundred tests on components and subsystems. These figures underline the company’s commitment to making the Bravo one of the safest cars around, not only in its segment but on the entire car market, because the model is state-of-the-art where passive safety systems are concerned.
Total protection, in other words, which starts with the devices that are dedicated specifically to safety: as many as 7 airbags, three-point seat-belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, five head-restraints and the FPS fire prevention device. Then the new chassis, which was designed to absorb any impact very effectively. And finally, the contribution made to the protection of occupants by the bodywork, the bonnet, doors and facia crossbeam. Nor can we overlook the contribution made to passive safety by other elements such as the seats or the steering column, which were designed taking their behaviour in an accident into consideration.
The Air-Bag Smart 2 system
Complete protection, intelligent protection. In a head-on impact, occupants are protected by an innovative restraint system known as 'Air-Bag Smart 2', because it automatically adapts the activation parameters to the severity of the accident. Starting from the driver’s front airbag, which adopts a different logic from conventional airbags. Until now, when the airbags were activated, they inflated simultaneously up to their maximum limit, which was established to safeguard occupants during severe impacts. The Fiat Bravo, on the other hand, adopts a driver’s front airbag with dual-stage activation; this means that the system only activates the first of the two stages when the impact is of moderate strength, but activates both in the event of a more serious collision. The two stages can also be activated with different sequences depending on the type of impact. In any case, the bridles inside the bags guarantee that the maximum dimensions and the shape taken by the cushions are as non-invasive as possible for passengers. The front passenger airbag can obviously be de-activated (using the menu on the control panel), to carry a child in a safety seat facing backwards on the front seat (the pre-tensioner on the other hand remains active).
The sensors of the 'Air-Bag Smart 2' system also control the activation of the seat-belt pre-tensioners. The Bravo is fitted with front seat-belts that are each complete with an inertia reel, pre-tensioner and load limiter. On impact, the electronically controlled pyrotechnic pre-tensioner retracts the belt in a few milliseconds, so that it adheres perfectly to the body. The load limiters are positioned inside the inertia reels, and they yield in a controlled manner, metering the force exercised by the belt on the shoulder of the person wearing it. And finally, the front protection system of the Bravo offers the option of an airbag under the steering column, to render this area, traditionally the most dangerous for the knees, inoffensive.
The control unit and the sensors
The Fiat Bravo is fitted with all the most advanced passive safety devices available today. A sophisticated 'nervous system' has been developed to manage them, governed by an electronic control unit in the front tunnel. This system receives the signals from the various sensors positioned around the car (in addition to those inside the system itself), and on the basis of these signals decides how many and which devices to activate. This is why the system behaves in an 'intelligent' manner. It is not activated when, in spite of an impact, there is no danger that an occupant will collide with the surfaces of the car. It recognises stress that does not derive from a collision, and continues to function even if there is an electrical blackout. This is all made possible by particularly sophisticated functioning logics and detection terminals. Such as the CSA (Crash Severity Algorithm), which recognises the severity of an impact and controls the front airbags, or the sensor that detects the presence of a passenger, and can warn the occupant to fasten his seat-belt, by a beeper or a telltale on the instrument panel. Or the ECS (Early Crash Sensor), the decentralised sensor that measures head-on impact, an additional device positioned in the front of the car, that enables the control unit to anticipate the activation of the front airbags; this allows the airbag to be completely inflated before the occupant has even begun to move forward towards the steering wheel or facia, unlike a conventional system.
Curtain-bags and sidebags
The former are airbags that descend down the windows to protect occupants’ heads in the event of a side-on collision. The curtain-bags adopted on the Bravo are more protective than other systems (because they always take up the correct position), faster to inflate and less invasive for passengers. They open from the top down and there is no risk of their causing secondary injury to the occupants’ arms with their movement.
They also effectively protect the heads of both front and rear passengers, because they extend the whole length of the side windows, protecting occupants even if the car overturns. The two bags (one on each side) are positioned under the longitudinals of the roof, folded inside a closed compartment. At the appropriate moment, the cover bends to allow the bags to inflate and to descend.
And finally, to protect the pelvis and chest of passengers even if they hit the sides of the car, the Fiat Bravo also fits sidebags inside the seat squabs, where they protect the occupants best, regardless of the latter’s stature or position, or how the seat is regulated.
More stringent tests for total protection
The experts at the Fiat Safety Centre at Orbassano (outside Turin) subjected the Fiat Bravo to all possible types of high speed collisions in order to verify the effectiveness of the integrated protection system developed for the new model on the spot. They then analysed the results on the basis of the structural and biomechanical parameters envisaged by some of the world’s most stringent legislation. The following results were obtained.
The Fiat Bravo achieved excellent results in two different types of tests. The first was performed at a speed of 64 km/h against a deforming barrier which simulates a head-on impact between two cars; the second envisages a crash at 56 km/h against a fixed, rigid barrier. Thanks to the robust structural architecture and the use of highly energy-absorbing materials, the intrusion levels measured on the Bravo during these tests were very low and allowed all the doors to open, without generating significant inertia stress on occupants, because this was efficiently absorbed by the Smart Air-Bag system. And finally, in the case of head-on impact, the items carried in the Bravo’s luggage compartment do not hit passengers.
Two tests recognised internationally bear witness to the new model’s ability to guarantee the safety of front and rear passengers, even in the event of a high speed side-on collision. The first is 'Impact against a deforming barrier'; the Bravo reacts superbly to this test, which simulates a collision at 50 km/h between two vehicles at a 90° angle, thanks to the protection offered to the pelvic area by the robust bodyshell structure, to the abdomen and chest by the combined action of the sidebags and door panels, and to the head by the curtain-bags. The second test is 'Side-on impact against a pole', one of the most dangerous for motorists.
During rear impact tests, attention is focused, in structural terms, on containing the deformation of the passenger compartment and on preventing any damage to the fuel tank, which could cause a fire. What is more, from a bio-mechanical viewpoint, efforts are concentrated on guaranteeing that the seats support the occupant well without collapsing, and on minimising any injury, particularly to the neck and head, which are usually the most vulnerable parts of the body.
Protection of pedestrians
The styling of the front part of the Fiat Bravo was developed bearing the protection of pedestrians in mind. The volumes are smooth and rounded, and there are no sharp edges that could injure pedestrians. The large surface of the bonnet minimises the risk that a pedestrian’s could hit the front uprights. The sturdiest components in the engine bay are positioned at a suitable distance from the bonnet, to allow the 'skin' of the bonnet to absorb the energy deriving from impact with a pedestrian’s head.
Protection of children
The new model also features all the devices that guarantee absolute safety for children travelling in the car. The most important, and most effective, of these are the Isofix attachments on the rear seats, and the de-activation of the front passenger airbag by the onboard computer.
Protection against fire
From the bodyshell down to the smallest component, the Fiat Bravo was designed and built to meet Fiat’s latest, and strictest, internal fire prevention standards. For example, the Fire Prevention System which instantly cuts off the electric pump on petrol-engined cars and the fuel supply solenoid on diesel models, in the event of serious impacts. The switch is positioned under the lining of the right front door pillar, while the plastic fuel tank, which already meets future legislative requirements, is positioned where it is protected in a collision, and built to resist deformation with no loss of fuel.
The Fiat Bravo adopts the most sophisticated electronic systems to control the vehicle’s dynamic behaviour, which are implemented to raise the dynamic limits even higher, so that they enhance safety but are not intrusive for the driver. The intervention of these devices is the result of simulation and specific tests on the test track, to ensure that they do not detract from the pleasure of driving. A description of the lavish equipment follows.
Braking system and large tyres
In line with its high active safety targets, the Fiat Bravo is equipped with extremely efficient, highly adaptable braking systems. To start with, the braking system is hydraulic, with servo assist, and features 2 cross-over independent circuits (each circuit acts on one front wheel and the opposite rear wheel) to guarantee braking and stability even if one circuit should fail. All the versions in the range are fitted with ventilated disc brakes at the front, and with solid discs on the rear wheels, which vary with the engine, to reflect the different weight and power. For example, for the 1.4 16 valve engine, ventilated discs with a diameter of 257 x 22 mm are fitted, and rear discs with a diameter of 251 x 10 mm. The version powered by the 120 bhp 1.9 Multijet adopts 284 x 22 mm ventilated discs and solid discs of 251 x 10 mm. And finally, the 150 bhp 1.9 Multijet engine fits 281 x 26 mm ventilated discs and solid discs of 251 x 10 mm.
To achieve the best compromise between handling and comfort, the Fiat Bravo fits large tyres that optimise the car’s performance, particularly in terms of roadholding, safety and comfort on the road. The tyres chosen (depending on the outfit) are: 205/55 R16, 225/45 R17 and 225/40 R18.
ABS complete with EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution)
In addition to its excellent braking system, the Bravo is also equipped with one of the most advanced ABS anti-lock braking systems on the market. It includes a hydraulic control unit with 8 solenoids, 4 active sensors and 4 channels with EBD electronic brake force distribution. The latter distributes the braking force over the four wheels to prevent them from locking, guaranteeing complete control of the car in all conditions. The system also adapts automatically to the grip conditions of the wheels and the efficiency of the brake pads, preventing the latter from overheating.
ESP (Electronic Stability Program)
The sophisticated ESP system cuts in when conditions are close to the limit, when the car’s stability is at risk, to help the driver to control the vehicle. To do so, ESP constantly verifies how the tyres grip the ground, longitudinally and laterally, and if the car does skid, it cuts in to recover the trajectory and the stability of the set-up. It incorporates sensors that measure the vehicle’s rotation around its vertical axis (yaw speed), the lateral acceleration and the steering angle set by the driver (which indicates his chosen direction). It then compares these data with the parameters processed by a computer and uses a complex mathematical model to establish whether the car is taking a bend within grip limits, or whether the front or rear are about to veer (understeer or oversteer). To bring it back to the correct trajectory, the system generates a yaw moment opposite to the one that caused the instability, singly braking the appropriate wheel (nearside or offside), and reducing engine power by adjusting the throttle valve. This is where the system developed for the Fiat Bravo differs from other systems. Its intervention on the brakes is modulated to be as gentle as possible (therefore without disturbing driving), and the reduction in engine power is limited, to guarantee excellent performance and enjoyable driving at all times. ESP is always engaged.
Hill Holder - HBA
The Hill Holder, which is an integral part of the ESP system, helps the driver during hill starts. It cuts in when the ESP control unit perceives a difference in the inclination of the car through a longitudinal acceleration sensor. During a hill start, the control unit prepares to cut in when first speed is engaged and the brake and clutch pedals are depressed. The pressure on the front brake callipers is maintained for about 1.5 seconds after the driver removes his foot from the brake pedal, allowing him to set off without difficulty. The Hill Holder is not activated when the car is started downhill in first gear. The same occurs when reverse is engaged: the system is activated for downhill starts, and it is not activated for uphill starts.
And finally, there is the option of HBA, electro-hydraulic brake assistance, which automatically increases the pressure on the braking circuit during panic braking.
ASR (Anti Slip Regulation)
Another integral element of the ESP system is the ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) system, which optimises traction at all speeds, using the brakes and engine management.
Based on the number of wheel revs calculated by the ABS sensors, the device calculates the degree of slipping and activates two different control systems to recover grip. When an excessive demand for power causes both drive wheels to slip (for example when aquaplaning or accelerating on an uneven, snow-covered or icy road surface), the system reduces engine torque by decreasing the throttle valve aperture and thus the air flow. If only one wheel slips (for example the wheel inside a bend following acceleration or dynamic changes to the load), this is automatically braked without the driver having to press the brake pedal. This obtains an effect similar to that of a self-locking differential, enabling the Bravo to tackle road surfaces with poor grip without difficulty.
ASR is engaged automatically every time the engine is started, but can be excluded by a switch on the centre console. It is only necessary to de-activate ASR when fitting snow chains, because in order to transmit torque to the ground, the wheel has to be able to 'pile up' snow with small slips that the ASR system tends to avoid.
MSR (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung)
This device, also an integral part of the ASR system, cuts in when there is a sudden change of gear when changing down, to return torque to the engine and prevent excessive dragging of the drive wheels, which could cause the car to lose stability when grip is poor.
Engines and gearboxes: extremely enjoyable to drive
Behind its distinctive styling, the Fiat Bravo offers a comprehensive range of excellent engines that feature state-of-the-art engineering and generous performance. The range comprises two Multijet turbodiesel engines (1.9 8v delivering 120 and 1.9 16v delivering 150 bhp) and three petrol engines: a 90 bhp 1.4 16v, and two 1.4 16v turbocharged engines from the new T-JET family, delivering 120 and 150 bhp (which will be available after the launch). Each engine offers different advantages, all of which are exploited in full by being combined with 5 or 6-speed gearboxes, and they stand out for their generosity, their sparkling temperament or their outstanding performance and sophisticated technology. But all the engines are extremely reliable and environment-friendly.
All the engines mounted on the Bravo are manufactured by Fiat Powertrain Technologies, the Group’s new sector. FPT draws together all the activities in the fields of innovation, research, design and manufacture related to engines and gearboxes for all types of applications: from cars to commercial vehicles, boats and agricultural machinery. With approximately 19,000 employees, 17 plants and 10 research centres in eight different countries, the Sector is one of the world’s most important organisations in its field. At FPT, approximately 3000 highly specialised technicians focus on the development and engineering of innovative technologies. More than 40 patents are filed each year, confirming the quality and seriousness of this commitment, and making Fiat a huge center of technological excellence and constant innovation.
Powerful, smooth engines
The new T-JET family
A new family of turbocharged petrol engines, known as the T-JET, will make its debut on the Bravo soon after the launch, featuring outstanding performance, prompt response to the accelerator, low consumption, constructional simplicity, sturdiness and reliability. The new 1.4 16v turbo engine will be available in two versions: the first is more sporty, delivering a maximum of 110 kW (150 bhp) at 5500 rpm, while the second is more of a 'tourer', and delivers 90 kW (120 bhp) at 5000 rpm. Both offer a peak torque of 206 Nm (at 2000 rpm on the 110 kW, and at 1750 rpm on the 90 kW), but 230 Nm (at 3000 rpm on the 110 kW) is available, simply by pressing a key on the facia (the SPORT 150 bhp version). The engine is very elastic, requiring fewer gear changes, for an enjoyable, relaxed driving style, but it will respond assertively if the driver puts his foot down. This is one effect of the low inertia of the turboblower, which makes it possible to obtain top performance by acting on the accelerator, with none of the annoying delays typical of this type of engine. The result is outstanding sportiness combined with fuel economy.
The outstanding reliability of the engines is guaranteed by the hundreds of thousands of kilometres driven by prototypes during the development stage, in addition to thousands of hours of static and dynamic tests on the bench. The first maintenance is programmed after 30,000 km, and there is no need for any intermediate servicing. The oil/water heat exchange guarantees these results. The oil filter is of the environment-friendly type.
The computerised engine control system manages all functions using sophisticated calculation algorithms. The accelerator control is of the 'drive-by-wire' type, without mechanical connections, so that the driver can obtain the relaxed or sporty response he wants from the engine, without wasting energy.
These excellent results have been obtained by painstaking design and development of all the engine components, demanding over 120,000 hours of activity. State-of-the-art computer-assisted design and calculation systems were used, making it possible to simulate the greatest stress caused by the turboblower. All the major components have been re-designed, so that we could describe the engine as completely new. Particular attention was paid to fluid dynamics and combustion, to minimise energy losses and to obtain top performance and low consumption, and the results were guaranteed by sophisticated experimental analysis.
The 90 bhp Fire 1.4 16v engine
This engine is a member of the Fire family, and it has a capacity of 1368 cc, and 4 cylinders in line with a bore of 72 mm and stroke of 84 mm. There are four valves per cylinder, activated directly by 2 overhead camshafts. The engine was developed paying particular attention to performance and to fuel economy, two areas in which the Fiat Bravo leads its class. The merit goes to the volumetric efficiency which has been optimised all through the operating range, thanks to a specific fluid-dynamic development of the entire intake system and the timing. The engine delivers 90 bhp (66 kW at 5500 rpm) and peak torque of 128 Nm (13 kgm at 4500 rpm). With this engine, the Bravo has a top speed of 179 km/h, and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 12.5 seconds. Sparkling performance, in spite of low consumption: 8.7 l/100 km in the urban cycle, 5.6 l/100 km out of town and 6.7 l/100 km in the combined cycle.
A sparkling engine that is sparing on fuel. This has been achieved thanks to the adoption of a throttle valve control system known as 'drive by wire'. The 90 bhp 1.4 engine also adopts a new, 'torque-based' engine control unit, which is the state of the art in this field. Its most interesting feature is that it activates all devices through a single coordinator block, whose basic parameter is the torque demanded by the driver when he puts his foot on the accelerator. Translated into a physical torque value, the various demands (including those of the external systems such as ABS) can be coordinated even before the main engine control parameters have been converted (advance, throttle valve position, injection time, etc.) with the enormous advantage of being able to generate them with great precision and in a very short time. This system exploits a single communications standard between the various systems and functions, whose common 'language' is the engine torque. This makes for a level of driveability superior to that available from current systems, while also reducing polluting emissions.
Other features peculiar to the new 90 bhp 1.4 16v Fire are the optimisation of the compression ratio and the high torque values at low speeds, characteristics that make it possible to limit fuel consumption. This target has also been reached thanks to the calibration of the latest generation engine control unit, which keeps fuel consumption very low, compatible with the requirements of driveability, performance and emissions. A catalytic converter positioned in the engine bay (and welded to the exhaust manifold flange using a new technology) reaches very high temperatures very fast, thus reducing emissions even while the engine is warming up. To minimise the environmental impact, the engine also incorporates a returnless fuel supply system, which eliminates fuel recirculation within the tank, thus reducing vapour formation.
High performance, sparing on fuel and clean: to these winning features the 90 bhp 1.4 16v Fire engine also adds excellent acoustic comfort.
The 120 bhp and 150 bhp 1.9 Multijet
Both have 4 cylinders in line, with two valves per cylinder and four valves per cylinder respectively, a bore of 82 mm and stroke of 90.4 mm; the first delivers 120 bhp (88 kW) at 4000 rpm and torque of 255 Nm at 2000 rpm, while the second delivers 150 bhp (110 kW) at 4000 rpm and torque of 305 Nm at 2000 rpm. Several changes have been made to the engineering of the two engines to boost performance and engine torque at low speeds, and to reduce noise and vibration. For example, the 'Common Rail' system envisages two strategies for automatic control of the calibration and balancing of the injected diesel fuel, improving acoustic and vibrational comfort.
Turbocharging is entrusted to a Garrett VGT 17 turbo, with electronic management of the variable geometry, which improves power delivery while guaranteeing very high torque values even at low engine speeds. For example, 90% of peak torque is available between 1750 and 3250 rpm. This translates into extremely enjoyable driving and excellent performance. The Fiat Bravo equipped with the 120 bhp 1.9 Multijet engine has a top speed of 194 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.5 seconds (with the 150 bhp 1.9 Multijet the top speed is 209 km/h, and 0-100 km/h acceleration takes 9 seconds). Brilliant performance in other words, but fuel consumption remains low: 6.9 l/100 km in the urban cycle, 4.3 l/100 km out of town and 5.3 l/100 km in the combined cycle for the 120 bhp Multijet, while the 150 bhp version returns 7.6 l/100 km for the urban cycle, 4.5 l/100 km out of town and 5.6 l/100 km in the mixed cycle. We should also underline that the 120 bhp 1.9 Multijet achieves an excellent 139 g/km where emissions are concerned.
The second generation turbodiesel engines are still based on the principles of the 'Common Rail'; i.e. high injection pressure and electronic injector control. But the new generation engines have an additional feature: during each engine cycle, the number of injections has been increased from the two that are common today. The same amount of diesel fuel is burned inside the cylinder, but it is burned in portions, producing smoother combustion. The advantages include quieter operation, lower emissions and a 6-7% boost in performance accompanied by engine efficiency that makes the car even easier to drive.
These results are significant, because they have been achieved on an engine which represents an incredible leap forward compared to pre-combustion diesels, and even improves on first generation JTDs.
The secret of the Multijet lies both in the control unit that governs the electric injector opening and closing system and the injectors themselves. The crucial element is the electronic control unit itself, which performs a series of extremely close injections.
The components (and the injectors) were developed by Fiat’s researchers to do just that; it delivers the multiple injections that guarantee more precise control of the pressures and temperatures generated in the combustion chamber, as well as exploiting the air taken into the cylinders more efficiently. This achieves other goals: lower combustion noise, reduced emissions and boosted performance.
The development of the Multijet system is the outcome of years of research. Initially, the technicians solved the problem of the limits posed by the control units. They then drew a map of the benefits obtained by plotting different multiple injection sequences (two secondary injections very close to the main injection, one secondary not too close to the main injection plus two other close secondaries; one secondary, followed, at a certain interval, by two closely-spaced main injections, etc.) with the various operating ranges of the engine: idling, with low loads and low rev speed; with high revs and a moderate load; with low revs and a high load, and so on.
This analysis revealed the potential of the system, and showed that great benefits are achievable at all times, though they tend to focus on one field or another, depending on the type of sequence chosen and the engine service range targeted. In some cases, the priority is to reduce starting times and fume levels, in others, it is to increase torque and reduce noise, in others still, it is to reduce emissions and noise levels. Today this research has resulted in the development of the Multijet engines.
The two Multijet units are friendly to the environment, incorporating an electronic EGR system which cools the recirculating exhaust gases, and a 'close-coupled' catalytic converter, as well as a particulate trap (DPF), a 'for life' system that abates fine dust and is regenerated without additives. In other words, a long list of improvements and measures to produce a reliable, powerful engine that is sparing on fuel.
All the versions have the hydraulic coaxial clutch release mechanism (CSC) developed for the 1.9 Multijet engine. This device, which does not have external actuators, guarantees greater efficiency of the system during the life of the car and also makes it possible to isolate the noise and vibration produced by the engine. Unlike a hose control, this hydraulic system provides for self-regulation of the worn pedal. The system is also combined with a device that recovers friction plate wear, which maintains the load of the clutch pedal constant throughout the life of the vehicle. The optimisation of the components and the use of innovative materials (plastic, aluminium) has made it possible to reduce the weight by more than 2 kg compared to a conventional hydraulic control.
And last but not least, in line with European directives to protect the environment, only environment-friendly friction materials have been used on all versions, whether petrol or diesel.
Finally, the friction pump body is made of plastic, which also reduces the weight, with a steel cylinder and a plastic piston. The material for the piston and the rubber sealing rings have been developed specifically to operate with long strokes, while the seal created by the contact between rubber and steel is a great improvement on conventional friction pumps which have a cast iron sealing surface.
Reliable, sophisticated gearboxes
An innovative model like the Fiat Bravo had to be on the cutting edge where gearboxes are concerned, because this component has a decisive influence on driving enjoyment and comfort. The new car offers a choice of two, with two specific variants depending on the engine.
These are the available combinations:
- with 6 speeds on the 90 bhp petrol-driven 1.4 16v (C514);
- with 5 speeds on the 1.9 Multijet 8v (C530);
- with 6 speeds on the 1.9 Multijet 16v (C530).
All the gearboxes share the same dual hose external drive, which guarantees precise manoeuvring, quiet operation and does not transmits mechanical vibration through the control. This is a new generation external control, technologically advanced thanks to the extensive adoption of high performance technopolymers, which are used on the basis of different characteristics of resistance, weight and self-lubricating power.
Bench testing in extreme climate conditions guided the fine-tuning of the materials, couplings and processes, and guarantees the 'robustness' and reliability of the product.
In addition to which, the new drive was designed to guarantee system characteristics, excellent comfort and manoeuvring. A new distribution of the inertia masses was adopted, significantly closer to the gearbox, to raise the level of comfort by increased mechanical filtering.
And huge attention is paid during the assembly of these components to guarantee their quality and reliability, with pre-testing of every component and electronic measurement of all the values that define efficiency, elasticity and 'tolerance'.
The 6 speed gearbox for the 90 bhp 1.4 16v
Enhanced acoustic comfort, reduced engagement effort even when cold and more precise gear engagement. These are the advantages that the motorist can expect from the C514 gearbox (transverse configuration with two cascade shafts and differential) on which various improvements were made to the gear train, synchronisers, lubrication, internal gear control and clutch control, before being used on the Fiat Bravo.
The gearbox is available with six speeds for the 90 bhp 1.4 petrol engine, and adopts a gear control which prevents the involuntary engagement of reverse, thanks to a stroke limiter in the selector, and guarantees more precise engagement of fifth and sixth. With this configuration, the gearbox can transmit up to 128 Nm (13 kgm) at 4500 rpm. The technical characteristics worth highlighting include the gearing housing and clutch housing, both of which have been optimised to reduce weight and to absorb more noise, using FEM (Finite Element Method) calculation techniques. But also Borg-Warner free-ring synchronisation on all speeds. And finally, for first and second, the speeds most used by any motorist, dual cone synchronisers have been fitted, requiring 40% less engagement effort than the conventional single-cone type.
The internal gear control system offers four levels of selection, with a central positioner fitted with bearings. Lubrication is dynamic, and the oil flows are channelled through bore holes in the boxes. The advantages include reduced wear, more efficient torque transmission and better manoeuvring at low temperatures.
The 5-speed gearbox for the 120 bhp 1.9 Multijet
(6 speeds for the 150 bhp)
This gearbox is available for the two 1.9 Multijet engines (with 5 speeds for the 120 bhp version and 6 speeds for the 150 bhp version). It stands out for its configuration – 'two shafts in a cascade with a differential', and for its excellent manoeuvring and quiet operation. Synchronisation of all forward speeds is of the Borg-Warner free-ring type, and even reverse is synchronised. What is more, on first and second, the synchroniser is of the triple cone type, while the synchroniser on third, fourth, fifth and sixth is of the single-tone type.
The gearshift incorporates a syringe device on the lever knob that prevents involuntary engagement of reverse, and the gear control is activated by a double Bowden metal cable system with an anti-noise device.
Peak torque of 255 Nm (26 kgm) is already available at 2000 rpm on the 120 bhp 1.9 Multijet version, and 305 Nm (31 kgm) on the 150 bhp 1.9 Multijet engine.
And finally, clutch control is hydraulic, incorporated into the gearbox with a CSC device so that it requires less effort to activate, while lubrication is dynamic, guaranteeing less wear, and highly efficient torque transmission and manoeuvrability even at low temperatures.
Suspension that guarantees excellent handling and comfort
One of the goals set by the designers who developed the Bravo was to create a suspension system that would offer performance comparable with that of a higher class of car. Devices that guaranteed easy, pinpoint steering, excellent roadholding and the best comfort possible for passengers. The choice went to two systems that emerged from a project by Magneti Marelli and had already been used on other Fiat models, suitably modified and updated.
Compared to the system adopted on the previous segment C Fiat model, a total review of the geometries brought the following changes:
- Tracks widened by 20 mm and larger tyres (in addition to the consolidated 205/55R16, the Bravo is now available with 225/45 tyres on 17” wheels, and 225/40 tyres on 18” wheels).
- Modified suspension geometry, adoption of a new front anti-roll bar and a new tuning of the springs and shock absorbers suitable for the new bodyshell, with the best torsional rigidity in the segment, new oversized right-angled lower links designed to separate the effect of the braking loads from the cornering loads to guarantee the best balance in all driving conditions. In addition to which, in spite of the wider track, the front geometry design combined with the stroke of the steering boxes also made it possible to contain the car’s turning circle: 10.5 m between kerbs and 11 m between walls (values that are the best in the segment).
- Rear suspension with interconnected semi-independent wheels and a torsion axle created with a new stiffer anti-roll bar to increase structural rigidity and to maintain good suspension flexibility under load, thanks to a reinforced hydraulic bushing to connect the rear axle to the bodyshell. The suspension design also resulted in new springs, dampers and buffers, in order to adapt to the bodyshell and to improve the dynamic response on corners.
- Particular attention went into the design of the components that could affect comfort in the car, adopting solutions typical of higher segment cars, such as a 'dual-path' strut mount at the front and a vertical shock absorber at the rear. These measures made it possible to limit the effect of the vibration generated by the road surface, without altering the structural rigidity or detracting from steering precision.
- To increase stability on corners, the new car adopts dampers with a 22 mm shaft on the Multijet versions (20 mm on the 1.4 petrol engined versions) and a stiffened reinforced hollow bar that also reduces the weight.
- Increase in the structural rigidity of the front suspension anchorage crossbeam to improve acoustic and vibrational comfort and to improve handling.
- And finally, the track of the front and rear suspension was widened, both to adapt it to the larger exterior measurements of the new model and to improve driving stability.
The Fiat Bravo adopts an independent layout in which the shock absorbers and springs act as both damping and elastic elements and as structural and kinematic elements. The main components of this layout are the twin-shell wishbones made of pressed sheet metal and not cast iron, which means a significant weight reduction. The new model also introduces some extremely interesting solutions:
- Front suspension crossbeam with great structural rigidity, with a transverse connecting 'strap' close to the front strut attachments.
- 'Dual-path' strut blocks to improve filtering of road vibration, while guaranteeing excellent structural rigidity, and enhancing steering precision.
- Stiffened anti-roll bar to limit vehicle rolling, with shock absorber anchorage rods which boost the stabilising efficiency and improve the promptness of the dynamic response when cornering.
- New stiffer coil springs made with the 'side-load' technique that optimise the thrust axis so as to reduce the tangential forces on the damper shaft and therefore the internal friction (system hysteresis), which improves absorption of minor road roughness.
- To raise lateral rigidity and improve handling on corners, the new model fits dual-rate telescopic dampers with a shaft diameter of 22 mm on the Multijet versions and of 20 mm on versions with the 1.4 petrol engine.
- And finally, bodyshell stiffening has been increased and the upper anchorage to the bodyshell has been redesigned, increasing the rigidity and the caster angle, which in turn enhances steering precision and comfort.
The Fiat Bravo fits an optimised semi-independent system with interconnected wheels and a torsion axle. The new hollow anti-roll bar has been made 40% stiffer in order to achieve a 40% anti-roll stabilising effect, improving steering precision and roadholding. The soundproofing of the vertical dampers, which are attached to the bodyshell in the wheelarches, has been improved, to filter road roughness better, enhancing acoustic comfort in the passenger compartment.
And finally, the structure of the rear axle comprises lateral arms pressed in two semi-shells, which are welded to a lateral torsion profile, and the new anti-roll bar that passes inside the crossbeam and is welded to the struts. The rear axle attachment bushings are hydraulic to guarantee better longitudinal absorption and comfort than the rubber-metal type, with improved shoulders and reinforcement.
The quality of life on board
Motorists have come to expect not only an enjoyable drive but also well-being on board from any Fiat model. This means surrounding the driver and passengers with technologies that guarantee the highest levels of acoustic and climatic comfort. The result is a muted, enveloping interior environment, free from vibration thanks to the car’s excellent soundproofing and the high torsional and flexural rigidity of the bodyshell. There is more: the Fiat Bravo proposes new versions of the Blue&Me™ system and CONNECT Nav Plus, both developed by Magneti Marelli; dual-zone automatic climate control, two audio systems (Hi-Fi and Hi-Fi Sound System); comfortable, functional seats; and a large opening sunroof. It is clear that the model fears no rivals where comfort is concerned. And the Bravo offers the best equipment available in the field of automatic systems that reduce driving stress, like Cruise Control, a rain sensor and a parking sensor. And last but not least, the new model offers a tyre pressure sensor and numerous other features that make travelling in the Bravo an extremely comfortable experience.
NVH (Noise-Vibration-Harshness) comfort
The Fiat Bravo has achieved an outstanding level of comfort, which translates into quiet driving and an absence of vibration. Quietness on a car is expressed by the articulation index, which is an excellent 66% on the new model, at a speed of 120 km/h. This has been made possible both by the usual soundproofing packages and by the extensive use of expansible diaphragms (positioned inside the boxed elements to prevent noise from propagating inside, and to isolate the passenger compartment from the outside world). Vibration has been contained by building an extremely rigid bodyshell structure. In terms of flexural rigidity, an excellent value of 960 daN/mm has been achieved, while torsional rigidity is 121,800 daNm/rad. Particular attention was also addressed to the local attachment rigidity of all the mechanical organs and the suspension, which was designed to achieve the best possible result in terms of handling and comfort on the road, in all driving conditions.
The climate inside the car is one of the main factors of comfort during a journey, and it is also important for preventive safety, because temperature, humidity and ventilation affect the driver’s well-being and therefore his attention level. Nor can we forget that the heating and ventilation system is also responsible for demisting the windscreen and side windows. The new model offers a choice of three climate systems: a conventional heater, a manual climate unit and an automatic dual-zone climate system. The latter incorporates a control unit that automatically controls the temperature, air flow, air distribution, and activation of the compressor and the recirculation function. The system also adopts an 'equivalent temperature' climate control strategy. A number of sensors measure the indoor and outdoor temperatures, and assess the sensation of thermal well-being perceived by the passenger, i.e. the energy exchange between the human body and the passenger compartment, which is influenced by the humidity, temperature and treated air flow. Another sensor, positioned centrally at the base of the windscreen, measures the solar radiation in the vehicle and the slope with which the rays hit the passenger compartment. This makes it possible to envisage any excessive increase in temperature inside the car caused by the rays of the sun, and to predispose the climate unit in time. The dual-zone system also allows occupants to set two different temperatures and air flows, on the left and the right sides of the passenger compartment.
Life on board the Fiat Bravo is made more enjoyable by a large sunroof (approximately 1.24 sq m, or 77% of the total surface). It is made of two glass panels, a fixed panel at the rear, and a front panel that opens electrically, and two sunshades inside that slide towards the rear of the car.
The panoramic sunroof modifies occupants’ relationship with the surrounding environment, letting them enjoy all the luminosity and sense of freedom provided by the large glazed surface. To give more light to the interior, it is possible to open the sunshade and leave the window itself closed. To travel in the 'open air', it takes a flick of the switch and just seven seconds to open the front glazed panel and the sunshade, and enjoy a 'window onto the sky'.
The radio and Hi-Fi system
The audio system on the new model is particularly interesting, with the option of two radios and two audio systems (Hi-Fi and Hi-Fi Sound System). The systems share the same painstaking attention to the specifications and distribution of the speakers (which feature Water Resistano technology), designed and calibrated for the passenger compartment. The first system, with a power output of 40 W, includes two tweeters positioned close to the door handles, two woofers in the front doors and two full range in the rear side panels. The second level Hi-Fi Sound System has the same equipment, plus two additional tweeters and a subwoofer (260 W bass-reflex amplification) in the luggage compartment, which creates a warmer, more enjoyable sound.
There is a choice of two radios (with a CD player or a CD and MP3 file player) which are incorporated ergonomically into the design of the dashboard. They are positioned in the upper part of the facia (the best position for the driver) where they are easily reached by the passenger, but can also be managed by the controls on the steering wheel. Both units have a Polished Black trim and grey keys, and include RDS (Radio Data System), TA (traffic news), and PTY functions (the code with which radio stations indicate the type of music they broadcast, allowing the radio to automatically select only the type of music preferred by the listener). Every time the radio is turned on, it restores the settings in place when it was turned off, while another device automatically corrects equalisation on the basis of the vehicle speed.
The customer can also choose between the 'pre-set equalised effects', or carry out and memorise a personal setting of the sound parameters. A 10-CD changer is also available from Lineaccessori, which fits into the luggage compartment and is managed by the radio controls.
Blue&Me™: communicating and travelling without borders
One year after its launch, the Blue&Me™ system is enjoying huge commercial success: it is requested by 20% of purchasers of Fiat Auto models. That is not all. The sophisticated device has also received a number of prestigious international awards:
- from 'Frost & Sullivan', the 'Excellence in Technology of the Year Award for European Automotive Telematics and Infotainment market' (January 19, 2006);
- 'Telematic Update of Detroit' awarded it the prize for the best telematic solution of the year (May 23, 2006);
- 'Automotive News Europe' awarded the 'Eurostats 2006' prize to Giuseppe Bonollo, Vice President Product Portfolio Management, for the success of the system installed in Fiat Group cars (August 22, 2006).
Today, to mark the debut of the Fiat Bravo, Blue&Me™ takes another step forward, offering the new Blue&Me™ Nav version. In addition to the version marketed until now (hands-free with Bluetooth® interface and advanced voice recognition – USB port, MP3 player and SMS text interpreter), the new Fiat model will offer a new version that incorporates the convenience of a navigator, at an extremely competitive price.
In future, Blue&Me Nav will also activate additional telematic services such as SOS and Concierge, and insurance services.
Blue&Me™ Nav offers a simple, intuitive pictogram navigation system that features an innovative method of introducing the destination using voice controls.
The destination is located in real time: the map of the country is memorised on the USB pen drive, and this makes access to the data faster and quieter than when a CD is used.
And with Blue&Me™ Nav, all the functions are built in, and the telephone, music and navigation information is available on the instrument panel. What is more, as he navigates, the driver can listen to his favourite music, which he has memorised, together with the map, on the same USB pen drive or media player, or make a telephone call using the hands-free device.
All the strong points of the system
Blue&Me™ was developed in 3 years by Fiat Auto and Microsoft. The partnership was ratified in June 2004, with the long-term goal of designing innovative telematic systems for cars, and it has created a product that has established itself on the market, exploiting perfectly integrated technology that is in complete harmony with the user, as its name implies.
Based on the Windows Mobile for Automotive system, this device features an open system that is always in step with the times, updateable, flexible and modular. With the help of Magneti Marelli, Fiat Auto and Microsoft offer a platform that adapts to most cell phones, music players and other personal devices, replacing current expensive, rigid hardware, with the great benefit of being able to constantly adapt to innovations on the market, remaining perfectly integrated into the car. All at an accessible price.
Blue&Me™ is extremely safe and easy to use. The voice control system, which is perfectly integrated into the controls on the steering wheel and the information on the instrument panel, allows a customer with a Bluetooth® cell phone to use it even if the phone is in a jacket or bag, without taking his hands off the wheel. And the advanced voice recognition system allows immediate interaction, because the voice does not have to be 'learned', even allowing incoming text messages to be interpreted aloud.
Occupants can listen to hours and hours of digital music in MP3, WMA and WAV format recorded on an iPod, a cell phone, an MP3 player or a USB pen drive, by connecting a digital device to the USB port, which is in an obvious position on the centre console of the Fiat Bravo.
The customer who purchases the Blue&Me™ Nav system will receive a navigation kit comprising a USB pen drive with the memorised map, and a back-up CD that can be used to transfer the map onto a personal MP3 player or iPod.
The Nav key positioned on the special board on the ceiling, connects directly to the navigation menu, which can also be accessed via the controls on the steering wheel, or vocally. The USB key is inserted to start navigating, and the driver uses the keys on the steering wheel to choose his destination by selecting the initial letters of the address; he can even complete it vocally.
Like all other information, the navigation details can be displayed on the control panel: destination address, pictograms of the directions to follow, information on arrival and the usual vocal suggestions of the manoeuvres to make, reproduced through the speakers.
Unlike other navigators, on which it is not possible to navigate and listen to music CDs at the same time without a CD changer, with Blue&Me™ Nav it is easy to navigate and listen to the music saved in the media player.
The navigation program can be used on a personal computer together with the back-up CD, to save the maps of a number of countries, purchased separately, on the USB pen drive. Then the driver can select a whole country (for example Italy, France, Germany, etc.), or part of a country (for example northern/central/southern Italy), or even a region that groups together maps of different countries (for example northern Italy and Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany).
CONNECT Nav Plus
On request the Fiat Bravo can be fitted with the CONNECT Nav Plus system, a sophisticated, latest generation infotelematic system that incorporates a satellite navigator, radio, CD player, GSM dual-band hands-free telephone, voice controls and the infomobility services.
Positioned at the centre of the facia, this device has a 6.5” 256-colour TFT active matrix screen, where the driver can follow the indications regarding the route. CONNECT was designed to put technology at the service of the driver and to make life on board even more comfortable and easier during the journey to one’s destination: the driver only has to press the green key to access the GPS/GSM network and the advantages of satellite communications, dialoguing aloud with an operator, a personal assistant who is ready to respond to any request for information, in the driver’s language.
The various services available include:
- receiving information about traffic conditions on the Italian motorway and superhighway network in real time, customised to a particular route or area of interest;
- requesting the address or telephone number of a private individual or company, from the Drive Me service. The operator will send the information to the instrument display panel by text message, after which the destination may be selected by touching a single key, and it is equally simple and immediate to call the number in the message without having to key it in;
- a 24-hour online medical consultancy service.
The Cruise Control system available on the Fiat Bravo helps the motorist to control the vehicle speed, enhancing travelling comfort. The device acts directly on the engine throttle, automatically maintaining the cruising speed set by the driver. It is only necessary to turn the ring on the special lever positioned to the left of the steering wheel to the 'ON' position, adjusting the speed using 'plus' (or 'minus'). When the ring is released the car will continue to travel at the memorised speed without the driver having to touch the accelerator pedal.
Cruise Control can function over the engine’s entire rpm range, but only at speeds above 40 km/h. So it is advisable to activate it in road conditions that will make it possible to maintain the memorised value safely.
If the accelerator pedal is pressed (for example to overtake), Cruise Control is momentarily over-ridden, but the system remains active. The car will therefore accelerate as requested, but as soon as the pedal is released, the system will resume the memorised speed. For obvious safety reasons, the device is automatically de-activated if the driver puts his foot on the brake or clutch pedal. In this case, the 'RESUME' button on the end of the Cruise Control system control lever must be pressed to recover the pre-set speed.
To definitively de-activate Cruise Control and cancel any previous setting, the ring nut must be turned to the 'OFF' position and the engine turned off. A telltale on the multifunction display indicates whether the system is operating or de-activated. The ASR system (Anti Slip Regulation) takes priority over the automatic speed control; if ASR has to intervene, the system will then resume the set speed.
During parking manoeuvres, obstacles behind the car may be outside the driver’s field of vision, or he may simply not know how much space separates his car from the car parked behind. In this situation the parking sensor can help; it is activated every time reverse is engaged when the ignition key is in the MAR position.
The system comprises an electronic control unit with an interface for the CAN network, four ultrasonic sensors in the rear bumper and a beeper. The four sensors cover both the rear side areas of the car (from a distance of less than 60 centimetres), and central rear area (from a distance of less than 150 cm).
We can see how it functions in detail. The four ultrasonic transducers act as intelligent transmitters and receivers of impulses. The latter are emitted every time reverse is engaged; if they meet an obstacle they are reflected and received like an echo by the sensor itself. At this point the incoming signal is converted into a digital signal and sent to the electronic control unit, which activates the acoustic alarm. The information is then transmitted to the driver by intermittent beeps, which become more insistent until the car reaches a distance of 30 centimetres from the obstacle, when the signal becomes constant.
The beeping stops if the lateral sensors detect an approaching obstacle for more than three seconds, so that the system does not continue to beep while parking along a wall parallel to the vehicle axis. The parking system is also available with eight sensors (the additional four sensors cover the front end of the Bravo).
Good visibility at all times is an important aspect of preventive safety. Which is why the Fiat Bravo offers a rain sensor, to ensure that the windscreen is always clean, even in bad weather. The system is applied in the upper part of the passenger compartment, behind the central rearview mirror, and it automatically activates the windscreen wipers and regulates their frequency depending on the intensity of the rain. It is activated by moving the right-hand steering wheel stalk to the first position (intermittency), and its operation is based on the principle of the refraction of infrared rays through the glass and the drops of water. The optical element of the sensor (lens) sends an infrared ray to the windscreen, which reflects it and sends it back to the sensor. Because the luminous energy sent to the windscreen is constant, the value measured on the light received decreases as the quantity of water and other impurities on the windscreen increases. The variation in the signal is processed by the electronic element of the sensor, which activates the appropriate wiper stroke frequency.
Since the wet surface disturbs the human eye more at night than during the day, the sensor also regulates the wiper strokes on the basis of ambient light. And it recognises water streaks caused by worn blades, compensating for the effects of the ageing of the windscreen and electronics. And in particular situations, it activates special stroke cycles: for example, when there are only a few drops of rain, or impurities (saline deposits, dirt, etc.), on the windscreen surface.
The sensitivity of the rain sensor can be modified by adjusting the two-position ring nut on the right steering wheel stalk. If the engine is stopped with the system engaged, this is automatically de-activated. When the engine starts again, the system can be re-activated by moving the stalk to zero and then back to the first position, or by adjusting the sensitivity of the sensor.
To indicate that it has been re-activated, the system will perform one stroke of the wipers, even if the windscreen is dry. After the windscreen washer pump has been used, the sensor is activated automatically for the time necessary to catch the drops dripping down the glass.
Tyre pressure sensor
The new Fiat model also includes a tyre pressure sensor, a device that indicates any anomalies with both an acoustic alarm and an icon on the display. The TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) monitors two conditions: insufficient pressure and a puncture. If one of these two thresholds is passed, the telltale will light up and a message will appear on the display. And in the case of a puncture, the instrument panel will also emit an acoustic signal.
'Small' devices for outstanding comfort
The Fiat Bravo changes the quality of the way we live and travel in a car. Thanks, for example, to the 'follow me home' system that keeps the headlights on for a moment when you get out of the car, or the new FIX&GO system to repair punctured tyres, or tinted windows for greater privacy. The customer can also choose electric rear windows with an anti-pinch device built into the upper seal of the windows. This device detects the presence of an obstacle between the seal and the upper edge of the glass and immediately inverts the direction of the window mechanism.
One of the most interesting features proposed on the new model is the dead-lock, a technical solution that puts the inside door handle and all the levers connected with the lock, into neutral. This is an important step forward that protects the car against theft: the dead-lock renders ineffective any tool used by thieves to force the door or its internal mechanisms. The device must be activated deliberately (so that no one is locked in the car by mistake). After the first turn of the key in one of the front doors, or the first impulse of the remote control, a second turn, or a second impulse, is necessary to engage the dead-lock.
The Bravo also offers a cargo box which raises the loading floor, making it possible to store small personal items in the space below, and it also creates a single loading floor, level with the folded seat. And finally, the entire range is available with the Dualdrive power steering system which is fitted with two functioning logics and uses the power generated by a small electric motor instead of that supplied by a hydraulic pump driven directly by the engine. What is more, with the electric power steering system, the steering response is correlated to the speed of the car: the higher this is, the lower the level of servo assist and the more effort required to steer, which guarantees more precise steering. That is not all. This innovative electrical power steering device offers customers another opportunity: that of choosing between two different calibration programs. The first, which enhances the understanding between the driver and the car, is ideal on mixed out-of-town routes. The second, which lightens the steering and therefore requires less effort, is perfect in town and for parking manoeuvres. The latter is engaged by pressing the 'city' key at the centre of the facia. But if a driver takes to the motorway and forgets to de-activate the device, it is not a problem. To guarantee maximum safety at all times, above 30 km/h the two systems provide the same amount of servo assist, thus ensuring that the steering wheel responds correctly even at high speeds.
The Piedimonte S. Germano plant
The plant in Piedimonte S. Germano (Frosinone), where the Bravo is built, is a centre of excellence among the world’s automotive production plants. In 1972, Fiat chose the site to install a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Since its early years, the plant has played an important role: it was here that the Robot-gate system was introduced for the first time, before going on to become the benchmark for automation in car manufacturing plants all over the world. Here Fiat decided to invest to support the Bravo in technological and qualitative terms, by developing an innovative manufacturing model for the new car, based on a balanced mix of advanced automation and human intervention to control the quality that underpins the technology of the new model. Today the Piedimonte S. Germano plant is on the cutting edge of the world’s car manufacturing facilities. There are no other plants in Europe that can boast a similar technological or organisational level, in terms of the manufacturing process and techniques.
The plant is in central Italy, and it is also in a central position with respect to the other Fiat Auto manufacturing facilities. It stands in an area of 2,033,072 square metres. The facilities include a press shop, a panelling area, painting and assembly, and much of the site is occupied by Fiat Auto suppliers, which are thus fully integrated in the manufacturing process and ready to intervene directly in the various stages. About 3500 Fiat Auto employees currently work in the plant, with an average age of 45 years. Working hours are organised in two daily eight-hour shifts, five days a week. Since it opened in 1972, the plant has turned out numerous important Fiat models (in 2004 it celebrated car no. 6,000,000 manufactured there), and production today includes the Bravo, the Croma and the Stilo Multi Wagon. Annual capacity is of over 250,000 cars, with a daily capacity of about 1000 cars.
The plant has evolved constantly, and the manufacturing has evolved from conventional systems to the robot-gate, the high-automation plant and now the new manufacturing model, known as the 'integrated modular plant' which represents the most advanced structure in world car production.
In 2001, the manufacturing process at the plant was completely re-designed, for an investment of almost Euro 400 million, and this required over one thousand days of training for personnel at the plant. The transformation that took place was based on the interaction of several factors:
- complete re-engineering of the manufacturing process;
- re-design of the line from the viewpoint of greater ergonomics;
- a new organisation of activities on the line;
- the digital ETU (Elementary Technology Unit), developed thanks to widespread computerisation throughout the manufacturing process.
These four elements of change played a decisive role in improving the capacity of the manufacturing process, which translates into greater precision and better product quality.
The re-engineering of the manufacturing process and innovation for quality
The re-engineering of manufacturing optimised the quality and efficiency of work on the assembly line. It focused on the panelling and assembly areas in particular, although the reorganisation regarded the whole process, and every single stage in the process was made more efficient. A great deal of attention was dedicated to quality checks: along the whole process, each Bravo undergoes over 200 checks, most of which are electronic.
1) Panelling. This is an area of crucial importance for the quality of every car, where advanced automation is decisive to determine the quality of the product. The technological level is evident from the figures: 437 spot welding robots, 18 continuous seam welding robots, 916 welding calipers, a total of 280 actions. With the start of manufacture of the Bravo, several new innovations were introduced in this area, including 2 new side tacking and finishing lines, 6 new robotised islands to produce mobile parts (front and rear side doors, bonnets), and five quality areas and three training areas were set up. We should also point out that in 2004 about 100 new welding and handling robots from the NH4, H4, M1, S2 and X1-500 family were introduced, to join the existing number. They are fitted with electric motors and electric welding calipers which give a hotter, cleaner and therefore better spot weld. The panelling shop also includes two second generation opto-electronic laser checking stations, for the chassis and for the bodyshell. Both adopt the 'single tool' system and work on-line. The double check guarantees the perfect geometry of the car’s skeleton: the check on the chassis, which precedes that on the bodyshell, is important as it guarantees the quality of a part which will incorporate the engineering, so that the precision of the shapes and measurements is essential to ensure excellent agility, driveability and roadholding.
To this we must add the innovation of the 'single tool' system, which is a Fiat Auto exclusive, and verifies the geometries of the chassis and bodyshell separate from the carrier that transports them, so that a possible error in the geometry of the support will not influence the laser measurement. This solution is a real element of excellence for the manufacturing system of the new model, because it minimises the possibility of an error in the laser reading. The 'Open gate' system has replaced the earlier 'Robot-gate', guaranteeing more precise preparation and assembly of the sides, and more precise welding, because the mechanical arms of the robots have more freedom of movement inside the bodyshell. The 'Open gate' systems are specific for each Fiat model.
The sealing of the spot welds is verified by a system of ultrasound sensors; the sensor tests the weld and on the basis of the amplitude of the response spectrum, may or may not certify the quality of the weld. And finally, new equipment included two new laser welding stations (side doors), two robots to measure the doorway and to bore the starting points for assembly of the vehicle front, plus a robotised station to perform on-line measurements of the panelled bodyshell (opto-electronic system).
2) Assembly. The innovation introduced in the manufacturing process of the Fiat Bravo was also significant at the assembly stage. First of all, the bodyshell conveyor system was re-engineered, and self-propelled units were introduced in the assembly process, eliminating the unpleasant background noise and achieving optimal comfort in the working environment. Control units were introduced in the bodywork shop, with new generation electro-air lifting, which improves the coupling of the mechanical parts to the bodyshell.
And finally, on the new model, the glue is prepared and spread on the windows by a latest generation robotised system. And to prevent order-picking mistakes, the windows are chosen on a computer using a multifunction display. The actual bonding on the bodyshell is entrusted to the tactile sensitivity of a worker who guarantees the correct position of the glass at any point of the process.
3) Painting. The paint shop was overhauled to introduce the 9 special colours for the Bravo. A new Painting building was also constructed, linked by a tunnel to the existing plant, which will employ water-based paints that respect the new legislative constraints. And finally, two new lines were built to use water-based enamel, as well as a touch-up circuit and a control unit for the paints.