Fiat Bravo (Type 198: 2007-2014)

Used, red Fiat Bravo on 17 inch OEM wheels, 5-door hatchback

In Australia, the Fiat Bravo was sold as the Fiat Ritmo.

 

Reliability & common problems

This section covers the potential reliability issues that you might have with the Fiat Bravo. Click on the buttons below to read more about the typical problems that fall outside the scope of routine maintenance.

M32 gearbox bearings

Some Fiat Bravo models are fitted with the infamous M32 gearbox. A typical problem with this 6-speed transmission is bearing wear. In particular, the 6th gear bearing.

When this bearing starts wearing out, the gearbox becomes noisy when driving in 6th and 5th gear. If not fixed, this problem leads to total gearbox failure (a hole in the gearbox).

The M32 gearbox is used in so many vehicles and bearing failure is so common in high-mileage vehicles, that I’ve dedicated a full page to the M32 gearboxes.

Follow the link above to learn more about the symptoms of bearing failure, the solution to the problem and how much it costs to fix a dying M32 gearbox.

The M32 gearbox was paired with the 120 PS and 150 PS 1.4 T-Jet engines in the Fiat Bravo until 2010. The 140 PS 1.4 MultiAir Turbo has the newer C635 gearbox, which is better but still has its problems. More is explained below.

C635 gearbox – difficulty engaging gears

Fiat eventually stopped using the M32 transmission and replaced it with their own design – the C635. Bye, bye, whining bearings. Hello, clunking gear changes.

There have been cases of problems with the 1st and 2nd gear engagement in cars with the C635 manufactured before 2012 or so. From what I’ve gathered, the majority of these issues was seen in Alfa Romeo cars – the Giulietta and the Mito.

The symptoms include grinding or clunking sounds when changing gears. The 1st and 2nd gear may be difficult to engage. The fix to the gear change problem is to replace the 1st and 2nd gear synchronizers, which is a big job and not a nice thing to do out of warranty.

As I see it, the gearboxes that had problems with the synchros had come out like this from the factory or developed the symptoms soon after. Therefore, the odds are that the problematic gearboxes would have been fixed or replaced by now.

If you are planning to buy a car with the C635 transmission, make sure the first and second gear engagement is okay. If it is, you shouldn’t have issues with this transmission. If you are already facing a potential £1,000 bill for replacing the synchronizers, it might be worth trying to change the gearbox oil first.

There are people who managed to improve the first gear engagement significantly by simply changing the transmission oil, and the improvement was big enough that the gearbox repair became unnecessary.

The transmission oils that Fiat and Alfa Romeo owners recommend are Titan Sintofluid FE SAE 75W and Castrol Syntrans Multivehicle 75w-90.

The Fiat Bravo models that have the C635 transmission are the 140 PS 1.4 MultiAir Turbo and the 120 PS 1.4 T-Jet since 2010, which is when it became Euro 5 rated. In 2010, the 150 PS variant was replaced by the 140 PS Multiair engine.

Dualogic transmission

The Dualogic transmission is an automated manual transmission, which means that the car has a manual transmission and a Dualogic robotic unit attached to it. The robot does the gear shifting for you, you lazy bastard.

You might have also heard about Alfa Romeo’s Selespeed transmission. Fiat’s Dualogic and Alfa Romeo’s Selespeed are pretty much the same thing.

Let me very briefly explain the basics of this transmission. The Dualogic robot is a complex hydraulic device, made up of solenoid valves, sensors and actuators. It is powered by a little hydraulic pump, and it has its own hydraulic fluid circuit.

The oil is pressurized by the pump and then stored in a hydraulic accumulator. The accumulator has a rubber diaphragm inside and compressed nitrogen gas behind the diaphragm. Therefore, there is compressed gas on one side of the diaphragm and hydraulic fluid on the other.

The diaphragm can deflect to store energy (oil pressure) because nitrogen gas is compressible, while the oil isn’t. This stored energy is then used to do the mechanical work – changing gears and operating the clutch, which is what the actuators do.

Because there is no torque converter, the Dualogic can be as efficient as a manual gearbox. However, it’s not as smooth as a traditional automatic transmission, and in my opinion, not as reliable.

The problem is that it is a relatively advanced piece of machinery and a failure of an individual component, like a £20 sensor or a £5 seal, means that you may have to replace the entire Dualogic unit, which is very expensive.

You may be able to replace an individual part that failed if you can find someone capable of doing it, but it will take some effort and time as there aren’t that many places that can fix Dualogic robots.

I am fairly confident that if you simply go to the dealership with a faulty Dualogic gearbox and the problem is not something obvious or easy to replace like an accumulator or a hydraulic pump, they will try to replace the entire unit for £2,000.

 

My recommendation is to avoid Dualogic transmissions when buying a used car. However, if you are still determined to buy one, here are the symptoms of Dualogic malfunction:

  • dropping into neutral on its own (this can happen at motorway speeds)

  • jerky gear changes

  • transmission warning messages on the dashboard

  • inability to select gears or missing gears

When the Dualogic transmission stops working, the first thing to check is the accumulator. Over time, the membrane inside can rupture and the accumulator will stop storing pressure. Even if the membrane is still fine and you don’t drive the car much, the nitrogen gas will eventually escape, just like air escapes from a seemingly airtight balloon.

It’s the same story as with the nitrogen spheres used in Citroën’s hydro-pneumatic suspension and Mercedes-Benz’ ABC. Because it could take a decade, the odds are that the membrane will fail before the gas disappears from the sphere.

Don’t worry about the accumulator, though. It’s not expensive and easy to replace. It’s just everything else that should worry you – the solenoids, the seals and sensors inside the Dualogic robot.

Anyway, there is one more reason why you should not buy a car with the Dualogic. In the Fiat Bravo, the CFC300 Dualogic robot was fitted to two models:

  • The 1.4 T-Jet, which uses the 6-speed M32 gearbox. Since 2010, the M32 is no more except if you opt for the Dualogic transmission, then you are going back to the M32. In my opinion, that’s a downgrade in terms of reliability.

  • The 1.6 MultiJet, which normally uses the C530 gearbox. There is nothing wrong with the C530. In a Dualogic car, however, the transmission is… you guessed it… the M32 with its chocolate bearings.

MultiAir malfunction

MultiAir is Fiat’s brand name for their variable valve lift and timing system for the intake valves. It’s actually a relatively simple system given its capabilities. Here’s how it works:

 

There is one key thing that you need to remember: MultiAir uses engine oil pressure to function. Using the wrong type of engine oil or changing the oil too late will cause issues with this system.

In my opinion, Fiat’s 18,000 miles oil change interval is very optimistic. I think that no MultiAir engine should go longer than 10,000 miles or 12 months between oil changes. Alfa Romeo started with the same 18,000 miles interval but reduced it to 9,000 miles after a while.

My guess is that too many MultiAir units must have failed early. I believe Fiat kept the original 18,000 miles interval (less for Abarth cars).

As with any new technology, there will be a teething period and some early failures. The MultiAir was first released in the Alfa Romeo Mito and the Fiat Punto Evo around the same time and it was introduced in the Fiat Bravo soon after. There have been cases of failed MultiAir units replaced under warranty or not long after.

Luckily for us, if a particular MultiAir unit was going to die, it probably already did and was replaced with an updated, more reliable version.

If you’re in the market for a car equipped with MultiAir, make sure the previous owners maintained a reasonable oil change interval (18k miles is not reasonable) and look out for the symptoms of MultiAir malfunction:

  • Intermittent rough idle, especially after a cold start

  • Rattly engine sound

  • Engine misfire under load

  • “Check engine” light or the stop/start system not working

Apart from regular oil changes and using the correct engine oil, there is one more thing that you should do. There is an oil strainer in the cylinder head that may get clogged, starving the engine top-end from oil.

It is not a service item, so it’s common for it to be neglected. In my opinion, it should be replaced or at least cleaned every 30k miles. This little mesh filter can be found in non-MultiAir engines too, but it’s less critical there.

I wouldn’t recommend buying a pre-2013, second-hand Fiat Bravo with MultiAir, because the technology was still new back then and has been improved since. I believe the major updates took place in 2012 and 2013 (part no. history: 55228221 -> 55236341 -> 55249566 -> 55257643). The newer MultiAir engines are likely to be more reliable.

It’s not that the original MultiAir engines were unreliable. Just be aware that the cost of replacing a failed MultiAir unit (it is a module that sits next to the camshaft) is over £1,000. I’m not sure if the slight increase in fuel economy and power is worth the risk when buying a second-hand car.

The 120 PS T-Jet without MultiAir is a better choice, in my opinion. MultiAir is cool, but a bit pointless when the 1.4 T-Jet is great on its own. I guess I’m a dinosaur that doesn’t like too much complexity.

1.9 MultiJet 16v – swirl flaps

The 1.9 MultiJet 16v engines use swirl flaps in the intake manifold in order to improve emissions. There are two types of intake manifolds that were fitted to these engines. Here’s a brief description of the manifolds and how they can fail:

  1. Plastic manifold with spot-welded, stainless steel swirl flaps. Failure mode: the main cause of flap failure is increased friction in the flap mechanism from the carbon build-up in the intake manifold. Carbon build-up is a byproduct of the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR). EGR systems are commonly used in modern diesel engines to improve emissions. The metal swirl flaps often keep working without any indication of a problem until the spot welds give up and a flap gets detached. It can then enter the engine causing severe damage. An ingested flap can take out valves, a piston, damage the cylinder walls and even the turbocharger.

  2. Aluminium alloy manifold with plastic swirl flaps. Failure mode: the flap bearings can wear out from increased friction when the carbon build-up in the intake manifold becomes severe. Once the bearings are worn, they may develop an air leak, allowing the boost pressure to escape. Also, the flaps can simply get stuck before the bearings wear out. These plastic flaps are the lesser evil as they don’t break off.

The 1.9 MultiJet 16v in the Fiat Bravo has the plastic manifold with the metal swirl flaps, which is the more dangerous kind. On one hand, the metal swirl flaps are stronger and can handle a bit more carbon build-up, on the other hand, they will make you cry if they fail.

This is why I don’t recommend buying a Fiat Bravo with this engine. There are better options available in the Fiat Bravo. The 1.9 8-valve MultiJet engine does not have swirl flaps, while the 2.0 MultiJet has an improved design – the flaps are also metal but attached in a way that makes them very unlikely to break off.

If you already have a Fiat Bravo with the 1.9 MultiJet 16v, I think that it’s important to establish the condition of the flaps in your engine. Unfortunately, it’s quite a big job to get to them, but you can try doing it at the same time as the timing belt to save some money.

 

Once the intake manifold is removed from the car, you will have three options:

  • Clean the manifold and put it back on the car if the flaps are in good condition. You will be surprised how dirty they get.

  • Replace the intake manifold with a new one if the flaps don’t look so good. This is a safer option than just cleaning the manifold, albeit a more expensive one.

  • Get rid of the flaps and plug the holes left in the manifold. You can buy a swirl flap delete kit or get the holes welded up as the swirl flap housing is made out of aluminium. This is a permanent fix, albeit an illegal one in most countries. The swirl flaps are not essential for the engine to run – they are there to improve emissions and removing them has virtually no impact on engine performance.

Like I mentioned above, these metal flaps may not give any indication that there is a problem and may fail without a warning. If there are going to be any symptoms, typically it is rough engine running, reduced fuel economy and reduced power. The “Check engine” light may turn on as well.

1.9 MultiJet 16v – timing belt

According to the manufacturer, the timing belt in the 1.9 MultiJet 16v engine needs to be replaced every 90k miles or 5 years, whichever comes first. In my opinion, this is optimistic. I recommend getting the cambelt replaced not later than 60k miles in these engines.

The water pump must be replaced at the same time as the timing belt, otherwise, it can seize and cause the timing belt to snap. It’s actually the water pump that is the weak point in the timing belt drive and the first part to fail.

Summary of problems & additional information

  • Just like other Fiat cars from those years, the Fiat Bravo can be a fairly reliable car. Tony won’t have to Fix It Again Tomorrow. This is as long as you know what you are buying, and you are aware of the potential problems. You should be after reading this article!

  • The 1.4 T-Jet is the proof that engine downsizing can give good results (sometimes). This is one of the best engines in the Fiat Bravo. Just be aware that until 2010 it was paired with the M32 gearbox (later with the C635). The post-2010 140 PS engines also received the MultiAir variable valve lift system.

  • I don’t recommend buying a second-hand Fiat Bravo with the MultiAir unless you can find a car that had the MultiAir unit replaced after 2012 with an updated one.

  • The 90 PS 1.4 16v Starjet is the simplest engine in the Fiat Bravo. It doesn’t have a turbocharger or a dual-mass flywheel. If you are looking for an economical, low-maintenance car, this is the engine to pick. It is slow though.

  • If you are into engine tuning, the 1.9 MultiJet is a great candidate. You should be able to get the 120 PS 8-valve engine to 170 PS with just a software update. Just make sure that your clutch and gearbox are in good shape before cranking up the power. The 150 PS 16-valve engine can also be remapped, and you should be able to reach 190 PS or very close to that figure. However, in a remapped 16v MultiJet, the clutch and the dual-mass flywheel (DMF) are very close to their limits. A worn-out clutch is likely to slip.

  • While the Fiat engines are good, some of them are paired with the General Motors M32 transmission, which has bearings made of chocolate. Inspect the car you are planning to buy for any gearbox noise and gear lever movement. If you find a problem, you should knock £600 off the price of the car. If you manage to find a car with a gearbox in good condition, I recommend replacing the transmission oil when you get it. This will increase the lifespan of the transmission bearings.

  • In 2010 and onwards, the M32 was replaced by the C635. In my opinion, the C635 is not perfect but it is still an improvement over the M32. Just make sure that the gear changes are smooth, and there is no noise coming from the transmission. If all the boxes are ticked, you shouldn’t have issues with this transmission.

  • The production of the F40 gearbox stopped in 2011. The F40 gearbox had been used with the 1.6L and 2.0L Multijet engines. It was then replaced with the C635. For a while after 2010, both the F40 and the C635 were used with the MultJet engines. The only way to be sure which transmission you have is to check the transmission casing or decode the VIN number.

  • It’s a bit confusing which gearbox is used where, when you look at other Fiat models from those years. The Grande Punto has the M32 paired with the 1.9 MultiJet 8v engines, while in the Bravo the same engines have a more reliable C530. On the contrary, the 120 PS 1.4 T-Jet in the GP has the C510 gearbox, which is fine, while the Bravo’s 120 PS 1.4 T-Jet has the M32 (until 2010). What have you been smoking, Fiat?

  • As for the Dualogic transmission, I don’t recommend buying a used car fitted with one. It’s not something you want to own outside of warranty.

  • All engines in the Fiat Bravo, except the 1.8 E.Torq for the Brazilian market, have timing belts. Follow this link to learn why the timing belt is a critical component.

  • Follow this link for an article that might help you decide if a modern common rail diesel engine, like the MultiJet, is the right choice for you. Below is a quick summary of the diesel engines available in the Bravo.

  • 1.9 MultiJet 8v: If you’d like a proven and robust diesel engine. Just get one without a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF). It’s only rated at 120 PS but it has the potential to deliver a lot more. Decent gearbox, no swirl flaps.

  • 1.9 MultiJet 16v: Because of the stupid swirl flaps, this is the least desirable engine. That is unless you do something about them before the engine eats them.

  • 2.0 MultiJet 16v: This engine was developed by General Motors after the GM & Fiat alliance ended. It’s an evolution of the 1.9 MultiJet, and it’s a good diesel engine with no major flaws. In the Fiat Bravo, it’s paired with GM’s F40 transmission, which is quite robust. Another bonus is a stronger clutch that can handle more torque when compared to the 1.9L engines. This engine does have a DPF and swirl flaps, but the flap design is better.

  • 1.6 MultiJet 16v: This is a decent engine as well. It has swirl flaps in the intake manifold, but they are fixed and do not move, which makes them unlikely to fail. They are simply a restriction in the air flow to increase turbulence in order to improve emissions.

 

Fiat Bravo specifications

This section contains Fiat Bravo specifications. You will also find technical information regarding the engines used in these cars. Press the buttons below to display the specs and engine technical details.

Petrol engines – specs & performance figures

ModelDisplacementPowerTorqueComments
1.4 16v1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in90 PS / 66 kW128 Nm / 94 lbf⋅ftStarJet engine
1.4 16v LPG1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in90 PS / 66 kW128 Nm / 94 lbf⋅ftFrom 2009, Twin-fuel (Petrol + LPG), StarJet engine
1.4 T-Jet 16v1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in120 PS / 88 kW206 Nm / 152 lbf⋅ft2007-2014
1.4 T-Jet 16v1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in150 PS / 110 kW206 Nm / 152 lbf⋅ft
Overboost: 230 Nm / 170 lbf⋅ft
2007-2010
1.4 MultiAir Turbo 16v1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in140 PS / 103 kW230 Nm / 170 lbf⋅ftFrom 2010

Diesel engines – specs & performance figures

ModelDisplacementPowerTorqueComments
1.6 MultiJet 16v1598 cm³ / 97.5 cu in90 PS / 66 kW290 Nm / 214 lbf⋅ftFrom 2009
1.6 MultiJet 16v1598 cm³ / 97.5 cu in105 PS / 77 kW290 Nm / 214 lbf⋅ftFrom 2008
1.6 MultiJet 16v1598 cm³ / 97.5 cu in120 PS / 88 kW300 Nm / 221 lbf⋅ftFrom 2008
1.9 MultiJet 8v1910 cm³ / 116.6 cu in90 PS / 66 kW225 Nm / 166 lbf⋅ftUntil 2008
1.9 MultiJet 8v1910 cm³ / 116.6 cu in120 PS / 88 kW255 Nm / 188 lbf⋅ftUntil 2008
1.9 MultiJet 16v1910 cm³ / 116.6 cu in150 PS / 110 kW320 Nm / 236 lbf⋅ftUntil 2008
2.0 MultiJet 16v1956 cm³ / 119.4 cu in165 PS / 121 kW360 Nm / 265 lbf⋅ftFrom 2008

Petrol engines – technical details

EngineEngine config.Forced inductionValve timingFuel deliveryDMFInlet flaps
Legend:SOHC - Single Overhead Camshaft
DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
VVT - Variable Valve Timing
VVL - Variable Valve Lift
EFI - Electronic Fuel Injection
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
1.4 StarJet 16vInline-4, 16 valvesNoTiming belt, DOHC, VVTPort injection (EFI)NoPort Deactivation
1.4 T-Jet 16vInline-4, 16 valvesTurboTiming belt, DOHCPort injection (EFI)YesNo
1.4 MultiAir Turbo 16vInline-4, 16 valvesTurboTiming belt, SOHC, VVL & VVTPort injection (EFI)YesNo

Diesel engines – technical details

EngineEngine config.Forced inductionValve timingInjection systemDMFDPFSwirl flaps
Legend:SOHC - Single Overhead Camshaft
DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
DPF - Diesel Particulate Filter
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
1.6 MultiJet 16vInline-4, 16 valvesTurboTiming belt, DOHCCommon RailYes120 PS - yes, 90 & 105 PS - some enginesFixed flaps
1.9 MultiJet 8vInline-4, 8 valvesTurboTiming belt, SOHCCommon RailYesSome enginesNo
1.9 MultiJet 16v Inline-4, 16 valvesTurboTiming belt, DOHCCommon RailYesSome enginesYes
2.0 MultiJet 16vInline-4, 16 valvesTurboTiming belt, DOHCCommon RailYesYesYes

 

Fiat Bravo wheel sizes

Press the button below to see the original equipment manufactuer (OEM) rim & tyres sizes for the Fiat Bravo. These are the original wheel sizes that were fitted by the manufacturer.

TyresRims Centre BoreBolt PatternComments
195/65 R156Jx15 ET3158.1 mm4x98
205/55 R167Jx16 ET3158.1 mm4x98
225/45 R177Jx17 ET3158.1 mm4x98
225/40 R187.5Jx18 ET3558.1 mm4x98

 

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