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Thursday, December 3, 2009
Fiat 500: I'll take the diesel!
MultiJet II, Fiat's new innovation in diesel engine technology (you can read a description here) is making its debut in the Fiat 500 and 500C (the cabriolet version of the normal 500). MultiJet II is one of the technologies that Fiat is sharing with Chrysler and it could change how Americans perceive diesel engines and prefer what type of engine equips their car.
Below is a comparison of the specifications on all the available engines in the Fiat 500 range. First up is the new MultiJet II 1.3L :
New 1.3L 16V MultiJet II Turbo diesel
95hp @ 4000 rpm
148 lbs ft @ 1500 rpm
0-100 kph: 10.7 seconds
Top Speed: 180 kph (113 mph)
Fuel consumption (combined urban/Hway): 3.9 l/100km (60 mpg)
Compare the output of the new MultiJet II engine to the output of the previous diesel engine:
1.3L 16V Turbo diesel
75HP @ 4000 rpm
107 lbs ft @ 1500 rpm
0-100 kph: 12.5 seconds
Top Speed: 165 kph (103 mph)
Fuel consumption (combined urban/Hway): 4.2 l/100km (56 mpg)
Now compare the new MultiJet II engine to the gasoline engine version of the 500:
1.4L 16V gasoline engine
105 HP @ 6000 rpm
97 lbs ft @ 4250 rpm
0-100 kph: 10.5 seconds
Top Speed: 182 kph (113 mph)
Fuel consumption (combined urban/Hway): 6.3 l/100km (37 mpg)
Below are the engine specs for the Fiat 500 Abarth:
1.4 16V Turbo in the 500 Abarth
135 HP @ 5500 rpm
153 lbs ft @ 3000 rpm
0-100 kph: 7.9 seconds
Top Speed: 205 kph (128 mph)
Fuel consumption (combined urban/Hway): 6.5 l/100km (36 mpg)
1.4 16V Turbo with esseesse (SS) performance upgrade kit
160hp @ 5750 rpm
153 lbs ft @ 3000 rpm (170 lbs ft in sports boost mode)
0-100 kph: 7.4 seconds
Top Speed: 211 kph (132 mph)
Fuel consumption (combined urban/Hway): 6.5 l/100km (36 mpg)
What we see is the MultiJet II engine has outstanding performance with a large amount of torque, substantially more than the 1.4L gas engine (51 lbs ft more!). This maximum torque figure is reached at very low revs (1500 rpm or just over idle), and translates to always having lots of passing power available all the time. Driving a high torque car is a treat because you never have to "wind" the engine up, just use slight toe pressure and away you go!
It is the opposite way most small gasoline engines drive, where the peak torque output is high in the rpm range and you're always revving the engine, downshifting and generally working pretty hard to keep up or pass traffic. It's also one of the reasons why Americans traditionally aren't "into" small four cylinder engines.
With the advent of MultiJet II, all that's out the window. This technology has the potential to make as big a difference in the US as it did when Fiat introduced its predecessor, the Common Rail diesel, in 1997. Common Rail changed how diesel engines performed, making them very much "un-diesel like". At once, diesels were smoother, less noisy, less stinky, and more powerful.
Fiat sold this technology off and all major car makers now use it. The result is, in Europe, the market responded by going from a 15% diesel car mix to a 50% mix.
Here in America, we haven't been exposed to this new technology in a large degree because diesel engines are normally available here in only the more expensive car ranges. Now that's going to change.
With MultiJet II, now smaller, less expensive diesels can achieve fantastic performance and drivability gains and still retain the high fuel efficiency, low cost maintenance characteristics that diesels are known for.
Even with Common Rail and MutiJet I, diesels were still down somewhat on horsepower compared with a gasoline engine. Engine displacement was still needed to produce the power the market expected. MultiJet II gives the Fiat engineers the ability to fine tune the engine, maximizing efficiency and power while increasing comfort and refinement with also the potential of reducing displacement.
The proof is in the comparison of the previous diesel engine specs. Compared with the original 1.3L diesel (equipped with MultiJet I), MultiJet II boosts horsepower by 20hp and torque an incredible 41 lbs ft! That's a huge number for a 1.3L engine.
Or, using a theoretical example (using the same specific output of the above MultiJet II engine), you could potentially have a 1.0L diesel engine making 75 hp with a substantial 116 lbs ft of torque! And remember, a physically smaller engine has many advantages over a larger engine, with the same power, in terms of packaging, fuel economy and performance.
All this boils down to a few important points.
First is this 1.3L MultiJet II diesel, being available in the Fiat 500 (which is a relatively lower priced car), offers a new generation of Americans the ability to access a new type of diesel engine with drivability characteristics never before experienced by them. Their experience of driving a highly fuel efficient, powerful, fun to drive car has the potential to make a large impact on what is expected out of a fuel efficient car.
The second point is that after driving a diesel car, many of these owners will look for another diesel car when they move on. Fiat/Chrysler will be in a unique position to upgrade these owners with other diesel offerings. Other car manufacturers will sure to follow with their own diesel offerings (with a licensed copy of MultiJet II, no doubt).
The third point is that all this technology is available today, and it's relatively simple, easily understood compared with electric-hybrid technology. With Fiat's (and now Chrysler's) diesel experience, everyone can start driving a fuel efficient car now and not have to wait or be the beta tester for electric-hybrid technology that still needs a lot of work before it can be used by everyone.
From the above points, we see that MultiJet II could make a big impact on what Americans drive in the future.
So what will it be? A 1.3L 16V MultiJet II turbo diesel or the gasoline 1.4L 16V engine? I know which one I want!
*Fuel economy figures are European and converted to US MPG