The Bravo Eco is Fiat's attempt to do what other manufacturers - most notably the Volkswagen Group - have done in the past, namely to offer a tax-busting version of an existing car. Actually, the Eco is by no means the only example of this within the Bravo range, since Fiat has used the same petrol engine in three different states of tune (standard, lightly turbocharged and more robustly turbocharged) to produce quite different levels of performance for the same official rate of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
The Eco is, however, the only taxation special Bravo diesel. It uses the new 1.6-litre MultiJet engine - unquestionably a fine piece of work - which, in 105bhp form, usually gives the Bravo 57.6mpg combined and 129g/km of CO2. Various pieces of trickery, including low gearing and slightly reduced aerodynamic drag, enhance the Eco's figures to 62.7mpg and 119g/km respectively.
Two Ecos are available: the £14,150 Active and, as tested here, the Dynamic, which is supplied with front and rear electric windows, 16" alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, cruise control, lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat, a front armrest, a leather steering wheel, Blue&Me phone connectivity and an MP3 link into the audio system, all of which adds £1000 to the price.
The Eco Active costs £295 more than the regular MultiJet in the same trim level, and because it dips under the crucial 120g/km CO2 threshold it will probably pay for itself quite quickly (I won't go into detail about why that should be because it's all in the launch report).
There is no direct non-Eco equivalent to the Evo Dynamic in the Bravo range, but it is far and away the cheapest Dynamic to run, not least because it's the only one with the 1.6 diesel engine, though it's more expensive to buy than any of the petrol models with the same trim.
Let's assume you've done all your sums and decided that a Bravo Eco makes sense. What's it going to be like to live with? Well, there's quite a bit to be said for the Bravo, not least that there's more of it than there seems to be. There's something about its shape which gives me the impression that it can't really be a full-sized C-segment car, but there's no shortage of room - it can hold 365 or 1175 litres of luggage with the rear seat up or down respectively, which is more than an Astra and not much less than a Focus.
It's also very easy to drive, partly because the 1.6 MultiJet engine is pretty responsive as long as it's doing more than 1500rpm when you put your foot down, and partly because the electric power steering provides a very well-judged level of assistance. If you need more you can press the City button on the dashboard to make the steering even lighter, though only at speeds below 20mph.
Thanks to the effect of the that button, you probably won't tire yourself out when manoeuvring round town or in a car park, but it's not beyond question that you might hit someone or something because you hadn't seen it or them.
Rear visibility is calamitously awful, thanks to Fiat's determination to provide as little glass area as it can get away with back there, and the large windscreen pillars mean you can't see as much as you should be able to up front either.
On the open road the Eco is quite pleasant to drive, and as I've mentioned before the higher gearing doesn't mean you need to drop down an extra gear before corners - there's more than enough mid-range pull from the engine to make that unnecessary.
One thing was slightly disappointing. You'll remember that the official combined fuel economy figure is 62.7mpg; well, I wasn't expecting to match that (it very rarely happens) but I was surprised that, according to the trip computer, I didn't even get on the high side of 50mpg.
That seemed odd because I didn't think I was driving particularly hard. Still, no doubt the Eco will still be proportionally more economical than the regular MultiJet in real life, and my own unimpressive performance doesn't alter the fact that the Eco should be impressively cheap to run in terms of tax and congestion charges.
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