Through a joint venture formed in 1997, Chrysler and Rover (owned for a time by BMW) designed a new family of 1.4-and 1.6-litre powerplants, built in Brazil. This agreement followed a rumored decision by BMW, changed at the last moment, to buy 2.0 liter Neon engines (which ended prospects for the 320 as a 318 replacement). The joint venture (Tritec Motors) was purchased by Fiat in March 2008.
According to one of the engineers, the Mini engine was "100% Chrysler designed," and was similar to the export PT and Neon engines — a Neon 2.0 single-cam with reduced bore size and centers.
The 1.6 liter had about 115 hp (86 kW) at 5,600 rpm and 113 lb-ft (153 Nm) at 4,400 rpm, and was used in the BMW (formerly Austin) Mini — hence Rover’s involvement before being acquired by BMW. A South African ad noted that it "delivers 85 kW at 5,600 r/min. The peak torque, 154 Nm at 4 800 r/min, is the highest of any naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine available in Europe or the US today. The new engine is highly fuel-efficient and produces very low emissions in accordance with European and other strict standards." (Thanks, neon-owners.org)
The engines had a single overhead cam, aluminum heads, and four valves per cylinder; they were designed for Chrysler and Rover "mini-cars" which were to be introduced in model year 2001 (a plan which dissolved with the takeovers of both companies by Mercedes and BMW, respectively). The goals were a simple, durable, and robust engine which met Euro III emissions standards, had superior fuel economy without sacrificing power, and was appropriate for European and South American markets.
Like all contemporary Chrysler technologies, the 1.4 and 1.6 was designed in a paperless CATIA environment with advanced computer-based modeling techniques and in partnership with other organizations.
The South African release said: "The engine is compact and uses a cast iron cylinder block and aluminium head with a single overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder. It features the first Chrysler group application for electronic throttle control (ETC). The pistons, rods and crankshaft were designed to be lightweight to provide responsiveness and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH)."
The 1.6 was used in both the BMW Mini and the Chrysler Neon (depending on the country, the Neon was available with the 1.6, the 1.8 (a downsized 2.0) - or the 2.0 as the base engine). Chrysler wrote that the 1.6 was totally unrelated to the 2.0, but that may have been a mistake.
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