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Advantages: True-to-form Italian good-looks, represents great value in its class, pitched much lower than core rivals, impressive diesels, smooth engines
Disadvantages: Ride and overall handling is slipshod, build quality is lackluster, rear-leg room might cut off the blood supply, interior adornments not exactly hewn from quality materials, poor rear vision, not the sportiest of rides, discouraging residuals
Summary: Confusion surrounded which Bravo/Brava was which up until 2007 when Fiat gave the booted saloon version the heave-ho and instead focused on the slightly more aesthetically-pleasurable stance of one of the two marginally-indifferent variants. And so created the equally unsightly Stilo to similar nil acclaim.
Now, having invested some of the money saved on the lack of Brava and Stilo designer - we've got a booted, five-door run-a-bout that looks like it could give the Fiat family's crown jewels – the Alfa Romeo – a run for its considerably-more money, looking every inch as sexy as the Honda Civic. Long term quality and reliability is less suspect than Fiat’s history habitually records, and the power plants don’t let the side down either, providing you’re not looking for helter-skelter performance to be wrung out of them.
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Five engines to take your pick from, including the comfortable-as-an-old-shoe 90bhp 1.4-litre petrol at base level and the turbo-charged T-Jet in 1.4-litre guise that exudes 120bhp and 150bhp dependent on your need for urgency.
There's also two 1.9-litre turbo diesels and the singular 1.6-litre Multi-Jet with either the 105bhp or 120bhp denomination to pledge your turbo diesel allegiances to.,br>
The 120bhp turbo-charged T-Jet can muster 62mph in 8.2 seconds, whilst the impressive little 105bhp 1.6-litre Multi-Jet is no slouch itself, given its modest power plant. A do-it-yourself gearbox is standard throughout the range, with six-speed on everything apart from the 120bhp diesel which looses the singular ratio.
The frugal turbo-charged oil burners – like the 1.4-litre – will prove the popular choice, with relatively perky performance as useful as its fuel consumption, whilst trim levels envelope the following; Active, Active Eco, Active Sport and Dynamic, Dynamic Eco and Dynamic Sport.
Sadly the new Bravo’s rakishly handsome looks mask what's in effect a not very, well, effectual engine when all things are considered. The dynamism of the door handles, and er, light clusters don't alas follow-through to the actual get-up-and-go which its rivals the enlightening VW Golf and Ford Focus hide beneath their equally good-looking bushels. Pitched against the equally attractive Seat Leon, Citroen C4 and Kia C'eed the new Bravo has some stiff competition in all areas.
Still, any discrepancies in the grunt department are more than compensated for in the adherence to tasks category. Proffering more grip than a ballerina's plimsols, it's only a shame that the Bravo has a tendency to lean into the corners it experiences, again, losing ground on its key competition in this class. Which means that budding relationships built between the Bravo and the road surface won’t be as deep or lasting as the love-in witnessed between the Honda Civic and its driver for example.
Given that Fiat have been fiddling with electric power steering since 1999, you'd be forgiven for believing it might have perfected the art, yet the Ford Focus beats it into a cocked hat in terms of 70% of feel through the fingers. But the Bravo redeems itself with sudden changes of direction, composing itself with aplomb when threatened with not-so-agreeable steering conditions.
The Bravo is a quiet drive though, and road noise doesn't interfere with the subtleties of it. It's not going to stir that many driving emotions, but nor for that matter is it going to summon any driving demons. Fractional wind noise observed, but there's not many manufacturers who place as much emphasis on silencing the trademark diesel menace, and generally smoothing out any imperfections as Fiat has done impeccably here.
Reach-and-rake adjustable steering wheel, plus seat levers that help the driver locate the optimum position make the driver’s life a charmed one from the outset, although the rear-view is broken by the Bravo's coupe-like styling, which makes reversing a chore for those drivers of more challenging statures.
For all Fiat's bragging that the Bravo is the widest car in its segment for rear seat occupants, you can but hope most of them are built with flat-pack legs, as the benefits of shoulder room are lost the moment you swing your legs in. The seats themselves are comfy enough mind. Incidentally, the swooping roof line that proves a moot point with the driver doesn't detract from the Bravo occupants’ headroom.
1,165-litres of space is at the Bravo's disposal when the rear seats are wrestled to the floor, 365-litres when they regain the advantage, so again the Bravo – like the world – is your oyster.
Air-con is range-resplendent, aside from the boggo 1.4-litre, electric front windows are commonplace though. The base Bravo makes good with CD, Dualdrive power-steering and anti-lock brakes too.
Active models tick the air-con and front fogs box, the Active Sport gets 17” rims, sports seats, pedals and a styling kit, while Dynamic forms receive 16” alloys and the gamut of Blue&Me infotainment. Sport variants bag the Active Sport's additions plus leather, sports suspension, ESC and Traction with its Blue&Me system.
Fiat is constantly working on the reliability X-factor of its cars, and niggling electrical gripes have replaced any long-standing corrosion issues that used to plague the manufacturer, and would often result in a sub-standard Fiat physically rusting away before driver’s eyes, sometime almost as soon as they journeyed from the showroom. But the Italians have come a long way, with recent models standing up to the test of time with steely, new found determination.
Mind you, some of the plastic panels are more flimsy than an Ed Wood movie set, and Hessian sacking a seat cover fabric doth not maketh Fiat. Just something to bear in mind.
Six airbags are noted in every model excepting the base 1.4-litre, as are ISOFIX attachments for children, whilst Traction and Stability Control are option-only extras. That said, the Bravo scored a maximum Euro NCAP Five-star rating in crash tests. Fiat’s cars are notoriously tricky to half-inch too, and remain so in the new Bravo courtesy of deadlocks, marked parts and an integrated security conscious stereo fitment.
Warranty amounts to three years/60,000 miles, and servicing is advised every two years or 18,000 miles on average. The Renault Megane and Vauxhall Astra should show signs of depreciation far quicker than the Bravo according to industry insiders, but to be honest the jury’s still out.
In terms of insurance, tax and fuel, the Bravo works in well with those with a keen eye on living expenses and won’t therefore require additional lending to keep it on the road.
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