Written on: 17/04/2009 by John Thompson (38 reviews written)
Stylish and comfortable, with a better ambience than you would think.
Cheap as chips to purchase, with fantastic economy and ecological ability.
High depreciation, the FIAT badge still doesn't impress some people, and the dealer network are apparently not the best.
The product itself has no glaring faults, but to be picky, in Eco mode it's tall gearing dulls performance a little, and wind noise at speed is noticable.
FIAT's latest foray into the small family car sector, and it's better than you could ever imagine!
Forget the old flimsy stuff Turin used to churn out, this little number exudes as much charm as an Alfa, and appears to be more Germanic in terms of build quality!
The latest engines for 2009 include a brilliant 1.4 litre Turbocharged Petrol unit, and a range of Multijet Diesels. The test car is a 1.6 Diesel, in 'Eco' form, and is aimed fairly and squarely at the Green brigade, with a real 60mpg in everyday use and cheery £35 VED due to the low emissions.
Four trim levels are available, the standard 'Active' model is followed on by an 'Active Sport' with a few more goodies and warmed up appearance, then the luxury 'Dynamic' which has a comprehensive spec, and finally a slightly de-specced 'Sport' with more striking looks in exchange for a few frivolities.
The test car was in 'Dynamic' trim, which was chosen for a less harsh ride than the Sport, and as it's the better of the two 'Eco' driven versions.
This must rank among the best looking in what is a high volume, yet wholly underwhelming sector, with such tedious looking vehicles as the otherwise excellent Focus, Astra and Golf leading the way sales-wise.
The Maserati-esque snout gives the Bravo real character, and a reminder of how damned good the Italians are when they put their minds to it.
Following on from this pretty face is a smooth wedge tapering up to a high shouldered rear quarter, which gives you the impression this is a car which might beg to be driven hard around twisty mountain roads.
It is truly a thing of beauty, at least in the right colour, such as a deep Red or Blue metallic. There is very little in the way of clutter, with only the 'Bravo' motif on the rear tailgate, and either 'T-Jet' or Multijet' badges discreetly hidden on the front grille to accompany the usual manufacturers logos. Unless you're an afficianado, you'll never know which actual model you're looking at!
All Bravo's are 5 door hatchbacks, and differentiated only by the Wheels, Door handles and odd bit's of Chrome trim. No estate models are offered!
Inside, things are a little more subtle, with a solid looking dashboard incorporating deepset round dials, again most Alfa-like, and a centre mounted panel for the usual Radio/CD and minor switches.
While the dash itself is not exactly groundbreaking, it does score on an interesting choice of materials and textures, and is wholly ergonomic for both the driver and passenger.
The remainder of the interior is once again pleasant but underwhelming, although I have to say the more one looks at it, the more sense it makes. Nice little touches like chrome strips and tasteful cloth could easily be overlooked, as the whole thing is so subtle, and you're bound to feel right at home within a moment of taking a seat.
Dynamic models offer all the usual tricks, plus dual zone Climate control, Cruise control and 'Blue & Me' which offers a Windows based interface for your Mobile phone and MP3 player, even boasting a USB port! It's well equiped in this price range, and can be further enhanced as a factory order.
Internal dimensions will be within a whisker of all the other vehicles in this class, as will the standard equipment levels for each model, so suffice to say it will seat four or five fully grown humans in the same way as all the rest will, and the boot is similarly predictable.
What is nice is the range of adjustments to the Steering wheel, seats and headrests, a far cry from the old FIAT trademark 'Long arms-short legs' driving position. You're sure to fit in the Bravo!
So far, it's all good news, perhaps not all of it class-leading, but FIAT can hold it's head up high in most respects.
FIAT's of old always used to be fun to drive, with plenty of Brio and tenacious handling, but not much refinement or ambience.
Well, welcome to a new experience! The Multijet engine is a cracker. It sounds just like a Petrol engine, with no clatter at all, and the gearchange is a peach (Unlike the older 1.9 Multijet models!) Steering is a little artificial due the the fuel saving electronic assisance, but can at least offer the choice of normal or superlight 'City' mode.
The handling is great, not up to Focus standards, but your passengers and other road users will be complaining long before your tyres will.
It's not sporty, but perfectly willing to be hustled around with gusto, and the payback is a nice supple ride, picking up small bumps as you would expect, but never crashing over the more severe stuff, and is actually surprisingly good!
There is a bit of wind noise at around or above the UK national limits, but road noise is not particularly noticable, and the engine is very well subdued indeed, which is a shame as it sounds so utterly sweet at all times!
Be aware that the gearing in Eco models is very high, so performance isn't as vivid as similarly powered models, but just imagine only 2000rpm at 75mph! 6th gear is extremely high, and reserved for Motorways only. Look at this as a 5 speed plus overdrive...
Still, 11.5 seconds to 60 and 119mph ain't bad for a car which can do 74mpg if you're careful!
Overall impressions are of a well designed and assembled vehicle, made for keen drivers, yet with a mindful eye on comfort and refinement. Rather than making a wild statement, FIAT have been cautious to please their customers with a good all-round performer, and I have to say I'm wholly impressed.
Here are the basic points:
18,000 mile/ 12 month service intervals.
55-65mpg in everyday use.
36 month Warranty
12 month AA membership.
All this is certainly class leading, or very close to it. While the list price is also highly competetive, you are almost certain to get a monstrous discount when you buy a new FIAT Bravo, to the extent it could cost you less for a 1.6 Eco Dynamic than you could possibly imagine!
One has to counter this, to some extent, with what will probably be a relatively poor resale value. Now in my recent experience of owning a 2 year old Mercedes (Wholly unimpressed by the Mercedes dealers pathetic offer) I don't think you'll be too upset, but the likely £4000 discount (Which makes a Bravo kind of tempting by any standards) will have a slight downside, although the longer you keep it, the less this will affect you.
All things considered, this car bears comparison with the best of the rest, falling short in no particular area, but excelling in style, comfort and day to day economies. Big discounts may well be offset by higher than average depreciation, but even then, you save the money up front.
All I can say to FIAT is, Bravo!