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Bravo is the comeback kid for Fiat
Fiat has enjoyed a reputation as the comeback kid in recent years. The 500 led the way with a MINI-style revival of an historic name, while Punto and Panda have earned favourable reviews, too.
But what of Bravo? This is Fiat’s model designed to take on some of the heavyweights in the motoring world like Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus. It was originally launched as the Bravo-Brava double-act. Bravo was a three-door and Brava a five-door version of the same model. The models were killed off, but then Bravo was revived as a five-door replacement for the Stilo.
It looks very much like a bigger, beefier Punto, and it has a lot to commend it. I like the ride and handling (so often a criticism of bigger Fiats) and the engine is terrific.
And while build quality isn’t quite of the Volkswagen or even Ford and Vauxhall standard, it is pretty good.
And the price makes it a must-see model on anyone shopping for a car in this class.
For me, the stand-out feature of this car is its ability to blend power and economy.
It manages 60mph in 8.5 seconds, which is quick enough, yet it also returns just shy of 50mpg on a run. It also has an enviable cabin, again something you can’t always say about Fiats.
Fiat have spent recent times making their cars more efficient, putting smaller but zippy engines in their cars as drivers look for economy over performance. But the addition of a sports version of the Bravo makes sense. The fact that the car has more personality than previous Bravos (or Bravas, for that matter) is also welcome. While there is a market for cheaper motoring, Fiat aficionados are a sporty lot.
And while a 1.4 litre engine isn’t huge for a car of this size, it is allied to a turbocharger and the result is a very efficient, sprightly car. There’s nothing like rising fuel prices, rising taxes and a focus on fuel economy to make the boring suddenly appear important – especially if you’re the one paying the bills.
This mid-size hatchback is hardly a car that you’d think was suited to a small engine. Could you imagine having the family onboard and having the engine screaming when asked to tackle even the slightest of gradients?
Taking the sensible view, a 1.4-litre petrol motor is destined to struggle with a modern, heavyweight family hatch. All those airbags, fancy extras and solid crash protection all adds up in terms of bulk.
Fiat’s turbocharger is good. In simple terms you get all the benefits of a car with a modest size engine – reasonable fuel consumption, moderate emissions – plus the performance of something packing a larger unit.
One thing in the Bravo’s favour is the high level of refinement it demonstrates.
With the turbo helping the engine it rarely has to work hard – hence the lack of noise on the daily commute, for example. The same is true when cruising at higher speeds, as the motor simply isn’t working as hard as something smaller without the help of a turbo. Peel off onto a more challenging road and you can have fun without feeling like you’re flogging the car. The result is a more enjoyable experience, and one that doesn’t have you constantly changing gear or having to keep one eye on the rev counter when it should be looking at the road ahead.
Another upside to all this is the car’s ability to return sensible fuel economy. And just to make life interesting, Fiat includes a clever feature that’s sure to keep the techno-literate interested.
As part of the car’s Blue and Me system – you can plug in an MP3 player or USB stick to play music through the audio unit plus hook up a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone – you can configure it to record your journeys.
After installing a handy piece of software on your computer you can analyse the data – fuel consumption and journey type. Do that for five days and the programme will tell you how to improve your driving to better the economy figure. It might sound a little gimmicky at first but you do learn some valuable lessons along the way. Take the ‘five day challenge’ and it’s fair to say the results help focus the mind. You won’t be transformed into an eco-driving champion overnight, but you will appreciate that gentle acceleration and braking can make a world of difference on the daily commute. As far as family hatchbacks go, Fiat’s Bravo is a solid, rounded offering.
That pretty much sums up the car’s looks, which certainly make a pleasant change from the edgy, aggressive appearance of some rivals. Easy to live with and with decent cabin and boot space, the Bravo copes admirably with whatever you throw at it. It certainly doesn’t disappoint.