Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Stylish Fiat Bravo

The wait for the new Fiat Bravo is almost over. Fiat has revived the 'Bravo' name for its new five-door replacement for the Stilo - the firm's ill-fated attempt to make an Italian Golf. The Bravo looks more elegant than the lumpy Stilo, with its front end similar to the pretty Grande Punto's. The short bonnet, rounded corners and wedged waistline look very contemporary, and are designed to disguise the distortions forced on new cars by pedestrian protection legislation. Inside, there is more padding than usual in a mid-range Fiat plus some rich-feeling materials. Fiat claims class-leading interior space, partly the result of similarly class-beating overall length; the Bravo is quite a hefty car. Engines now available are a 90bhp, 1.4 16v, two turbocharged 1.4 16v T-Jets (120bhp and 150bhp) and a series of diesels: the 1.9 16v MultiJet 150 and 1.6 16v Multijet 120 and 105 models. The Multijet 105 comes with an optional Eco pack to reduce consumption and bring emissions into the Band B tax category. Under the shapely skin lies a development of the Stilo platform, which was described at the time as a kind of modular, semi-spaceframe construction. Fiat makes no such technical claims this time, but is proud of the fact that the Bravo went from concept-freeze to production in just 18 months - a new record. According to Fiat, Bravo is the highest-quality mainstream car it has ever made. Certainly its structure feels very stiff (much stiffer than the Stilo's) and the interior finish is quite lush, with a padded dashboard and upper door casings, a padded cloth headlining, plus a metallic gloss black console panel and leather accessories on top models. To mention some drawbacks, the windscreen pillars lack the headlining's cloth finish, though, and there's plenty of hard plastic below the hip-level 'Plimsoll line' where many buyers don't really look closely. As for reliability, the Stilo was pretty dubious, though its glitches should not have been carried over to this new model. We can't help but be suspicious, however, as Fiat's reputation for build quality - and customer service at its dealerships - is still poor, despite recent efforts to improve the standards of both its production output and its after sales support. Top Bravo models have plenty of electronics, so fingers crossed. On the move, the Fiat Bravo's electric power steering is precise enough and has about the right amount of weight to make it feel natural most of the time, but there's very little in the way of a true feel of the road. The paintwork and panel fit are excellent, and the whole car seems well assembled. The attention to detail is not great, however, with some sharp-edged plastics and the odd squeak, rattle or intruding wind noise in our test cars. As for handling, this is an obedient car but hardly one to thrill its driver. There's plenty of grip, so the nose doesn't drift wide prematurely, and if you take a bend quickly and back off the tail will edge out just a little to help you around a tightening corner without drama. But you really have to unsettle the Bravo even to begin feeling such a reaction. The Bravo has 150bhp 1.9-litre diesel with its 225lb-ft of torque available at a low 2,000rpm. It pulls with muscular gusto and reaches 62mph in 9.0 seconds, finally reaching its top speed of 130mph. It's quite noisy when revved, and there are sweeter-sounding diesels, but the best way to drive it is to use all that low-end torque and roll along in stress-free, long-legged fashion. Click here to find more on Fiat Bravo Pictures.

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