The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.1
The Fiat Bravo is cheap to buy and run plus it’s great to look at. There are some great engines too, but depreciation is heavy and it’s dynamically mediocre.
Reasons to buy
- Looks great
- Cheap to buy and run
- Excellent diesel engines
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
You’ll struggle to find a small hatchback that looks as good as the Fiat Bravo. With a nose that echoes some sportscars of the 1960s, the Bravo’s exterior design is a real high point. In profile the Bravo is perfectly proportioned too, while the rising waistline gives it a dynamic energy that’s lacking in many of its rivals. Thankfully the momentum is maintained right to the end as well, as the rear design works brilliantly too, with distinctive rear lights and neat proportions. The Bravo is available with five doors only and sits somewhere between the Ford Fiesta and Focus or Renault Clio and Megane.
What's the interior like?
After such a superb exterior design, the Bravo’s interior is a little bit of a let-down. It’s a bit ordinary, as it doesn’t have the wow factor of the bodywork. Despite the so-so design, the Bravo’s cabin works well aside from some scattered switchgear. All cars come with a height-adjustable driver’s seat along with a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and height, so getting comfortable isn’t difficult. Rear visibility is more of a problem thanks to the tapered roof line, relatively narrow rear window and thick pillars. However, many modern superminis suffer from the same issues.
How practical is it?
A 60/40-split folding rear seat is standard on all models and there’s a deep boot. The result is a decent load bay with the seats in place – 400 litres can be stowed. But tip the seats forward and this jumps to 1,175 litres, although access is restricted by a high loading lip. Compare that with the Ford Fiesta and you’ve got just 295 litres with the seats in place or 979 litres with them folded. Equivalent figures for the Renault Clio are 288 and 1038 litres.
What's it like to drive?
This is one of the areas where the Bravo lags behind rivals such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. The suspension doesn’t cope very well with badly surfaced roads, suggesting that everything is set up too stiffly. However, stiff suspension usually leads to better handling, at the expense of ride comfort. Not here though, as the Bravo doesn’t handle very well either. There’s too much body roll in corners and the car doesn’t feel at all agile when being threaded through bends. Rivals do the job so much better.
How powerful is it?
There are two petrol engines available and two diesels, one of which comes with a choice of power outputs. Opt for petrol and it’s a 1.4-litre unit with or without a turbocharger, giving a choice of 90bhp or 120bhp, along with top speeds of 111mph or 122mph and 0-62mph times of 12.5 or 9.6 seconds. It’s the diesels that make most sense though, as they’re clean, economical, powerful and pull very well. Kicking things off is a 1.6-litre unit in 105bhp or 120bhp forms, offering 116mph and 121mph respectively, along with 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds or 10.5 seconds. The alternative – and most costly of the lot – is the 2.0 Multijet diesel unit. Rated at 165bhp, it also packs 265lb/ft of pulling power, which is enough to provide a 130mph top speed and 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds.
How much will it cost me?
Unsurprisingly, while the diesel engines cost more to buy, they’re significantly cheaper to run. The 1.4-litre returns 44.8mpg whether it’s turbocharged or not, which is why CO2 emissions for each version are pegged at 146g/km. However, the diesels are significantly more economical, as even the 2-litre unit can manage 53.3mpg along with CO2 emissions of 139g/km. Choose the smaller engine though and fuel consumption is cut to 62.8mpg for the 105bhp option and 61.4mpg for the 120bhp unit, with CO2 emissions of 119g/km and 120g/km respectively.
How reliable is it?
This is where Fiat hasn’t done so well traditionally, although things have improved a lot in recent years. The Bravo isn’t as well built or as dependable as many key rivals, and Fiat’s dealer network doesn’t have a great reputation for looking after its customers – but there are some great franchises out there which do go the extra mile to keep the customer satisfied.
How safe is it?
With a five-star Euro NCAP rating, the Bravo has proved that it’s a safe car with a strong structure. Helping it to gain that rating are anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, driver and passenger front airbags plus side and window airbags. More impressively, electronic stability programme is standard across the range – not all cars in this class feature this. A passenger airbag deactivation switch and Isofix mountings complete the safety kit.
How much equipment do I get?
There are three trim levels offered: Active, Dynamic and Sport, although not all of these are offered with each engine. Entry-level cars feature steel wheels, remote central locking, electric windows in the front and air-con, so they’re none too generously equipped. Moving up to Dynamic adds 16-inch alloy wheels, lumbar support for the driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone hands-free plus the option of a semi-automatic gearbox. Range-topping Sport trim, not offered with the 1.6-litre diesel engine, adds 17-inch alloys, sportier interior and exterior detailing and cruise control, although bizarrely, the climate control reverts to mere air-con.
When it comes to refined, great-looking small family cars, the Fiat Bravo scores well. Throw in low purchase costs and it looks even more enticing.