The all ‘NEW’ Fiat Bravo
After a number of years of severe financial difficulties, Fiat have bounced back with what most observers consider to be one of the most important cars ever for the Turin based company. The very future of Fiat may depend on the worldwide success of this car.
Think about music without Puccini, Rossini, Vivaldi, or Verdi or a book of art without the masterpieces in sculpture, architecture and paintings by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, and Raffaello. Consider the great navigators such as Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci who gave his name to the new world we now know as America. All of these were Italian giants that affected our lives.
Bringing things up to date, think about the car industry without Fiat, well that’s very nearly what happened as the ailing car company lost millions of Euro’s in the early 2000’s.
Like the great Italian’s of the past, the world would be a duller place, a less exciting place and frankly not such a nice place without some of the worlds most iconic cars which Fiat and its other brands of Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Masterati and of course Ferrari have produced over the years.
It was the Fiat Stilo that almost single handedly bankrupted Fiat with its poor sales. The Stilo was originally conceived as Fiats attempt to build a car to take on the VW Golf, but they very soon realised when the public ignored the Stilo, that building Golf’s is best left to the Germans whilst building beautifully styled cars with flair and charisma was much more suited to the Italians.
The car was dull and boring. It lacked charm, charisma and couldn’t compete with the Golf and Ford Focus even when it was just parked, let alone when you got in it to drive the thing.
Needing a Stilo replacement quickly the new Bravo was conceived and developed in just 18 months. Designed by Frank Stephenson (recently at Ferrari and Maserati, previously at BMW), the car was designed to excite and inspire you and indeed it is indeed a pretty car and parked side by side with a current Focus, it made the Focus look even more dull than it actually is.
This said, nothing survives on looks alone and the new car has got some very stiff opposition in its sector from cars like Astra, Megane, Focus, 307, C4 etc, which are all good cars, so the new Fiat really needs to step up to the plate here.
We tested the Bravo Dynamic with the 1.9 150bhp engine and 6spd box.
Externally, the new Bravo shares a strong family resemblance to the very pretty Grande Punto (a car we like a lot), but we don’t think probably because of its size, it’s as charming or has the charisma of the Grande Punto.
The Bravo has a smooth and simple contemporary design which Fiat describes as a 5 door coupe. Despite the styling restrictions all manufacturers are now subject to in an effort to comply with pedestrian protection legislation, Fiat have produced what some have called “arguably the best looking car in its class” and whilst we are not sure about that claim, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is indeed a good looking car.
Fiat says the Bravo is the highest-quality mainstream car they have ever made and indeed, the paintwork and panel fit are excellent, and the whole car seems well assembled. As we said earlier, this is an important car for Fiat and you can tell that by the efforts they have made to get it right straight out of the box.
To be successful however, the new Bravo needs to appeal to a bigger market place and it needs to steal business from its major competitors and the question has to be, is this the car to do that job for Fiat?
Well on paper, it’s got everything going for it, a five engine line up with 3 petrol engines and two diesel options with power outputs up to 150ps. Everything other than the lower power diesel, has a 6 speed gearbox. It’s a decent size 5 door hatch with an estate version due in 2010. Even at lead-in level, the Active model has a good quality specification with Air Conditioning, Electric Mirrors, CD Player, Remote Central Locking, Foglights etc.
The finish of the interior is good, and parts of it are quite plush. The upper part of the dash is padded in a strange ‘carbon-fibre’ looking material which was actually quite nice, but the upper door casings on our car were as hard as Mike Tyson and didn’t give a quality feel at all, although they were not unpleasant to look at. There is also a fair amount of hard plastic in the areas you don’t obviously notice (but then I suppose most cars are like that). All in all, the cockpit is much better than Fiat have ever served up in the past and gives easy access to all the controls, switchgear and stalks, which were easy to use, worked well and had a precise & quality feel about them.
The instrumentation is attractive with chrome bezels, again adding to that quality feel, but why oh why do foreign manufacturers fail to show 30mph – 50mph and 70mph on the speedometer. These are our main UK speed limits and all Fiat give us is a dot at all of those speeds. It’s a MPH speedo, so why on earth don’t they research their market place?
The boot was big enough for most things you are going to want to put in it and of course the seats fold down for larger items and there is some storage under the boot floor as well (where the spare wheel would have been) however the sill is very high as is the distance between the sill height and boot floor and although for everyday use, its fine, when you do want to carry something large or heavy, it might be awkward to do.
Our test car was the Bravo Dynamic with the 1.9 150bhp engine and 6spd box.
Generally, we found the seats are comfortable enough, all though not very supportive at the sides and we all felt we sat up quite high in the car and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The steering adjusts in and out, but as a 6 footer, I found the column was always touching my left leg as did the controls for the cruise control if I moved around too much. We were not in love with the steering itself, we thought it was very light and it didn’t appear to want to self centre on many occasions. The 6 speed gearbox is nice to have and worked well.
Our car had the Blue & Me Bluetooth system, which is superb, and accommodates Bluetooth mobile phones, and MP3, WAV or WMA digital players. Blue & Me easily connected to my Nokia N95 and produced good quality communications from both ends of the call (I am told). You do however (as it’s a voice activated system) have to be careful what you say to the system or you can easily redial a previous number and despite trying my best BBC English, on a number of occasions I had to try several times to get the lady hidden in the dashboard to understand the number I wished to dial, resulting in my swearing at her and her not understanding even the most simple abuse.
Another nice feature of the Blue & Me system is the ability to upload your entire phones address book to the car to the car and store them in the cars memory, which would then allow you to make a call, just by saying the person’s name. Not having the car for long, we didn’t try that, but all in all, despite the little niggles, this is a fantastic system and well done to Fiat for fitting it in the Bravo.
On the road, the car is quiet and comfortable, the driving position was good and the new Bravo does everything most of us can ask for in a car. The Bravo does what its told and corners well and brakes well and is all pretty relaxed to drive, although because of its coupe like stance, we found rear three quarter visibility to be very poor, however the Bravo has super big door mirrors which overcome most of this.
We thought the 150ps engine was plenty powerful, making the 0-62mph run in 9 seconds, although we felt it was a tad agricultural in the way it sounded, more ‘Proclaimers’ than ‘Pavarotti’. Fuel consumption was good for such a powerful diesel and despite driving the car in a testing fashion; we felt the 50.4mpg combined average figure claimed by Fiat would be well attainable.
The Bravo has electronic power steering and we don’t like this innovation (although it’s the norm on many new cars now days). We found it was too light for our liking and had reluctance to self centre on a number of occasions. We didn’t feel there was much in the way of a true feeling of the road. Don’t consider this a failure of the Fiat, for as we said, so many manufacturers now choose these electric systems and we feel, in normal use, you probably won’t notice that too much.
We didn’t have the car long enough to find if it’s reliable or not (although nothing went wrong in the time we had it) and indeed in the past, Fiats reputation for reliability hasn’t been the best, but the reality is, that Fiat now make a very good car which can hold its head high against most of its competitors. The Fiats we run on our leasing fleet here at BVL have shown super reliability and we are happy to recommend the new Bravo on that basis.
In terms of safety, the new Bravo has achieved a 5 Star NCAP rating and you don’t get much better than that and indeed the Bravo is loaded with every kind of safety device there is, including drivers & passengers airbags, head protecting window airbags, and side airbags in the seat backs. The car has a fire protection system, its got ABS, electronic stability program, electronic brake force distribution, ASR/MSR anti skid system, hill holder (for secure uphill starts) and something called HBA which gives enhanced braking performance in an emergency.
Price wise, the new Fiat Bravo starts at around £11,000 going up to £15,500 for the range topping 1.9 Sport Multijet, so this isn’t an expensive car and you get an awful lot for your money.
Whilst the new Fiat Bravo isn’t a Micheal Angelo, its no Tracy Emin either, it is however a good looking car that you can use on a daily basis and enjoy doing do. The Bravo gives you just a touch of the Italian spirit embodied in the great Italian cars and unlike may of today’s offerings, the Bravo is a car you might turn back and look at just one more time as you walk away after parking it.
For a Leasing quotation on the New Fiat Bravo or any other Fiat, please contact us.