Innovative designs, and better built than one expected from Fiat.
Prior to the inexorable rise of the crossover, the C-segment hatchback was the bedrock of the European automotive market. Every mainstream automaker knew the vital importance of success in this class, the champion of which was the VW Golf. The Volkswagen Group prospered on the enduring success of this car, while other manufacturers strived to match its qualities and capture its appeal in their own offerings. Some slavishly tried to build near-replicas(1) of the German car, an effort lampooned by Volkswagen in its witty and memorable 2009 ‘Just Like a Golf’ television advertisement(2).
The success of the Golf was, however, something of a double-edged sword for its maker. So concerned was Volkswagen not to inadvertently kill the golden goose that it allowed the Golf to evolve only in cautious, iterative steps from one generation to the next. This was, of course, exactly what the market wanted, to the extent that the well-recorded deficiencies of the Mk3 model caused only the mildest of dents in the car’s reputation.
Fiat, by contrast, had been wildly inconsistent in its C-segment offerings following the demise of the highly successful 128. That car’s replacement, the Ritmo(3) was a modernistic looking three and five-door hatchback, but its soft suspension and cosseting ride were much more French than Italianate in character. The Ritmo was in turn replaced by the Tipo, a classic piece of industrial design that majored on space and practicality but looked too much like a domestic appliance(4) for some tastes.
When the time came to design a replacement for the Tipo, Chris Bangle was senior designer at Centro Stile Fiat under the leadership of Design Director, Ermanno Cressoni. Bangle had joined Fiat from Opel in 1985 and had been associated with some striking and distinctive designs such as the Fiat Coupé, Fiat Barchetta roadster and Alfa Romeo 145.
These designs were evidence of the degree of creative freedom enjoyed by Centro Stile at that time. Pete Davis, another American and fellow alumnus of Bangle’s at the Art Centre in Pasadena, California, had followed Bangle from Opel to Fiat. When Bangle moved on to BMW in 1992, Davis replaced him and was keen to maintain Bangle’s non-conformist legacy in the design of the new model.
A major innovation for Fiat’s new C-segment challenger was that the three and five-door versions would have radically different bodywork which would share nothing from the A-pillars rearward. They were even credited to different designers, the three-door to Peter Fassbender, the five-door to Mauro Basso. Coincidentally(5), Renault was designing its first Megane, the C-segment replacement for the 19, at around the same time and alighted on exactly the same innovation. That said, the silhouettes of the two Renault variants are quite similar, whereas the Fiat designs are entirely different, with the three-door, called Bravo, having a much more upright tailgate than the five-door Brava.
The styling of the Brava and Bravo was smoothly rounded and organic, as was very much the fashion in the 1990s. Instead of a formal front grille, both shared a pair of body-coloured ‘nostrils’ separated by the simple five-bar Fiat logo, albeit in much reduced form than on earlier Fiat models. The main engine air intake was located lower down in the front valance. Explaining the lack of a grille, Davis stated that “I don’t think Fiat should have a face. It doesn’t have to be dependent on front-end graphics for distinctiveness, unlike a BMW or a Merc.” Instead, “it has to have simplicity, essentialness…and controlled decoration.”
Davis was particularly pleased with the A-pillar to front wing junction. He described this as giving the A-pillar “a lot of strength, a root” and placed great importance on getting this detail right, stating: “You have to work this out first – and when you’ve done it, the rest is easy.” In holistic terms, Davis described the designs as “very sculptured.”
It was at the rear of both variants where their sculptural qualities were most in evidence. The rear three-quarter panel, including the C-pillars and roof rails, wrapped around the rear of the car and continued unusually far inboard to abut the edges of the tailgate. On the Brava, this panel was pierced with three separate horizontal slots to accommodate the rear light assembly. On the Bravo, a single-piece lens housed abutting circular units for the rear lights, giving the impression that they were separate units. In both cases, the rear quarter panel assembly looked complex and expensive to produce.
Inside, both variants shared the same curvaceous dashboard moulding. An interesting distinction, however, was that the Brava was fitted with large semi-circular main instruments for speed and engine revolutions, bookended by quadrant-shaped dials for fuel and engine temperature. The Bravo had four conventional circular dials, two large and two small, displaying the same information. Davis explained the reason for the difference was that “the three-door is sportier…so it gets round dials” whereas “with the five-door, we wanted to make the dial graphics as legible as possible for older buyers.” Another innovation was a custom-designed integrated radio / cassette unit rather than the standard single-DIN slot unit that was nearly universal at the time.
If the Brava and Bravo’s exterior styling was highly distinctive, its mechanical layout was entirely conventional, with transverse inline four and five-cylinder petrol engines and four-cylinder diesel engines driving the front wheels. The entry-level model featured a 12-valve 1,370cc petrol engine producing 79bhp (59kW). Above this were 16-valve 1,581cc and 1,747cc units producing 102bhp (76kW) and 111bhp (83kW) respectively. The range-topping petrol unit was a 20-valve five-cylinder 1,998cc unit producing 145bhp (108kW). This was good for a 0 to 62mph (100km/h) time of 8.5 seconds and a maximum speed of 132mph (213km/h). The diesel engines were 1,929cc or 1,910cc units in normally aspirated or turbocharged form producing between 64 and 99bhp (48 and 74kW).
The cars stood on a shared 2,540mm (100”) wheelbase. The Brava was 4,190mm (165”) long, while the Bravo was a substantial 170mm (6¾”) shorter at 4,020mm (158¼”). Suspension was also the segment norm: MacPherson struts at the front and a beam rear axle with trailing arms and coil springs at the rear. There were different suspension set-ups for the Brava and Bravo. The former was tuned more for ride comfort, while the latter was tuned for sharper handling.
The Brava and Bravo were launched in September 1995 and went on to win the European Car of the Year award in 1996, a second consecutive victory for Fiat, following the Punto’s win in 1995.
Car Magazine’s Richard Bremner tested the Brava and Bravo at launch and his findings were published in the October 1995 issue of the magazine. A flavour of what was to come was revealed in the review’s title, “Now that’s more like it!” Bremner went on to describe the new pairing as “funky and fun” with “that kind of fizzing Latin brio by the bucketful.” He explained the difference in the target demographic: the Bravo was “sportier because it’s aimed at the keener, more youthful driver” while the Brava was “more family-orientated and a little softer.”
The different bodystyles advertised the difference in focus but had practical benefits too. According to Bruno Cena, Fiat’s head of engineering, the Bravo was 20% stiffer than the Brava and, with less mass behind the rear wheels, wieldier to drive. The cars were no lightweights, however: Cena claimed that they were “twice as rigid as the [Mk3] VW Golf – and two and a half times as stiff as the old Tipo.” He explained that quality, refinement, robustness and durability were Fiat’s priorities in developing the new cars. Bremner found ample evidence of this, including the way the doors closed with “a pleasingly muffled crump” and the switchgear’s “satin precision comparable to Honda’s.”
Bremner’s first test car was a 1.6-litre Bravo. His initial impressions were positive: “the clutch feels light, the gearlever slides home swiftly and easily” and bumps on an unmade road were “absorbed with greater ease than expected.” Driven energetically, the Bravo “feels so agile and composed” and “fights understeer with a zeal that soon has you increasing your speed.” The brakes were “light but progressive and feel reassuringly firm underfoot” while the car had “the best [gear] shift of any family Fiat in years and the other controls have the sensitivity of the finest Europeans.”
The five-door 1.8-litre Brava felt “a shade less agile” but “we’re talking degrees here.” Both cars were happily free of extraneous noises. Fiat CEO Paolo Cantarella allegedly said to the engineer responsible for NVH, “If this car squeaks and rattles, I’m going to physically harm you.” Bremner concluded that the engineer should have remained unbruised and the Brava and Bravo “don’t represent a great leap forward in the development of the motor car, but they do leap ahead of their class.”
Reputations and perceptions in the motor industry, good or bad, are enormously difficult to change and, for all its qualities, the Bravo / Brava, although a strong seller and pretty reliable in service, never came remotely close to displacing the Golf as the market leader. It remained on sale in Europe(6) until 2001 when it was replaced by the mediocre Stilo, which was a real backward step for Fiat and a deserved failure.
(1) The 1986 Nissan Sunny N13 (sold elsewhere as the Pulsar) was one such pretender to the Golf’s throne, a blatant copy of its stance and proportions, with its broad C-pillars and upright tailgate.
(2) The TV advertisement may be viewed here.
(3) Sold as the Strada in the UK because FIAT was concerned that Ritmo wouldn’t appeal to British ears.
(4) It is unusual for a designer to criticise their predecessors’ work, but Pete Davis said that the Tipo “looked like a refrigerator.”
(5) Unless anybody has evidence to the contrary.
(6) And in Brazil until 2003.
44 thoughts on “Fortune Doesn’t Always Favour the Brave”
If I remember correctly the barchetta was credited to Andreas Zapatinas and the Alfa 145 at least had a styling cue in form of an Ermanno Cresson itch that had to wait a long time to be scratched with the kink in the lower line of the front door windows. Cressoni himself said that he wanted this detail already for the Cinquecento but it would have been to expensive for that car so it had to wait until the poor 145 (which initially was meant to become a Lancia anyway).
The bravo/a’s engine lineup was strange. There was the 12V FIRE derivative, the 1,600 cc was the last incarnation of the venerable old Lampredi four, the 1,800 and five cylinder versions were from the modulare family.
During its first year on sales the Bravo/a got very favourable ratings and even won one or other comparison test against the Golf. But then somwhow Fiat lost the plot or like a Fiat bigwig said at the Stilo’s presentation ‘the Bravo/a was competitive for about a year’.
They made a big fuss about this car when Fiat showed it. We´re back in 1995 with this one and compared to the Golf, Astra and Escort it must have seemed more fun. The appearance had a strong character without being wierd. I think the dash layout had a lot going for it. The rear lamps deserve a little gold medal being so hard to install and so unusual. What went wrong? More than anything it was the dealers. We keep looking at the cars – a car this nice with a good dealer network of good dealers (rather than a patchy network of thieves, amateurs and aged mechanics) would have meant little work was needed for five years. Fiat & Co never got to grips with the dealer problem. Fiat as a general purpose company was doomed when they failed three cars in a row to capture a good chunk of the C-class market (Tipo, Bravo, Stilo).
During its first year on the market the Brave were considered as kind of a secret tip for a car as good as a golf for less money with much more attractive looks. I know a couple of people who bought them but gave up very quickly because of the dealers. Cars needing an extra dose of attention by dealers and completely indept dealers don’t work together. Dealers increasingly became Fiat’s biggest problem (my wife had a Punto Mk1 at that time and when the car was a year old it developed a problem with a cracked screen washer bottle – a typical Punto problem that was supposed to be fixed under warranty. The guys from the workshop asked her what she’d expect from such an old nail and that she should throw it away).
One thing that didn’t help the Brave was that their extra weight had gone into making them extraordinarily stiff torsionally but providing no extra crash safety which was still on the level of a sheet of wet toilet paper.
The cars were heavy and had engines that were happy to rev but unwilling to pull. The 1.4 had to be thrashed to make progress, the Lampredi based 1.6 was unimpressive and the modulare 1.8 was denied the features of the barchetta or Lybra and without variable cam timing it had less power and was generally unimpressive. Only the late common rail diesels made sense as everyday engines which is (was) not what you’d expect from an Italian car.
Does anyone know why it took so long to add front passenger airbags?
12V FIRE engine? Do you mean the 1.2 litre 16V FIRE?
This would have probably passed me by had I not had the use of a Brava with that engine when my constantly troublesome company A3 was in the dealership for a two week rest.
The Brava / 16V FIRE was a better combination than expected, with willing and zippy acceleration at town speeds, and more serenity at motorway speeds than the Audi’s 20 valve 1.8.
There had to be an annoyance factor, and it was sporadic failure to idle. Always cured by the IT Support nostrum-turn it off and switch it back on.
It took me a bit of research to establish that the 1370cc 12V engine is not a FIRE, but the smallest of the Pratola Serra modulare family, and its only applications were the Brava/Bravo/ Marea and a few White Hens. I’m sure Fiat had good reasons to introduce such an engine – possibly exchange rates did not favour Brazilian imports, or the success of the Punto restricted supplies of FIRE units.
I’m sure there’s something in the Fiat Charter about bizarre and sometimes regressive engine choices; remember the old pushrod 100 engine returning to the Panda and Uno because they couldn’t make enough FIRE engines.
The Brave (as Setright described them) managed to avoid the Charter clause on facelifts; the 1999 makeover was so tame that hardly anyone noticed.
Not so the clause on grossly over-predicting production numbers. Most UK Brave started life as courtesy cars or on daily hire fleets before going to big dealer chains to sell at vastly less than their Ford and Vauxhall equivalents. Good deals were to be had if you accepted their idiosyncrasies and limitations, and enjoyed driving something a bit different.
Fiat seems to have had money to waste.
They made a 1.4 12V modulare for the Brave and a 16V 1.4 modulare for Alfa 145/6.
One of Fiat’s problems at that time was that their engines couldn’t keep up with the weight gain of the cars.
VW continuously grew their old EA827 nail in sync with the heavier and bigger cars with versions like the 1.8 ‘long conrod’ version.
Fiat had the small Lampredi from the 128 which was too small. They had the big Lampredi which was a heavy lump of an engine and physically quite large.
The modulares weren’t really meant to be 1.4 or 1.6 engines, their main target was the 1.8 and 2.0 fours and the five pots.
The increasingly important power range from 9o 1o 120 PS was served by compromised engines. And then Fiat wasted lots of money for adapting the Tipo floorpan for the Alfa boxers in the 145/146 only to find out that these engines weren’t really suitable for such heavy cars due to their lack of torque and then they replaced them with modulare twin spark versions.
Nice analysis, Dave. Thanks for that. Wow. What a mess that all was.
From a styling perspective, FIATs of this era represented something of a high watermark in my book. I remember going to the NEC Motorshow (must have been in ’96, or some time around then) and thinking how interesting FIAT’s line up looked. At the base of the range was the Cinquecento (I had my Broom Yellow Sporting at that time), then the Mk1 Punto, Bravo/ Brava, Coupe FIAT, and Barchetta (I think). All very distinctive, colourful, Italian (I’d argue) and with some very nice interiors amongst them.
After that, FIAT seemed to take a nose-dive. Very odd. And look where they are now … Shocking really, but it seems other once-great marques are heading the same way (Ford, anyone?).
Ford´s case is more complicated. I think that like Opel, the public moved away from them as much as any errors made on their part. The last two Foci have not offered anything beyond the acceptably ordinary. That they decided to replace Martin Smith´s fussy and indistinct effort with another similar kind of car (better though it was) was puzzling.
Going to the point about the A-pillar treatment … I can’t see that there is a shut-line between the pillar and the front wing. Does that mean that the wing and pillar are part of a single side panel pressing? That must be a particularly painful potential cost if any of those panels is damaged to the point of needing replacement. It then also makes it disappointing that the crash protection is so poor – surely having a single pressing should make it easier to strengthen the car’s bodywork?
The panel gap between the a-pillar and front wing is where the a-pillar begins to flare at its lower end. You can see in other photos of the car.
I loved these cars (and the whole Fiat group revival) when they were new. In 1996 my sister decided to replace her old 1981 R5 for a new car and I tried she bought a base Brava 1.4 that was priced as the smaller and less powerful 75 bhp Polo 1.6 she finally got.
In the end it was the same old story, every five year old Bravo/a I saw in the streets aged badly, their plastic door handles disintegrating at the sun. The mechanics were reliable, but when you see your pride and joy decaying in front of your eyes you don´t usually buy another car from the same brand.
My sister put 220,000 km in the little Polo without trouble and then she passed it to a friend that scrapped it only a few years ago. I´m not a VW fan at all but…
The Polos from 1995 are still around. The Bravae from the same time are only preserved as misty-eyed memories of a happier time…
One story concerning the modernist Fiat logo used on the Brave.
Paolo Cantarella once told in an interview that one night he drove past the Fiat factory and parts of the illumination of the large FIAT logo on the roof had failed. There was no /F/I/A/T/ but only ////. He liked it so much he decided this had to be the next logo. (we should be glad there was no *@!?)
You could say, the more minimal the logo, the more confident the company. The reintroduction of the wreath logo seemed to presage Fiat’s decline. The Series 2 Panda is 20 years old next year, and was the last Fiat that combined that company’s one-time core values of stylishness and practicality. The series 3 Panda was just a lumpier version and now seems to only be available disfigured with faux by faux add-ons. The 500 is appealing car, but is just a Panda in less useful form, a triumph of admittedly clever marketing. As for the Brava/o’s current successor, the um … Tipo. A Punto replacement and a new Panda are promised, but will they offer anything of substance or just be joining Stellantis’s confusing shared platform catalogue of second division alternatives?
I’ve spannered a Bravo – that’s why my hair went grey so early. There was no beam axle, the rear suspension was pure trailing arm – and if there were problems, Fiat would only sell you a complete assembly, not the individual bearings etc….
I do remember the seats being very comfortable.
When we bought the Lancia Y as a daily driver six years ago, I first thought of buying a Brava. Although I’m more of a 2-door guy, I wanted the Brava rather than the Bravo, just because of the taillights. (As Richard has already pointed out, these deserve their own gold medal).
But we didn’t need such a big car, besides, on the used car market there were only cars in grey/silver outside and black inside. Against a Y in orange with light-coloured Alcantara inside, a bland Brava, even if it had one of the most beautiful rear lights, could only lose.
From the biased point of view of a then 12-year old whose Dad owned a Tipo (following a 127, Panda and Strada!), Fiat seemed on top of the world in 1995. This view was reinforced every three months by Fiat’s “Forza!” magazine, and weekly by Autocar. Cinquecento! Punto! Bravo! Brava! Coupe! Barchetta! Multipla! A seemingly endless stream of exciting and different new cars. And all of those Punto/Bravo based Turin concepts! Having been very happy with the Knightrider-eqsue dash of our Tipo, I now immediately coveted a Brava/o. Those beguiling, expensive rear lights… We ended up with a Marea Weekend, which was good enough for me.
But then the Seicento, Punto Mk II and Stilo came, the five bar logo went, and it all went wrong. We kept the Marea for a long time, and I ended up using it to cart things around Coventry while at uni in the mid 2000s. It never let me down.
Fiat’s fall over the last 25 years has been heartbreaking to watch. I hear good things about the new 500, and hold out hope for forthcoming Panda (whenever it finally turns up), but overall I just think it is such a waste of what was for many decades a hugely exciting, if maddening, company.
Dad still has an Ulysse and a Doblo by the way…
Seen in an historical perspective, and basing my vote on a combination of the objective (influential) and subjective (attractive), I’d judge Fiat to be the great European manufacturer. So their fall is all the more tragic, especially since so much of it seems entirely self-inflicted.
When Fiat’s fall didn’t happen but was caused iby themselves then what did they do wrong?
Create half baked products and neglecting the dealer network is my two pennies.
I’ve known a couple of good Fiat dealers in the past, but for whatever reason (mean margins, poor factory back-up), they neither encouraged their dealers to feel proud of selling Fiats, nor policed them if they didn’t. And most their 21st Century products were unarguably mediocre.
I suspect internal politics played a large part too. The notorious Fiat Facelift was maybe a visible symptom of this – as if someone making their own mark on a car (whether manager or designer) was more important than creating an attractive product. Or was it always just lack of confidence. Did Fiat long feel an underdog? Certainly in the dark ages, the motoring press never missed their chance to temper a potentially good review with mention of all the Italian manufacturing stereotypes (driving position, rust, poorly built, bad electrics). Some might have been deserved, but the competing products from other countries seemed to get off lighter, and often with no real justification.
Funny, I’d never clocked the N13 Sunny as a Golf allusionist (“clone” would be going too far in my book), I was always more interested in its similarity to the slightly earlier fifth-gen Corolla. Then again I wasn’t of an age to ponder such “esoterics” when these cars were current. Frankly I was focused mainly on the narrow headlights that no European manufacture save Citroën with the BX seemed capable of producing. Ah, simpler times – in my head, anyway.
I rather liked the Corolla in three door form:
I liked the Brava better than the Bravo, it’s sleeker silhouette and-indeed: those taillights! Stylistically, I liked its successor too (the three door this time), never having been one for organic designs. I’ve actually always liked the first Tipo’s (and many early 90’s Italian designs’) “take a classic shape and smooth it over” look. As remarked here in the comments (and earlier on DTW) Fiat’s fall has been baffling and tragic.
The Corolla shown has one line too many down the side. I´d remove the thinner one that comes close to the door lock. I don´t know how the designers saw this as a whole. Did they think the lower groove was also one line? I see it as three. Otherwise, this Corolla is a fine and neat effort.
Agreed. Other than that it seems to continue the line in the taillights where the orange and red parts separate, I cannot see why this line is there. I’ve made a quick and dirty adjustment to delete the line and I think it helps the design:
Hi Tom. Much improved. 👍
I quite liked the Bravae way back then (even if I was keener on the Stilo from a design perspective), but now when I look at the design of the narrow-angle single fold wheel arches it gives a rather unfinished appearance
Hi Patrik. I also really liked the Stilo’s design, but the rest of it was way off the pace and a real backward step for Fiat:
I’d imagine that with that generation of Corolla the designers were concentrating on the four door variants and did the hatchbacks as an afterthought…
I was trying to pin down what the Brava reminds me of and it’s the Mondeo, with its strong, yet rounded shoulder line. It also reminds me a bit of a hippo (apologies). I think they did an amazing job with the panel gaps, though – it looks as if there aren’t any, at first glance.
Re the initial lack of airbags, it’ll be down to cost, I suspect.
I recall the first drive feature of the N13 Sunny in five-door in Car Magazine where the journalist reported that Nissan was making a big fuss about how Golf-like the new model was. His riposte was something like “Yes, but where’s the achievement in that?”
As regards the resemblance to the 1983 Corolla, you’re absolutely right, Tom, and Nissan should have been embarrassed that their attempt to build a Golf challenger looked just like a Toyota launched seven years previously!
Daniel, the good news about the Nissan is at least the fact that it only took seven years to realise that one shouldn’t paint the window frames the same colour as the body. Even if the learning curve is very shallow and long, that should be acknowledged.
To avoid misunderstandings, of course they haven’t learned it, which makes things even worse.
Respectfully, I make it three years (1986 vs. 1983). Doesn’t make it much less embarrassing, I think. On the five door, the similarities are even more pronounced:
At least Nissan deleted the extra line down the side (see above, Richard’s comment), but contrived, as Fred pointed out, to paint the window frames in body colour…
There was a really striking resemblance between the Sunny N14 and the Golf III.
But both cars were launched about the same time (I think the Sunny was a few months sooner).
Our neighbours are perhaps something of a rarity these days: owners of two reasonably modern Fiats – a 2020 500 and a 2012 Tipo estate, I believe. I think there has been at least one Fiat on their drive since their mk1 Punto, including at least one Grande Punto, a 500 that their daughter bought from them, and a Marea Weekend that was a presence for quite a long while. The cars, and dealer, must have been sufficiently good, to remain such loyal customers! (there was an Ibiza estate for a while, but that seemed not to remain for long)
The Marea saloon seems to use rear lighting similar to the Bravo, whereas the Weekend rear lights suggest a cheaper and more practical version of those from the Brava. Internet searches seem to suggest both types of dials may have been used in the Mareas.
The Marea in Brasil was equipped with the taillights of the Lancia Lybra, it’s obvious that this is not an idea created by the original design team.
Hi Markus. That’s an interesting detail regarding the Marea. I couldn’t remember what the original rear end looked like, but here it is:
They also reshaped the boot lid and deleted the distinctive grooves in the top surface. The result looks a bit like the Rover 400/45, although the Lybra tail lights look a bit awkward. Here’s the Rover:
I wonder why the went to all that bother? The Marea’s original tail was hardly repellent.
Hi Markus: cherishably awful. Was there really no a generic square lamps from the Fiat archive?
No other car manufacturer has been lucky enough to win the Golf. It is unwinnable, it stands clear of every other competitors. The average person’s theory to explain this is based on thin air. “The people from the north are much better in manufacturing cars than the south ones. Therefore the norther the better. Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Italy. Better to worse. No Italian car could be better than a German one. So, why bother with a Fiat while you can buy a VW?” The UK cars are expensive and exclusive, it is another market segment. Japanese manufacturers are in the same level as the best Europeans, from the north of course, do not forget the north. Nice stereotypes aplenty.
Psychologie and economic factor. In the 70s when the cars were expensive, people were buying everything that was available. In the great 80s in this country was the Japanese bright spring because of import taxes and economic realities. In the much money years, 90s to 2000s was the German summer that lasted until the debt financial crisis. Everybody wanted to show off their money and professional “success”. We the Italian car admirers didn’t enjoy respect from the society of drivers.
Hi everybody! I drove a 1.6 litre 100hp Brava for many years and km and still think it’s one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. It was reliable, spacious and felt solid, with barely any interior creaks or rattles, even when I parted with it at over 200.000km. It was fun to drive over the delicious mountain roads around where I lived at the time, with safe handling and a revvy, eager engine. Unlike what Dave mentioned above, I didn’t find it particularly lacking in pulling motivation. I seem to remember that in the later years of the Bravo/Brava, Fiat tweaked that engine to provide more torque, so I guess those mods worked well. The little engine could pull the surprisingly long 5th gear (38km/h @ 1000RPM) decently on motorways.
As for the Brava’s styling, I love it for its cleanliness. Just look at the blue one in the third picture and notice how elegantly they hid the tailgate cut lines and how the greenhouse looks so clean because there are no fixed glass panels. One fun fact about the Brava’s aero design is that above 60kph the rain would not touch the rear screen, keeping it clear and dry. As for the interior, my Brava, being a late model, had the round dials on the instrument panel, just like on the Bravo.
Low points of my Brava include having to replace the entire lights/wiper stalks assembly relatively early because it would sporadically kill the lights when changing from high to low beams, scaring the bejesus out of me on dark country roads. The outside door handles and some interior trim disintegrated from the sun, UV, or who knows what. The steering system and heater both developed leaks that were too expensive to fix. In the case of the heater, that meant driving with gloves in winter. Mind you, the leaks happened late in the Brava’s time with me and with lots of km on the dial, so I can’t really be too upset with them.
Hello Cesar, and thanks for sharing your Brava experiences with us. Glad to see someone rated it as a decent car.
Where on earth did you pick up an expression like “scaring the bejesus out of me”? It’s not one I’ve heard for many years, but might soon do so again, now that I’ve returned to the the land of my fathers. 😁
Haha, thanks for the kind words, Daniel. It’s the first time I’ve ever used “Scaring the bejesus” in writing! No idea why I thought of it. Anyway, I wish I could participate more here, but I usually catch a glimpse of DTW during my coffee breaks at work, so no time to write anything. Will start writing from home instead!