What do you want your family hatchback to be? Good value? Well equipped? Great looking? Economical? Versatile? In truth, Fiat’s Bravo ticks many of these boxes, so why is it so overlooked by buyers and pundits alike?
Perhaps it’s a badge snobbery thing. Either way, Fiat is attempting to breathe new life into the Bravo with the MyLife makeover previously introduced on the Panda and Punto.
Car buyers these days are a canny bunch, well attuned to the achievements and culture of various car companies. They bring with them a level of expectation which the manufacturers attempt to exceed.
Fiat buyers have come to expect a bit of personality, some occasional build flakiness and a fun drive but the Bravo has never quite conformed to the archetype. It’s not up and in your face and it’s built like a rock.
In making the Bravo more mainstream and a little more buttoned-down, had Fiat rather lost its spark? There weren’t any obvious danger signs. With its practical considerations firmly grounded, the Bravo didn’t make you suffer for choosing a sharp Italian suit. Trouble was, sales remained stubbornly earthbound, too.
The good news for potential customers is that slow sales usually lead to some kind of incentivisation programme and, in Fiat’s case, it’s called MyLife. There’s nothing particularly original about this: a few styling and trim licks look all the more attractive when you can throw in a bundle of extra kit and keep the pricing keen. Applied to something of a ‘sleeper’ like the Bravo, the package seems all the more tempting.
None of the MyLife extras can disguise the fact that this isn’t the sharpest handling car in its sector, but it’s close enough to the class leaders for most potential buyers not to notice – or indeed to care.
They’ll probably be more bothered about the fact that the interior feels very well built. Bright finish plastics lift the cabin and the controls are easy to figure out without recourse to the manual. It all looks agreeably Italianate as well.
Fiat has really got the hang of the whole soft-touch dashboard moulding in recent years and the new Bravo’s supple, textured finish wouldn’t look out of place in an Audi.
Fiat is arguably being a little mean by restricting the MyLife spec to just the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel engine with 105bhp, though this strikes a good compromise between driveability, performance and economy, though all the engines come with Fiat’s Start & Stop system.
Fiat’s Dualdrive electrical steering assistance is fitted, which lightens the steering around town and at parking speeds by pressing a button on the dashboard. A bit more feel at higher driving speeds would be welcome however.
It’s easy to forgive the Bravo any minor shortcomings when you walk round the car, taking in its beautifully integrated detailing and elegant proportions and the MyLife cosmetic tweaks serve only to enhance the good looks. They include a glossy black finish for the upper and lower grilles, B-pillars and fog light framings, plus new 16-inch two-tone wheels and chromed door handles and grille borders. It all looks very smart.
There are also two body colours available, Distinct Grey and Superb Red. Though this isn’t the largest car in the class, there’s a decent amount of luggage space in that curved rump.
Aside from the added value MyLife brings to the party, the big draw for family buyers is undoubtedly the amount of safety gear Fiat has packed into the new Bravo. Winner of a coveted five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, the Bravo score a very impressive total of 33 points on the NCAP scale.
The Bravo is the product of over 60 crash tests, 15,000 hours of computer simulations, 150 simulations with a crash sled and more than 100 crash tests on components and subsystems.