Fiat Bravo 1.9

With a combination of good looks, impressive pace and well-furnished cabin, the 500 is a sure-fire hit.

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Fiat is back to what it does best - making small cars that will sell. The 500 is a sure-fire winner, and while its big brother Bravo can't match the city star for character, it shouldn't be dismissed. Ford's Focus and Honda's Civic offer a better driving experience, but if you want something distinctive, the Bravo could well fit the bill.

It's the 500 that's grabbing the headlines this week, but another new Fiat has just arrived in the UK. After a six-year absence from our showrooms, the Bravo is back.

The latest model from the Italian firm was created in only 18 months, thanks to cutting-edge computer-aided design and engineering, and it has already been awarded a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.

There's no denying it looks good - the front end takes the best bits from the smaller Grande Punto. The rising waistline and sloping roof give the Bravo a sporty profile, while the rear is neat and unfussy.

The cabin is a revelation for Fiat, with excellent fit and finish. But you will find a few areas where the plastics feel average. The boot lip is a bit on the high side, too; it leaves a narrow opening, so filling the large load area is a tricky process. Rear passengers also have limited legroom.

In the UK, the five-door-only model gets a choice of five engines, including a new turbocharged 1.4-litre T-Jet petrol with 150bhp. But the biggest-seller is set to be the 1.9-litre Multijet diesel powerplant, which is available in 120bhp or 150bhp guises.

We drove the range-topping oil-burner, and it's certainly got plenty of pace, sprinting from 0-60mph in nine seconds. But it's the 305Nm of torque that's most impressive, as it gives the Bravo punchy in-gear performance. The ride is slightly firm, and can be a little crashy over rough road surfaces, yet it's supple enough to ensure motorway journeys are smooth and comfortable.

Our £15,195 Dynamic model is well equipped, with 16-inch alloys, curtain airbags and climate control as standard. And overall, the Bravo is a stylish alter-native to more conservative rivals.

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