Smooth, powerful diesels but a disappointing performance on the road
Style and comfort are priorities, but visibility and quality could be better
A five-star crash test score is good, but stability control costs extra on most models
The cabin may look good, but reliability isn't Fiat's strong suit
Tight kneeroom, but a large boot for your luggage
Most of the models are well kitted out, only base model misses out on air-con
The Bravo can't match the agility of the best small family cars because its light steering has an artificial feel and the car leans a lot in corners. The ride is jittery, too. It is, however, a fairly quiet car: road noise is well suppressed and wind noise is far from intrusive. Engine noise fades into the background at a steady cruise.
The 1.4-litre Multiair engine is best for petrol fans; the 89bhp 1.4 is rather gutless by comparison. However, all three turbodiesels on offer are pretty good: there's a 1.6-litre that comes as a 118bhp automatic or as a 105bhp, low-CO2 manual, and there's a 163bhp 2.0-litre as well.
Many of the panels in the Bravo's cabin don't line up accurately, and the hard, shiny plastics in lower areas feel decidedly cheap. What's more, some of the switchgear is confusingly arranged and the Bravo's rear body styling severely compromises rear visibility.
There's lots of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel, so it's easy enough to get comfortable. There's plenty of headroom throughout the cabin, but rear kneeroom is tight compared with the class leaders. Luggage space is much more generous, as the boot is quite deep, but the rear wheel arches take up valuable space and you have to lift your stuff over a high load lip.
Entry-level Active models include air-con and front electric windows, while Mylife trim (available only with the 105bhp diesel) brings some extra style and technology. Dynamic trim adds climate control, Bluetooth and steering-wheel mounted controls, while Sport brings sporty design touches.
Fiat doesn't usually perform too well in our reliability surveys, and it featured near the bottom of the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey. Its safety rating is rather better, however; the Bravo was awarded a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests and comes with twin front, side and curtain airbags, although you have to pay extra for stability control on most models. Deadlocks, marked parts and an integrated stereo make life difficult for thieves.
The Bravo is competitively priced and big dealer discounts make it cheaper still. Insurance premiums, tax rates and fuel bills are all fairly affordable, too, but this has to be weighed against poor resale values and the Bravo's other shortcomings.