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Fiat Bravo 1.9 150bhp Emotion Car Review | February 15, 2007

Driven February 2007

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Also, the steering wheel is offset, its right-hand edge further away than the left, and the seat base is too flat. You are perched on it, with only about two per cent of your buttock circumference in contact with the seat, your thighs in mid-air, unsupported. The steering wheel is well trimmed and attractive, but it was the only aspect of the driving position I really connected with.

We drove a 150bhp diesel version on this short spin on the fairly smooth roads near Bolocco. Like most diesels in this class, including the Golf, it's a relatively noisy unit, with plenty of gruff diesel cacophony bellowing into the cockpit.

But it goes well, the common-rail MJET engine pulling strongly from low revs and dishing out plenty of torque. The gearshift is OK, with a long but positive throw. It's a six-speeder on the 16-valve diesel, but you only get five speeds on the 120bhp 8v diesel.

I'm looking forward to driving the petrol-powered versions, especially the 150bhp, 1.4-litre FIRE turbo. This lightweight, efficient engine should suit the Bravo, especially given its responsive chassis - torsional stiffness is improved by 50 per cent over the outgoing Stilo, and you can feel it as soon as you move off.

The ride is good, and it seems Fiat has spent a lot of time and money on tuning the dampers. We'll wait to pass final judgement on the car's dynamics once we've driven it a long way on British roads, side-by-side with its competitors, but first impressions are of a first-rate ride/handling compromise. Here is the most obvious improvement over 'the previous segment C Fiat model'.

The electric power steering isn't bad, either - light, positive and direct, and like the Punto, it has a 'City' mode, which lightens it significantly for easier low-speed manoeuvring. The car isn't particularly easy to see out of, with its fat A- and C-pillars, but the sacrifice has been made for styling and it's probably a good call. Interior space seems only adequate.

The new Bravo took a scant 18 months to develop from scratch, which must be some sort of record for such an important mainstream car. You might wonder whether this is too short, but I think it's a positive sign - the designers and engineers were probably working at maximum efficiency, with minimum interference from middle management and focus-group obsessed marketing heads.

The use of state-of-the-art computer design meant that a lot of the dynamic testing was done virtually, and prototypes were only built at the end of the programme.

Overall, it's likely Fiat has got the package just about right, and it's likely that this car will help accelerate the company's excellent performance in Europe. There are shortcomings, but the bottom line is that if you like the looks, you won't be disappointed by the driving experience.

If Fiat can shake off its low-rent image in the UK, build it well and price it competitively - that is, make it obviously cheap to buy - the new Stilo will be a big hit. Sorry, Bravo. I meant Bravo.

Bill Thomas

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