Fiat BravoFiat Bravo
Fiat Bravo
THE ITALIANS are famed for their style and up-to-the-minute fashion sense, so this seemed as timely a moment as ever to review a stylish hatchback boasting just 119g/km emissions and 62.8mpg...surely this season's must have accessory.

Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder diesel with Multijet fuel injection

Power: 105bhp and 214lb.ft.

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 11.3 seconds and 116mph

Fuel economy: 62.8mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 119g/km 

Price: £15,150

Rating: ***

Just a brief glance over Fiat's Bravo communicates the origins of its birth.

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This has to be one of the most attractive hatchbacks on the road and with echoes of Maserati and Alfa Romeo oozing from its panels it communicates Italian flair before you've set foot inside. As I'll find out, maybe that's just as well...

What I really appreciate about the 105bhp 1.6-litre Multijet Dynamic Eco we have on test here, though, is that it doesn't make a big show of its green credentials.

Unlike Volkswagen's Bluemotion, SEAT's Ecomotive or Ford's ECOnetic cars, there's no fussy aerodynamic addenda, the tyres aren't ridiculously skinny and there's no silly logo with a leaf, a tree, a cloud or whatever, signifying that its owner has paid through the nose to ensure they don't wear the proverbial carbon rigger boots.

The Eco does bring revised engine mapping, longer gear ratios, low rolling resistance tyres and some aerodynamic changes but they are discreetly applied.

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And, priced at £15,150, the Eco is actually the cheapest Dynamic-spec Bravo in the range, though it does concede 15bhp and 45bhp to its more expensive siblings.

With 214lb.ft. of torque on tap the Multijet diesel engine can still propel the Bravo to 62mph in an impressive 11.3 seconds and on to 116mph.

Prices for the Bravo start at £10,995 for the standard 90bhp 1.4-litre petrol engined car.

Building on the pretty outline of the Grande Punto the Bravo's shape is beautifully resolved.

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Designed in house by the Fiat Styling Centre it's a smooth edged and naturally aerodynamic design.

The low, broad, front end is defined by a slim, almost Maserati-style grill and rakish teartrop headlights.

A rising waistline and broad flanks give a head-down silhouette that finishes off in an uncluttered, attractive rear end.

There are four main specifications of Bravo and the Dynamic sits just above half way up the range. Highlights include: 16 inch alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, cruise control, leather steering wheel and gear lever, excellent voice recognising Blue & Me Bluetooth phone connectivity and a USB port for your MP3 player.

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Cornering fog lamps, Dualdrive electric power steering with super-light 'city' driving option and 'Follow Me Home' headlamps also feature in a comprehensive spec list demonstrating the Fiat's impressive value for money.

After taking the time to admire the Bravo from the outside and the spec-sheet, however, the interior comes as something of a let down.

The leather steering wheel and cowled dials look sporty and purposeful and the controls on the centre console are generally well appointed, even if the 'city' steering button is placed some way from its logical position near the steering wheel.

Even the chequered finish dashboard, which is soft to touch, looks good while the seats—half covered in an alcantara-like fabric—are comfortable and supportive. There's also plenty of space.

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But overall there is a sense that the controls lack the positive, tactile feel you would hope to find in a car doing battle against Ford, Vauxhall and SEAT.

The indicators fail to engage positively and often release when you least want them to while other buttons require a real prod to illicit the desired response.

Sadly, they are all characteristics which lead you to question the Bravo's all-round build quality.

Equally disappointing is the driving position, a feature that Fiat claim they have worked hard to perfect. I find myself too long of leg and/or short of arm to get comfortable despite a fully adjustable steering column.

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These shortfalls in perceived quality are unfortunate because, for the most part, the Bravo is spacious (there's a 365 litre boot) and stylish.

It even drives well.

Though not overtly engaging in Eco trim it's clear the Bravo has a chassis with the ability to generate impressive grip while displaying a neutral poise through corners. The engine, also, proves a highlight. Though frugal the Multijet engine gives the Bravo impressive tractability which make it easier to drive and more usefully quick than many of its 'green' rivals.

Sadly, that's not really enough to see the Bravo trading blows with the leading lights in what is now a highly competitive class.

I really wanted to like the Bravo, it offer the best of all worlds, being frugal and dripping Italian flair, but by the end of my week-long test drive all that style just didn't seem to be matched by the same measure of substance...

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