FIAT is claiming to be at the start of a renaissance. Again
By its own admission, things have not gone as well as the Italian manufacturer would have liked in recent years, but the arrival of the Grande Punto seemed to herald a revival. It launched to largely positive reviews in 2005 and is now a common sight on the road.
The launch of its new lower-medium sector car is intended to be the next step in that revival. Fiat has high hopes for the Bravo, which revives the name last used in 2001 and replaces the generally unimpressive Stilo.
The Bravo launch came a week after Fiat posted its best financial results since 2000.
The company has just invested more than £165 million in manufacturing equipment, techniques and staff to try and compete with rivals from Germany and Japan, and – at the same time – has redesigned its logo. The Bravo is the first car to sport the new badge, which harks back to Fiat’s golden days between the 1920s and 1960s.
Fiat Group chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne told journalists at the Bravo launch in Rome last week: ‘We have not been strong in previous years and we hope to change that. We’re turning over a new leaf.
‘The new Bravo is an emblem of our change but it’s only the first step on a long road in our future.’
Interest in the Bravo promises to be considerable and, following a spectacular and very expensive launch party in Rome, expectations are high.
In the UK, the Bravo will be launched in June with two diesel and two petrol engines. The 1.9 Multijet diesel units will be tuned to 120bhp and 150bhp. The lower-powered, five-geared version will reach 62mph in 10.5 seconds and promises carbon dioxide emissions of 139g/km and a combined fuel economy of 53.2mpg.
The more powerful unit, featuring a six-speed gearbox, will hit 62mph in nine seconds with economy of 50.4mpg, emitting 140g/km of CO2.
The petrol-powered line-up will feature a 1.4-litre 90bhp engine and a new turbocharged 1.4-litre 150bhp T-jet engine. A 120bhp version of the same engine will go on sale later in the year.
Three trims will be available on our shores – Active, Dynamic and Sport. So far only the European spec details have been revealed, but expect Sport to include 17 or 18-inch alloys, a bodykit and lashings of chrome, as well as a top-level stereo system and the Blue&Me system.
This is the next generation of technology developed in association with Microsoft, offering Bluetooth communication with most mobile phones, as well as MP3 playback and a USB port.
Only the five-door version of the Bravo will be available at launch – an estate version is planned for 2010, but there are no plans for a three-door, nor for a sportier version to rival the likes of the Ford Focus ST or Vauxhall Astra VXR.
With several months before the Bravo arrives on UK shores the exact fleet strategy has yet to be revealed, but Fiat UK confirmed it will be targeting user-choosers and the public sector. Expect the diesel engines to be the big sellers.
Fiat is promising savings of up to 15% on wholelife costs over the Stilo. Service intervals have been widened from 12,500 to 18,500 miles, and the cost of parts has been reduced.
Fiat is also confident that the Bravo’s residual values will be on a par with its competitors – models such as the Citroën C4, Peugeot 307 and Renault Megane.
There are no firm price details as yet, but Fiat UK says the Bravo will be competitive against the likes of the C4 and 307.
Behind the wheel
PERHAPS due to the overblown launch – featuring 1,500 journalists from around the world, Cirque du Soleil and thousands of fireworks – trying to get a decent drive in the Bravo proved difficult.
Moreover, the test route consisted largely of a completely straight stretch of road, a U-turn and then the same bit of road in the opposite direction.
The car itself looks really good and inside everything is very pleasant. The dash has a swathe of soft-touch, carbon-effect material across the front, and while the rest is hard to the touch, it feels well put together.
I spent an hour in the 150bhp Multijet diesel which, in a 1,300kg car, should make it quite nippy.
Alas, it’s not. Around town it performs well, with decent amounts of power available up to third gear, but at higher speeds it feels like it’s straining to accelerate with any vigour. The gearbox is OK, although the action feels a little rubbery, and the clutch is light almost to the point of feeling flimsy. The ride is on the firm side, but perfectly comfortable.
The test route gave little opportunity to test handling. Around town the steering was light enough to make darting in and out of Roman traffic easy, and it firmed up nicely when out on the open road.
However, around the few corners I encountered it was lacking in feel. Anyone wanting a sense of genuine driving involvement will feel let down.
THE Bravo looks really good and is better built than any Fiat I’ve been in before. But with pricing and volume aspirations still to be set, it is hard to make a call on its success in the fleet sector. And our limited time behind the wheel makes a full assessment difficult.
Here are some short mini clips of Phill driving the new Bravo.
|Model:||1.4||1.9 MJet 120||1.9 MJet 150|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||90/5,500||120/4,000||150/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||94/4,500||188/2,000||225/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||111||120||129|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||42.1||53.2||50.4|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||158||139||149|