In much the same way as musicians sometimes struggle with their difficult second album, so Fiat faces a battle with its tricky third new model.
With the Grande Punto introduced to critical acclaim and selling well, and the oh-so-cute 500 set to become the four-wheeled fashion accessory of the moment, the Italian manufacturer is now rolling out the new Bravo – a replacement for the unloved Stilo.
The problem is that the Bravo is entering a sector where Fiat has struggled. The accepted industry logic is that Fiat excels at building small cars, and the lower-medium sector Bravo is not a small car.
It is being launched to tackle the might of Focus, Astra and Golf but with none of their provenance.
Where the Bravo does score is in pricing.
The entry-level 1.4 petrol model is priced at £10,995, undercutting the Focus 1.4 five-door by a huge £2,300 and the equivalent Astra by £1,400.
In residual value terms it performs well, with CAP estimating it will retain 30 to 32% of cost new after three years and 60,000 miles – not in Golf territory but certainly matching its volume rivals.
Available only as a five-door hatchback, the Bravo comes with a choice of three petrol engines (including two turbocharged T-Jet versions) and two MultiJet diesels, meaning all bases are covered in company car terms.
Because of Fiat’s limited success with larger cars, it is being realistic in sales aspirations, expecting to sell 6,000 models this year and 12,000 in a full year. Fleets are expected to account for half of registrations.
Fiat knows that selling Bravo won’t be as easy as finding homes for the Grande Punto.
This means more conquest sales from the lower-medium heartland. In price terms it makes a real case for itself.
Behind the wheel
I tried two engines on the Bravo launch, and both were excellent.
First up was the petrol T-Jet with 150bhp, an impressive figure from a 1.4-litre engine. This unit is eager to rev and delivers a smooth spread of power once the turbo kicks in. The same is true of the diesel MultiJet with bags of power available in the mid-range.
Both models drive well, with neat handling, decent gearbox and a comfortable ride. Wind and tyre noise are kept at low level.
The downside of the package is the interior, and particularly the dashboard which is a hotch-potch of different materials. It lacks cohesiveness and pulls down the appeal of the cabin.
If ever a car was going to help Fiat break its duck in this sector, then the Bravo is it.
It doesn’t drive as well as the Focus or Astra, and the interior is not up to their standards, but the Bravo offers a fine range of engines and is very keenly priced.
|Model:||1.4 M-Jet 150||1.9 MultiJet 150|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||39.8||50.4|