07 May 2009

Impressive FIAT Bravo to Grace US Shores?

The compact, 5-door hatchback FIAT Bravo is comparable in size to the VW Golf, and has been on the European market for about 18 mos. now.  The car is very roomy inside, gets outstanding milage, and is a real Italian beauty- and an incredible amount of fun to drive.  And it seems an obvious choice for FIAT's new line-up in the US market.

Designed by the Fiat Style Centre, the model features tastefully uncluttered, smooth lines, which  reinvent the stylistic elements of the great Italian car-making tradition, without exaggeration or stylistic excesses.  The Bravo aims to make the difference in terms of quality, comfort, practicality and the versatility of the interior.  The refinement of the materials and the color combinations, the solidity, attention to detail and painstaking assembly, all represent a new standard for Fiat and a benchmark for the market.

The new Fiat Bravo features a new family of turbocharged T-JET petrol engines (120 and 150 bhp 1.4 Turbo), which combine fuel economy, low emissions and exceptional performance, and now join the popular range of Multijet common rail turbodiesels (1.9 litres delivering 120 and 150 bhp) and the 90 bhp 1.4 16v gasoline engine.  The fuel economy with these new engines is truly incredible, mid 30s on gasoline, and 40-50 mpg on diesel.

The Bravo was designed to score maximum points in passive and active safety tests, thanks to several airbags (as many as 7), three-point seat-belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, and five head-restraints. Another aspect of safety regards the ‘Pedestrian impact’, which was taken into account during the design of the chassis, designed to maximise the absorption of this type of impact. The new model also features the most sophisticated electronic systems to monitor the vehicle’s dynamic behaviour, such as ABS complete with EBD, the sophisticated ESP system with a Hill Holder, and ASR anti-slip regulation.

The Bravo embodies new technologies, not only where engineering is concerned, but also in the use of electronics at the service of comfort and well-being on board. The best example of this is the new generation of the ‘Blue&Me’ system, known as ‘Blue&Me Nav’. This technology, which is a Fiat Group exclusive, developed with Microsoft, combines the functions of the first generation with a highly efficient pictogram navigation system, and access to a series of telematic services, that convey the true spirit of Fiat: simple, useful and at the right price.
Bravo was initially developed to be the new benchmark for what is the most important segment of the European market, which accounted for over 3,400,000 cars sold in 2006, or little more than one fifth of the total market.

In America, it is just the sort of premium compact the market largely lacks- and the type of product needed badly in the Chrysler dealer network.  It's style, feel, rock-solid quality, technology, safety, fuel economy, and refinement are indeed impressive... and it's unique Italian character will be a welcome reprieve from the monotonous same-ness of the Japanese products that dominate this segment.

I have had the pleasure of driving the 1.4L turbo (gas) version in Europe, and for such a small displacement, it's 120hp really gets moving with the standard 6-speed transmission... a lot of fun in a practical, attractive package.  There is also a 150hp version available... incredible for such an economical vehicle.

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