Bravo for fine all-rounder

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Can you remember the awful Fiat Bravo/Brava adverts in 1995 that tried to educate a bemused and largely uninterested British public about the main differences between the two models?

The pair were a replacement for the widely selling Tipo (as driven by the fictional Sicilian detective Inspector Montalbano) and Fiat hoped they’d be just as successful

It didn’t really work, sales were never that strong and both cars were quickly replaced by the Stilo in 2001. This didn’t last long, either, and so in 2007 Fiat tried again with the Bravo.

The new Bravo is far more elegantly stylish than its predecessor and is one of the nicest five-door hatches on the road. It’s got lovely rounded back end with the rear lights seamlessly integrated into the flanks and the detailed styling both front and back gives it real presence.

The interior is just as nice with robust but soft-touch plastics and easy to use controls. My only complaint, and one which is common in many European-designed cars, is that the speedometer and rev counter have not been switched over to suit the right-hand-drive market and, as such, the speedo is not in the direct line of sight of the driver.

The driving experience is just as good as the styling, with decent handling and a suspension that smoothes out potholes and speed humps seamlessly.

There are five of engines to choose from: two 1.4 petrols and three diesels, the latter being two 1.6 litre and a superb two-litre with 165bhp.

The higher powered of the petrols, the 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 140bhp, has plenty of poke while emitting low CO2 (132g/km) and decent fuel economy (49.6mpg combined).

This sounds pretty good until you then compare it to the 1.6 MultiJet 105bhp Eco with 115g/km CO2 and 64.2mpg combined.

Equipment levels are particularly pleasing, especially when you consider the amount of both active and passive safety that has been included.

The Bravo has been awarded the coveted five EuroNCAP stars for crash safety.

It has two front airbags, two front side bags, two window bags and a knee airbag for the driver.

The braking system is particularly innovative and includes a whole host of acronyms: ABS, EBD, ESP, ASR and HBA to name but a few.

Suffice to say, they all work together to minimise the effects of high-speed braking and keep the car as stable as possible under extreme conditions.

On the road prices start at £15,205 for the entry level petrol and peak at £19,605 for the two-litre turbo diesel.

Bravo has plenty of competition with the likes of Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra and sales are never going to rival those.

And that is a shame, because it is a fine all-round car that deserves to be considered up there with the market leaders.