Fiat Bravo, Brava & Marea

British motorists tend to think of Fiat as a maker of small cars — Panda, Uno, Cinquecento, Seicento and Punto spring to mind. As a result, cars like the Escort-sized Bravo and Brava hatchbacks tend to get overlooked, even though they are soundly designed modern models. And the Marea medium saloon and Weekend estate, which are mechanically similar to the Bravo/Brava, lag well behind the market leaders in terms of recognition. Lack of familiarity, plus heavy discounting of new models, makes this Fiat quartet a cheap choice as family cars.

The Bravo/Brava/Marea/Weekend design is a triumph of "platform engineering". After the engine and gearbox, the most expensive part of a car is the "platform"; the floor of the car that everything else is attached to. To reduce costs, car makers can build a number of different models on the same platform. This is what Fiat have done: despite appearances, Bravo, Brava, Marea and Weekend all share the same platform and have an identical 2540mm wheelbase.

To keep things simple, this article refers mainly to the Bravo. Unless stated, the comments apply to the other models, too.

Reliability and quality
Long ago, Fiat had a reputation for rust. But that's far in the past. Bravo is built to a high standard, just like Tipo and Punto. As for reliability, the first Punto has proved to be the equal of German rivals. So you shouldn't have any worries about the Bravo¹s basic reliability; in fact, some AA vehicle inspectors own Weekend estates.

Safety is also good, especially if you can find a car with the optional passenger airbag. On the down side, it's easy to break in, although the key-controlled immobiliser is fairly effective.

Next page: The Engine Lineup