Next to a Ford Focus or a Vauxhall Astra, Fiat's Bravo may not seem an obvious choice in the crowded family hatchback range, largely thanks to the marque's earlier reputation for unreliability and flimsiness, the famous 'Fix it Again, Tony'. However, think again. This is a small family car good enough to rehabilitate the brand's sad (and not entirely undeserved) reputation.
The used Bravo is a smart retort to Fiat detractors, boasting true Italian flair with an almost German practicality. The 1995-2002 second hand Fiat Bravo was the funkier three-door little brother to the five-door Brava, whose foundations it shared and boasted a fairly comprehensive spread of engine options, both petrol and diesel. A 1999 facelift added another engine to the range and some cosmetic improvements, until the Bravo apparently faded away in 2002.
The badge was revived in 2007 with a sexy and sophisticated five-door that really did throw sand in the faces of competitors. The new Fiat Bravo for sale was even more handsome than the original but benefited from better engines: three petrol, including a 90bhp 1.4 litre and two nippy T-Jet 1.4s at 120 and 150bhp and three diesel with two 1.6 litre MultiJet versions at 105 or 120bhp and a 1.9 litre which soon became a 165bhp 2.0 litre.
Bang for your buck
You could be forgiven for assuming the used Fiat Bravo for sale is an example of form over function, such is the impact of its sleek and elegant design. While interior space is a little on the stingy side compared to a Focus, the Fiat Bravo is impressive on the inside as well as out, furnished with high-quality materials that wouldn't look out of place in a far more prestigious, luxury brand car and is a comfortable ride for both driver and passengers. Small touches such as a jack that turns into a Swiss army knife and the pop up security fascia that hides the stereo on earlier models are cute and clever.
Nor is beauty only skin-deep here, with an excellent array of safety features and driver control options such as ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, an ultra-modern ESP stability control including the wheelspin limiting ASR, hydraulic brake assists for sticky moments and a hill-holder function for those who struggle with hill starts.
Trim levels will be familiar to Fiat owners, starting with the Bravo Active and Active Sport, on to the Dynamic and then the Sport as range topper.
What you'll pay
Even the earliest 1.4 litre cheap Fiat Bravo will set you back close to £900, going up to £1,400 for a 98 1.6 and £2,000 for a 2001. As usual, you'll pay a small premium for diesels.
An 07 entry level 1.4 petrol Active will cost you a good £7,000, plus about £500 more for a 120bhp T-Jet. A Dynamic 1.9 diesel of the same year will be at least £8,000, while you're looking at the best part of £9,500 for a slightly newer and plusher 08 Sport.
What to check
Don't let Fiat's dodgy past put you off. No faults have been reported either with the well proven engines or the build quality.
Very acceptable, with an alternator about £90, starter motor £100, clutch assembly £120, front pads £40 for a set, a new headlamp £85, air filter £10 and fuel filter £20.
How it drives
Pleasingly frugal on fuel use, the used Fiat Bravo hasn't let its practical foundations stomp over its party animal personality. If you can, go for the punchy 2.0 litre Multijet diesel, which will get you from standing to 60mph in 8.2 seconds, tops out at at least 130mph and has a torque output comparable to an Impreza.
That's not to say the other engine options are slouches, with all offering excellent handling and refinement and the turbocharged options offering enough mid-range power for any overtaking necessary. Suspension is firm and there's nothing to be seen of the flighty, capricious Fiats of old.
The cheap Fiat Bravo can stand tall next to even the most impressive of rivals such as the Ford Focus or the mighty VW Golf when it comes to driving experience and indeed can even look down its nose at them when it comes to aesthetics. This Fiat was an excellent buy when new and holds up equally well as a used purchase.