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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For It’s cheap to run and has lively engines

Against The ride is harsh and handling average

Verdict Take the plunge only if it's sound inside and out

Go for… Brava 1.2 SX

Avoid… Bravo 2.0 HGT

Fiat Brava Hatchback
  • 1. Equipment levels are high and prices are rock-bottom
  • 2. Listen out for clonking sounds from the suspension and check that the tyres are evenly worn across the tread
  • 3. Consider an emissions test to check for a faulty catalytic converter that could cause an MoT test failure
  • 4. Make sure that the timing belt on the engine has been changed within the last three years or 36,000 miles. If not, a big bill could be just around the corner
  • 5. Watch for signs of overheating due to the radiator being clogged - a milky gunk under the oil filler cap is a giveaway
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Fiat Brava Hatchback full review with expert trade views

This characterful Italian hatch - effectively a five-door version of the three-door Bravo - caused quite a stir in its mid-1990s heyday with its bold styling.

The engines are very much part of that character, with a pleasantly sporty rasp, and even the basic 1.4 petrol (which was later replaced by a 1.2) gives lively performance.

Even when they were launched, the ride and handling rated only as average, and the five-door Brava is nothing like as sharp to drive as the Brava. And, whichever you choose, refinement is also poor.

Inside, the driving position suits most shapes and sizes and there's a fair bit of room, and a good-size boot, in the Brava. Best of all, the equipment levels are high and prices are rock-bottom.

That said, these aren't the kind of cars that past owners have cherished, so you should expect them to need regular repairs.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Bravo struggles but the Brava 80SX is okay, although HGT has no interest

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The basic 1.4 petrol engine, or the 1.2 that replaced it, was the top-selling model and it's also the best one to buy second-hand.

Either engine is gutsy enough and, anyway, a Brava is best driven in a relaxed style. The stronger 1.6 and 1.8 petrols and two 1.9 diesels that you can also find only serve to show up the limitations of the chassis.

If you must go for one of these stronger units, the 1.6 is good. The other engines don't suit the car particularly, although the diesels are willing and economical, if noisy.

An auto gearbox is available with the 1.6 but it is likely to give trouble after a few years. The manual gearboxes, however, are tough, so we'd recommend sticking with them.

SX is the most common trim - and our favourite - with electric front windows, remote locking and a decent stereo. ELX and HLX, the top two trims, are scarce but provide plusher cabins, alloy wheels and, in the HLX, the air-conditioning and anti-lock brakes absent from other models.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good reliability with average claim costs - watch for suspension problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Chances are you could spend plenty on repairs, and there's a risk that the total will soon overtake what you paid for the car, especially as the Brava is so cheap to start with.

In most other respects, running costs are fine. Insurance costs are low, with most smaller-engined models falling into group 4, and even the 1.8 is only group 7.

Fuel economy is respectable, too: you'll get up to 40mpg from the 1.2, 36mpg from the 1.6 and 34mpg from the 1.8. Pick a diesel and you're on for up to 51mpg.

An annual service is cheap, and it's easy enough for a local independent garage to do what's needed. Some repairs are costly, though. Clutches take a long time to replace, which bumps up the bill, while working on the suspension is awkward and time-consuming.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Bravo struggles but the Brava 80SX is okay, although HGT has no interest

James Ruppert
Used car guru

According to data compiled by warranty company Warranty Direct, most claims for Bravas are to repair wonky suspensions, so watch for clonking sounds and check that the tyres are evenly worn across the tread when you take a test drive.

Otherwise, make sure that the timing belt on the engine has been changed within the last three years or 36,000 miles. If not, you should get it changed or else you risk damaging the engine should it slip or snap.

It's also worth having an emissions test done to check for a faulty catalytic converter, because faults in the plug leads can cause damage here.

Watch also for signs of overheating due to the radiator being clogged – thick milky-coloured gunk under the engine oil filler cap is a danger sign.

Finally, check that all electrical gadgets work, because fixing even minor items such as a window motor can cost more than you'd expect.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good reliability with average claim costs - watch for suspension problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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