Today, thanks to an old press release from Autoblog, you are going to learn about a little FIAT from the late 2000s that you will promptly forget about after reading this article. (And that’s assuming you click the “Read More” link after this paragraph.) It is not a car that will be remembered by most people in the world. Those of you who play Gran Turismo or Forza will probably think from the above photo that it’s a standard Grande Punto. It is not. It is actually a larger car called the Bravo, meant to replace the Stilo. The Bravo was meant to compete with the VW Golf and Ford Focus while the Grande Punto was an alternative to the Polo and Fiesta. Despite it being a good-looking, fun-to-drive, and fuel-efficient Italian hatchback, much better than what Americans could get at the time, it never came to the United States. That was probably a good thing.
The first reason why it was a good thing has to do with the available engines. The press release details 5 different engines to choose from, with the diesel options consisting of 120 bhp and 150 bhp versions of FIAT’s 1.9-liter Multijet engine. The lowest-end engine option was a 1.4-liter 90 bhp gas engine, while the upgraded gas engine options were 120 bhp and 150 bhp versions of FIAT’s turbocharged T-JET gas engines. For a start, the 90 bhp engine would never be offered in America. As for the diesels, the EPA certifications would be tough and money-consuming, especially considering that VW had to cheat to get its diesel engines approved. So that leaves the 1.4-liter turbo engine, which likely wouldn’t have been considered reliable in the U.S., considering FIAT had to offer new versions of the engine 2 years into the lifecycle of the car.
The second major reason has to do with cost. The Bravo was manufactured in Italy, which in the late 2000s was becoming a very expensive place to do business, especially with the strength of the Euro. Though the Bravo’s price was right in line with that of the Golf, Focus, and Opel Astra, all three of which were made in the Euro zone, the price would have been too high for the United States. If you remember, in the late 2000s while the rest of world got a good-looking, high-quality Ford Focus, the U.S. was stuck with a reskinned version of the Focus from 1999. A large part of that decision had to do with cost, as Ford could not sell a family hatchback for the same price as a Fusion. As a result, FIAT ended up making the Bravo’s successor, the Tipo, in Turkey, which greatly reduced the manufacturing costs of a large family hatchback, and made it more competitive in price with the Focus and Golf. (If you’re in Mexico, you might know the Tipo as the Dodge Neon.)
But you wouldn’t know from the press release, which says the car has been “designed and developed as the ideal synthesis of Beauty and Substance” and “arouses emotions at first glance,” which has to be among the more Italian things written in press releases. All of those quotes refer to the exterior of the Bravo, which looks more like the lower-end Grande Punto rather than a premium car. Thankfully, the press release doesn’t go too in-depth about the interior, which pretty much looks like most other economy car interiors of the time.
In the end, despite FIAT becoming successful in the late 2000s with the Panda, Grande Punto, and 500, the Bravo was not a sales leader in any sense, especially since it had to compete with the MKV Golf, the European Focus, and the Opel Astra. FIAT was eventually only able to sell a little over 300,000 Bravos, much less than Golf and Focus sales and clearly not arousing emotions in potential buyers. Even worse, as it was built in Italy and FIAT had to discount the car to move it from showrooms, it wasn’t exactly profitable either. Ultimately, the Bravo has been forgotten by the majority of the world, which is probably something FIAT prefers. And if FIAT had brought it to the U.S., the U.S. government may never have let it take over Chrysler…