Fiat Bravo & Brava
First shown in 1995, the new pair of medium class cars, the Bravo/Brava, were awarded Car of the Year in 1996. Designed in-house at the Centro Stile Fiat, the Bravo and Brava replaced the Tipo with two bodystyles, the Bravo with three doors and the Brava with five. Both cars share the same mechanicals, and are identical as far back as the A-pillar (apart from slightly different front grilles) after which the bodyshells are completely different.
The 3-door Bravo has large rear 'haunches',an almost vertical tailgate and large, round light clusters which give a more 'agressive' or sporting appearance. On the other hand, the 5-door Brava has an extra pair of doors, a more sloping rear window, a slight 'notch' back, hinting at a boot, and a very distinct light arrangement with three horizontal strips on each side. Detail differences between the two included different wheeltrims, various external trim being body-coloured on one and not the other, different instrument clusters inside and differing upholstery and trims. The similarities of the body designs resulted in predictably similar drag coefficients, these being 0.32 and 0.33 for the Bravo and Brava respectively.
The Bravo/Brava was a mechanically conventional design, with a front mounted transverse engine driving the front wheels. MacPherson strut front suspension, with an anti-roll bar, was joined by an independent rear setup using tailing arms. Braking was by a dual-circuit system with discs at the front and drums at the rear, except on the top of the range HGT (2.0 20V 5 cylinder) which also has discs at the rear. ABS (by ITT TEVES) was standard or optional depending on trim level, engine and market. Unlike the Tipo, power steering was standard on all cars.
In terms of powerplants, the Bravo/Brava launched with 1370cc (12V with 80bhp), 1581cc (16V with 103bhp), 1747cc (16V with 113bhp) four cylinder petrol engines and a 1998cc (20V with 147bhp only in the Bravo) five cylinder petrol engine. A normally aspirated 1929cc diesel with 65bhp was joined by two 1910cc turbocharged four cylinder, indirect injection units, one with 75bhp and the other with 100bhp. Transmissions were all five-speed manual except an optional four-speed automatic available with the 1600 engine.
Safety was becoming more important as the Bravo/Brava were developed, and the cars came with a driver's and passengers' airbags (standard or optional depending on the market - some also offered side airbags), height adjustable seatbelts with pretensioners, a fire protection system and a structure designed with crumple zones, anti-intrusion bars, special reinforcements in critical locations, a collapsible steering column, anti-submarining seats and more.
Internally the new cars featured a completely new, ergonomically optimised, dashboard and layout. Very distinctive, the dashboard featured a large central teardrop console with the audio system and ventilation controls, and a single instrument cluster in front of the driver. Apart from entry level versions a rev-counter was present in all cars. The seats featured the latest orthopaedic design, the drivers' being height adjustable. The rear seat could be folded down to provide additional luggage capacity.
1999 saw a mild facelift, both inside and out, with details such as new wheel trims, new colours, new grilles and a variety of small engineering changes. Most significant were the replacement of the 12V 1370cc unit with a 16V 1242cc (82bhp) item, the increase of power from the 1998cc 20V engine, up to 154bhp, and a new common rail diesel unit, the 1.9 JTD (105bhp). This latter used the (then) very advanced Unijet fuel injection system.
See our 'Concept Cars' page for the FLAIR aerodynamic concept car based on the Bravo and also the Zagato designed Bravo Coupé.
Driveline transverse engine at front with front wheel drive Engines 1242cc (70.8x78.9mm) dohc 16v 4 cylinder with 82bhp @ 5,500rpm (image)
1370cc 12v 4 cylinder with 80bhp @ 6,000rpm
1581cc (86.4x67.4mm) dohc 16v 4 cylinder with 103bhp @ 5,750rpm
1747cc (82x82.7mm) dohc 16v 4 cylinder with 113bhp @ 5,800rpm (image)
1998cc (82x75.7mm) dohc 20v 5 cylinder with 154bhp @ 6,500rpm (earlier 147bhp @ 6,100rpm) (image)
1910cc (82x90.4mm) sohc 8v 4 cylinder turbo diesel with 75bhp or 100bhp @ 4,200rpm (image)
1929cc (82.6x90mm) sohc 8v diesel with 65bhp @ 4,600rpm
later the 1910cc diesel became available as in JTD form, with direct injection and 105bhp @ 4,000rpm (image)
Suspension front : MacPherson strut with telescopic dampers and coil springs plus anti-roll bar
rear : independent with telescopic dampers within coil springs plus anti-roll bar
wheelbase : 2540mm
front track : 1439 to 1471mm (depending on version)
rear track : 1430 to 1453mm (depending on version)
Brakes front : discs, diameter 257mm
except 'HGT': 284mm ventilated discs
rear : drums, diameter 203mm
except '80' (no ABS): 180mm drum, 'HGT' : 240mm solid discs
handbrake operating on the rear via a cable
Gearbox 5 speed manual
4 speed automatic
Steering rack and pinion
3 turns lock to lock
Kerb Weight Brava : JTD105 : 1195kg Dimensions Bravo, Brava
model max speed 0-100kph/0-60mph in gear acceleration HGT (147bhp version) 130 mph 8.1 sec 9.2 (50-70 in 5th) 1.6 SX 113 mph 10 sec 14.7 (50-70 in 5th)
There are three main areas to concentrate on, the engine (and transmission), the brakes and the suspension and then various other details. These three should be done together since they complement each other, not all of one and none of another !
1. The engine.
Before modifying the engine it is worthwhile filling it with a good quality synthetic oil and fitting new spark plugs. An engine oil additive may also be used.
The first improvements are relatively simple. The air filter can be replaced for an aftermarket item which will help the engine breathe more freely, the type which completely replace the original airbox are best, and the exhaust can be replaced for one which will restrict the exit of the gases less. The whole system should be replaced, not just the back box. Stainless steel will last longer, but normal steel with a good coat of heat resistant paint will last a good while.
The most effective modification (short of engine rebuilds!) is probably to replace the electronic control unit (or 'chip'). A variety of these are available, but all should increase the power and improve the driveability. The downside is that these usually cancel the warranty and may affect the durability of the engine, the emissions and the fuel consumption. If one is not available for your specific model it is possible to buy a general one for any car and programme it.
Other things to do should include fitting a cold air intake, a large diameter pipe (minimum 5cm) to provide air from outside the engine bay to the air filter. The exhaust manifold can also be lagged with thermal cloth or tape to keep the exhaust gases hotter (and thus reduce back pressure) and also to keep the underbonnet (and hence intake and fuel) temperatures lower.
The high tension leads can also be replaced with performance ones.
Further modifications require the machining of the cylinder headand/or cylinder block (which will not be dealt with here since it is not normally a DIY job) after which it may be worth fitting an oil cooler. If overheating is a problem due to the increased power output then a small hole can also be drilled through the plate in the thermostat.
Regarding the transmission the main requirement is to uprate the clutch to handle the increase in power and torque achieved though the engine modifications. Friction plates can be purchased with improved materials and heavier duty pressure plates are also available. Whilst doing this it is worthwhile lightening the flywheel.
2. The brakes.
Initially it is relatively easy to replace the brake discs with drilled and grooved items, and the pads for a harder compound. The latter should not be too hard (ie no race pads on the road) or they will not function effectively at the normal 'road' operating temperatures. Stainless steel braided flexible hoses will improve the pedal feel and reduce the chance of damage whilst DoT5 fluid (not silicon) will increase the temperature at which it can operate effectively. If the brakes are getting too hot the dustguards can be removed and/or ducts fitted, taking air from behind the front bumper.
If more serious braking is required the next modification would be to increase the disc size. It is possible to use larger discs with a bracket allowing use of the production callipers, or alloy four pot callipers can be fitted. On lower models it is possible to fit HGT brakes which will provide more stopping power.
In order to improve the balance of the car under braking it is desireable to be able to adjust the balance of braking from front to rear (and vice versa). This can be accomplished by fitting a bias valve in the line to the rear brakes, usually in a position so that it can be reached from the drivers seat.
3. The suspension.
The easiest improvement,and the one which will probably bring the single most noticeable change, is to replace the full set of dampers and springs. A variety of kits are available which include four matched dampers and springs. Top adjustable units are compromised, but are good for road and track day cars since it allows the suspension to be adjusted between these two, rather different, requirements. Coil over units add more adjustability and can be purchased outright, or can be made from standard dampers by welding a threaded sleeve to the standard tube.
There are then the other main suspension aims; to reduce the flexiblity in the suspension and to increase the stiffness of the car, both of which aim at more accurate control of the wheel movement. To reduce the flexibility it is possible to fit nylon bushes instead of the normal production rubber items, or if perfection is desired the suspension can be fitted with metallic bearings (rose joints / rod ends). Spherical bearing top mounts can also be used. To stiffen the car it is most popular to fit strut braces. These can be fitted to the front and rear. For more extreme cases a rollcage can be fitted.....
Into this category also fall the choice of wheels and tyres. With an increase in power it can be necessary to fit larger tyres (thus requiring larger wheels) but the temptation to fit the biggest possible should be resisted. Consideration should be given to fitting a wider tyre on the front (since they provide traction and steering) but keeping the standard, or a wider but not as wide as the front, tyre at the rear. This will improve the balance of the car.
4. other things.
Other modifications worth considering include fitment of a shift light (and rev limiter if there is not one as standard), higher power bulbs in the headlights (if you are going to go faster you need to see further) and installation of a quicker steering rack.
Buying / Selling
Some tips to do before selling : (they may seem obvious, but most people don't do them and thus are in a weaker bargaining position).
Tidy inside the car thoroughly : hoover the floor, empty all pockets, ashtrays (wash), glove compartment etc..., wipe the trim with a damp cloth, give the cockpit a good airing to get rid of any odours ! Reset the trip meter to 00000 - it is a pleasant (subconcious) surprise.
If the car has been standing give it a good run - this will clear out the engine (reduce exhaust smoke), put a shine on the brake discs and loosen up any joints that may otherwise make some noises.
'Back to black' products are very effective at temporarily restoring bumpers and trim. This makes a big difference to any car. Do it a week before you expect people to view the car, otherwise it may be a bit too obvious !
Jetwash under the car, especially under the engine and in the wheelarches. The prospective buyer may be an enthusiast, and this makes it easier for them to see what they want to check.
Obviously wash the car and clean the windows !
If you are going to buy a car always check the following :
Firstly check the bodywork. Check that there are no mismatching panels, large areas of discolouration or signs of fresh paint (compare inside the engine bay with the external body colour), all of which probably indicate accident damage.
Check the main electrical functions - wipers, windows, lights, etc... try putting the main beam and wipers on at the same time. Check the headlights for cracks.
Check the brake pedal does not go to the floor if pressed hard for a long time and check the gearchange for clean engagement.
The engine should be run up to temperature, check the exhaust for smoke, the condition of the breather (look for mayonnaise), the condition of the oil filler cap (again white deposits can indicate head gasket or other serious problems or the use of the car only on short journeys, another bad state of affairs) and the colour of the coolant (preferably not thick or dark brown!). Listen to the noise of the engine, then depress the clutch and engage first gear. Whatever noise has disappeared was coming form the gearbox, what remains is from the engine. Also check the condition of the engine oil on the dipstick.The lighter brown the better, if it is thick black then leave quickly.
Check tyre wear, uneven patterns could imply a bent chassis.
Always take it for a test drive. Check that the car tracks in a straight line with no steering input and also remains straight under braking. Find a large open area and complete several lock to lock turns (also in reverse), listening for any noises. Try the handbrake when moving - seized rear callipers will mean uneven braking or no braking.
On the Bravo/a you should also check the cassette unit (the lids break) and the air conditioning (if fitted) for correct operation.
Fiat Bravo/Brava Workshop Manual : buy it online here (in association with Amazon)
Fiat Bravo & Brava 1995 to 2000 Haynes, 2000
For more books on Fiats, see our Online Bookstore
The Bravo/Brava/Marea Owners Club website
There is also a list of all our picture galleries (including museums, motorshows and various events).
Wallpapers/Desktop Backgrounds of numerous Fiats also available to download.
Bravo/Brava comment form
I'm a Costarican happy Brava owner. It is my second car because my first was a Uno but the family grew up so I decided to change to Brava. With both of them, I really enjoyn driving and always is a new experience. (Carlos)
I'm Giuseppe from the Netherlands and own a Bravo 1.6 SX with alloy wheels (15") and lowered suspension. I bought it as a new car and drove it around for 80.000 kilometers. No problems detected so far. It's a real good car wich you can thrust. I still love to drive the car. It is fast and is stable around the corners. However I'm gone sell the car because of a growing family. I now want to buy a Marea sedan. To bad, because if the family would not grow this fast, I would have kept my Bravo. IT IS A BEAUTY!!!!!
I have had a 1.6 Brava for 5 years now- . Great car- lots of poke- and room. Very well finished. Badly designes interior pockets and shelfs. (Zebra, Ireland)
I'm a happy owner of FIAT BRAVA 1.6 EL year 1996; great design, comfort, driving pleasure, engine and everything. Indeed it's still a car that distinguish itself among all those grey GOLFs clogging the Italian roads! Congrats on this site! (Riccardo, Italy)
Bravo is a dream.... Come true! (Barramas, Hungary)
I bought a brand new silver Brava 80 SX 16V in September 2000. What a beautiful car, best car I have owned, not a single peoblem, even my two teenage sons think it is cool to go out for a drive in it. (Barry, UK)
I'm an happy Bravo 1.4 sx owner since 1996. The car is fantastic no problem in five years. Nevertheless Alfa 147, Audi A3, Peugeot 307, Fiat stilo, VW Golf I think that Bravo is the most beutiful three door car. (Giuseppe, Italy)
I like the Brava - they're excellent car's and I'm currently working on a styling project for it. Beware the snapping cam belts - take your car to fiat to ensure that yours doesn't need the modified tensioner. (Anthony, UK)
Greetings from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I own a 155 HGT. Good performances, really fast, better stability at high speed, very comfortable interior. 225 kmh on highways is like riding on the wind!! You have to try one 155. What else can I say?!??!!??!!
I own a Brava from new since 4 years now and I am still very happy with it. The chairs are great and the room for your knees is still unmatched by any other car, thanks to the "organic" dashboard. Why doesn't Fiat use this anymore by the way. (Paul M, Netherlands)
One of the most beautiful cars i have ever seen.Driving it is a pleasure comparable only with flying on your own wings.(Mot, Poland)
I have owned a Brava 1.4 SX since 1996 and I really enjoy driving it, the styling is excellent. Although I have had some problems, it is still a great car. One word of warning though, beware the cam belt tensioner. I had mine shatter whilst just cresting a steep hill (lucky or what), and although I was out of my warrenty period Fiat UK stood for the cost of rebuilding the engine. Renewing my faith in them. (K.R, UK)
I own an HGT, its a great car, its fast and really stable at high speeds, much better than my fathers Stilo. The breaks are even better than the engine. The 155 hp engine gives its a good performance considering the wheigth and that it is a production car. Last week a guy try to race me with a brand new 2.0 Focus and he couldn t belive what my 200.000kms car made to his... (Sebastian, Argentina)
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