To create a real Italian car again, the sort of car that appeals both at home and abroad because it is highly expressive yet simple, with a design and proportions that are instantly pleasing. This was the essence of the brief given to Fiat designers for the middle segment hatchback to replace the Stilo. The job was made all the more difficult by the legacy inevitably left by the older car for the next generation. The development of the project, which took place in three phases, was not simple either.

The first got underway in 2003 with a confrontation between the Fiat and Lancia brand style centres and a number of outside consultants, including Italdesign Giugiaro, Bertone and the independent designer Sotiris Kovos. The Lancia style centre model was selected in the end, but the substantial carry-overs still looked out of place.

The second phase of the project began in 2004. That autumn, Harald Wester was appointed director of the Engineering and Design division, and he asked the design team to give the vehicle a family image consistent with the Grande Punto. Without forgoing its own personal identity, of course.

The third phase of the project, which led rapidly to the definition and signing off of the styling, began in April 2005 when Frank Stephenson arrived in Turin to take up the post of design chief of Fiat, Lancia and light commercial vehicles. The designers in the meantime had submitted a list of changes they deemed necessary to get round the hard points of the architecture and transform the future Bravo into the car we know today: a more forward mounted and more steeply raked windscreen, and therefore a lower roofline, a more compact nose and a wider track front and rear.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 162

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