The Bravo and Brava Mark 1 were replacements for Fiat's successful but ageing Tipo model. The cars came with all new engines, the base model using a 1.4 L 12-valve engine producing 80 bhp. Three other petrol engines were available: the 103 bhp 1.6 L 16-valve; the 113 bhp 1.8 L 16-valve engine and the top of the range 2.0 L 20-valve R5 unit used in the HGT model, which produced 147 bhp and which could take the car to a maximum speed of 130mph (210km/h). Two turbodiesel engines were also available: both were 1.9 L four cylinder units, one producing 75 bhp and the other making 100 bhp. Bravo/Brava was voted European Car of the Year on its launch.
In 1996 the Bravo/Brava chassis spawned saloon and estate versions, badged Fiat Marea, which won praise for its large boot. Another car based on the Bravo/Brava underpinnings was launched in 1998: the curious looking Fiat Multipla, a six-seater mini MPV.
The Bravo/Brava received a mild makeover in 1999 but there were few real changes except the replacement of the 1.4 12-valve engine with a 1.2 16-valve engine from the smaller Fiat Punto and a restyling of the dashboard. The 1.9 turbodiesel was also phased out in favour of 1.9 JTD diesel units, to give even better economy and refinement.