Fiat’s remarkable revival under CEO Sergio Marchionne took two further steps forward at the Geneva show this week with the launch of the new C-segment Bravo hatchback and a welcome revival of the much-loved Abarth performance brand.


The Bravo, which will reach UK showrooms in July, was developed in rapid time – just two years – in partnership with leading supplier Magna Steyr.


The car’s styling makes it look like a bigger Grande Punto, and Fiat is hoping the car will emulate the success of its smaller sibling, of which 35,000 were sold in the UK last year (after a high-profile February launch that included time in the windows of famous London store Harrods).


Among powerplants for the Bravo are two new T-jet petrol engines. These are small-capacity turbocharged versions of the successful 1.4-litre ‘Fire’ engine, with outputs of 120bhp and 150bhp.


“These offer a combination of low emissions, high efficiency and output and good fuel economy,” said Fiat spokesman Peter Newton. They’ll be Euro-IV compliant at launch, with Euro-V versions in the pipeline.


Fiat is taking a “realistic” approach to sales targets for the Bravo, expecting to sell around 4,000 or so by the end of the year. Future versions will include an estate (wagon), and a sporty hatchback will follow, carrying the revived Abarth nameplate.


Abarth was traditionally Fiat’s performance and racing tuner, and tradition played a major part in the decision to revive the nameplate.


The newly-created Abarth company, headed by Fiat director Luca di Meo, is headquartered in Abarth’s original offices in Fiat’s Corsa Marche, and the widow of the company’s founder Carlo Abarth joined Marchionne, di Meo and Fiat chairman Luca di Montezemolo for the announcement of the relaunch.


Abarth has employed 100 technicians and mechanics, and as well as creating sporty versions of Fiat cars such as Punto and the forthcoming retro-styled 500, it will also build race and rally cars for customers and produce tuning kits. The first fruits of the venture will be a Grande Punto Abarth, which will be launched in November.


The Abarth version of the new 500 will effectively be the revived brand’s ‘Mini Cooper’. Abarth versions of the original 500 were highly successful in the 1960s, outgunning many larger cars in saloon racing.


Fiat has brought forward the launch of the new 500 to 4 July 4 this year – for a very specific reason. That date is the 60th anniversary – to the day – of the start of production of the original 500.


“It’s a great reason to bring it forward – but Marchionne wants the car on the market as soon as possible,” Newton said.


The new 500 is being built at Fiat’s plant in Tychy, Poland, and UK sales will start next January.