What is it? The Fiat Tipo is the Italian brand’s new rival to the Astra and Focus.
Key features: Lots of space, lots of equipment for the money.
Our View: The Fiat Tipo scores on value, but it’s just not that exciting or noticeable in a hugely competitive market. If you want something that offers plenty for your money, however, the Tipo is worth a look.
Type of review: First UK drive
Arriving at the same time as the roadster, however, has been a car with the potential for significant mass-market sales. Returning Fiat to the huge C segment to take on such heavyweight contenders as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf is a car that revives a name not seen since 1995 – the Fiat Tipo.
The name is the only link one can make between the 1990s car and the larger, bang up-to-date version now arriving in showrooms. And the new car has to be good to give Fiat any hope of success – the three rivals mentioned are all top-ten sellers on the UK market, and that’s before one considers other C-segment contenders such as Renault’s Megane and the Peugeot 308, Korean entrants such as the Kia cee’d and Hyundai i30, the Japanese…
Like many C-segment cars the new Tipo is available in both five-door hatch and estate-style Station Wagon formats. There is also a saloon version, but that won’t be coming to a UK market that refuses to accept boots on mainstream cars.
Fiat claims today that it is “one brand with two souls”, the aspirational side comprising cars such as the 124 Spider and the rational side typified by the Tipo. Practicality and value are two of this car’s strongest weapons.
For a start it is very spacious within. The hatch measures up at 4.4m long, 1.8m wide and 1.5m high, while the Station Wagon adds 20cm of length and an extra cm of height thanks to its standard-fit roof bars.
All of which means the cabin offers a roomy ambience while the boot space knocks rivals for six – the 440 litres in the hatch is some 124 litres better than the Focus, outstretches the Astra by 70 litres and the Golf by 60 litres.
The Station Wagon adds an extra 110 litres of space, and once the flip-and-fold rear seats are dropped one has a generally flat load floor accessed by a low rear sill, and able to accommodate loads up to 1.8 metres in length.
In terms of design, however, perhaps Fiat has taken that rational mantra a little too far. The exterior is quite innocuous and unmemorable, and the interior dash layout equally so, though it is generally well put together. It won’t come close to certain rivals on style – the dash layout looks like it would have been equally at home 10 years ago and the touchscreen atop the centre console is miniscule.
Tipo buyers are being offered a five-way engine choice. Petrol options include a pair of 1.4-litre units with either 95 or 120hp and combined as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, and a 1.6-litre ‘e-TorQ’ version of 110hp and that can only be had with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Diesel buyers get to choose between a 1.3-litre of 95hp and a 1.6-litre of 120hp, and the latter, expected to produce the majority of sales, was the car we drove at the UK launch event.
Generally it’s a smooth unit, unless you rev it hard in which case it becomes a little audibly intrusive, and it bowls the car along at reasonable pace without fuss. It’s competent, without standing out.
The same can be said for the chassis performance. It’s a very relaxed, cosseting car to drive normally, but if you need to push on for any reason it becomes vague and hardly confidence-inducing, with noticeable body roll in bends and little feedback through the steering.
Fiat does expect to win brownie points on value – the £12,995 starting price for the entry-level Tipo Easy Plus is impressive, and the specification includes air conditioning, remote central locking, front electric windows, electric door mirrors, six airbags, DAB digital radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity with steering wheel remote controls. Station Wagons add electric rear windows as well as those roof bars.
However Fiat reckons most buyers will be going neither for Easy or the mid-spec Easy Plus, but the top-level Lounge, which is only £2,000 more expensive. While bringing the Tipo closer to its big-selling rivals in terms of price, it does also add significant amounts of extras.
As well as the Easy Plus upgrades – that tiny five-inch touchscreen with Uconnect Live app-based services (varying from music streaming to checking Facebook), leather on the steering wheel and gear knob, LED daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, parking sensors and cruise control, Lounge buyers will also gain such niceties as TomTom Live navigation with traffic updates, climate control, an extra inch on the alloys, auto lights and wipers and a rear view camera.
So the Fiat Tipo scores on value – it’s just that it’s not that exciting, that noticeable in today’s hugely competitive C segment. Those big-name rivals will remain more tempting, but if you want something that isn’t them and offers plenty for your money, the Fiat is worth a look.
Fiat Tipo – Key specifications
Models tested: Fiat Tipo Hatchback 1.6 Multijet 120hp Lounge.
On sale: September 2016.
Range price:£12,995-£18,995 (hatch, Station Wagon +£1,000).
Engines: Petrol 1.4×2, 1.6. Diesel 1.3, 1.6.
Power (hp):95/120, 110. 95, 120.
Torque (Nm):127/206, 152. 200, 320.
0-62mph (sec):*12.1 (SW 12.3)/9.6 (9.8), 11.5 (11.7). 12.0 (12.3), 9.8 (10.1).
Top speed (mph):* 115/124, 119. 112, 124.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg):* 49.6/47.1, 44.8. 76.3, 76.3
CO2 emissions (g/km):* 132/139, 147. 99, 98.
Key rivals: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf
Test Date: September 2016.
* All performance/economy figures with manual gearbox where choice available.