Fiat Tipo Road Test

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TYPE CAST


Described by Fiat as ‘the car for a budget’ rather than a budget car, the reappearance of the Tipo or Type marks Fiat’s return to the C-Segment car market. Continuing the original Tipo’s Car of the Year winning abilities, the new version instantly emulated its predecessor by claiming the exact same accolade. Fiat’s other aim is to inject a little Italian flair into one of the more mundane sections of automotive hard wear.


Practical family transport, the daily commuter and the garden centre shuttle that overflow with reliability, practicality and economy tend not to be the most inspirational machinery. But from Fiat it is said it’s a case of ‘amore for less’. But whilst the original boxy now makes regular TV appearances as the on screen transport Inspector Montalbano, the new Tipo actually does have something about it.


Hatchback or estate the first trick is to try and tell them apart only a slightly squarer roofline and tailgate the defining factors. Apart from that, they’re visually identical which also means Fiat’s other ‘functional and aspirational’ claims somewhat bewildering. That is unless you factor in that the front and grille have taken their motivation from the new 124 Spider. Humour and marketing spin aside, Fiat’s new Tipo is actually quite a nice car and at last throws some Italian style into the mix.


Externally, Fiat has strived and in most ways succeeded in eschewing the current trend for the angular, instead injecting a few flowing lines and a lower profile. The car sits extremely well on its 17” alloys and 225/45 rubber, independent MacPherson struts and a Torsion beam keeping forming the front and rear suspension. An elevated waistline emphasizes the lower side contours, decent sized doors complete with chrome handles and tailgate finishing off the Tipo’s hind quarters. The colour keying of the side protection sills and bumpers also means there are no visual cutoffs, effectively elongating the Tipo.


Inside the cabin is airy and comfortable with ample head and shoulder room for a maximum of five occupants, buyers able to choose from the four trim levels of Elite, Easy, Easy Plus and Lounge as tested, the lesser specs aimed at cost conscious buyers and business users. Clear instruments keep the driver abreast of vital information whilst the leather multi-function steering wheel and gearshift knob gives that sporting feel. In Lounge trim, although leather is optional the fabric trim is most likely to find greater favour as being the more practical and cost effective.


Areas where Fiat has held back are the cost cutting hard surfaces that form the dash and door cappings and the centrally mounted satnav and touch control screen. A mere 5”, whilst the satnav is accurate and Fiat’s Uconnect system contains all the applications owners now look for, in comparison to the competition, it’s now just plain small. Conversely, the hatch provides 440 litres of cargo space, the estate 550 litres with the benefit of a twin cargo bed floor. As is becoming the norm, roof rail and towing capacities have yet to be announced, but it’s safe to say the diesels will be the better bet for those hauling a trailer.


Up front there are 1.4 litre and 1.6 litre petrol engines and three diesel options of a 1.3 litre and two 1.6 litre with 95hp and 120hp outputs. All engines return a respectable 40mpg plus fuel consumption, the 1.6, 120hp turbodiesel on review delivering a respectable 46.4 average mpg equating to approximately 500 miles per 50 litre tank of fuel. Mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, the most powerful of the diesels has 320Nm of torque to play with, a top speed of 124mph and a passable 9.8 seconds 0-62mph.


To drive the Tipo does everything asked of it. And whilst it might not excel in any one task it’s impressively competent at all of them and most importantly, it’s nice to drive. The steering is sufficiently weighted, the transmission smooth, it’s comfortable to spend extended amount of time behind the wheel and most of what you need is on hand and sensibly laid out. If there was just one thing it lacks it’s the option of some extra power even if it was just another 20hp. The overall dynamics and handling exceed this type of Eurobox standards, to a level that on the less used roads you can actually start to enjoy yourself even though you might be doing nothing more than heading to your next business meeting.     


Likewise the pricing structure, the entry level Tipo Easy priced at a tempting £12,995 rising to £19,995 for the range topping Lounge, each variant is exactly a £1,000 more than the preceding one, Fiat having already introduced Tipo specific lease and finance schemes to encourage potential buyers. So what you now have is an Italian car priced to attract those who’d like a little bit more than the usual bogo C-Segment four-door transportation with a badge that says ‘I might drive an ordinary family car but I’ve still got at least a little bit of style left’.

     

           


By; Mark Stone


All New Fiat Tipo Road Test