We find out how Fiat’s new mid-size hatch measures up
The originial Fiat Tipo was sold in the UK from 1988 to 1995, slugging it out with the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Astra for a place on the nation’s drives.
Now the name is back, attached to another mid-sized family hatch which aims to woo buyers from the Focus and Astra with lowly list prices and ridiculously cheap PCP deals.
The Tipo starts at £12,995, compared with £16,445 for a Focus, £15,445 for an Astra and £15,105 for a Kia C’eed. More importantly for many buyers, it can be had from as little as £169 per month on a PCP deal.
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel producing 119bhp, 236lb/ft TB MultiAir,
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 124mph, 0-62mph in 10.1
Economy: 76.3mpg combined
Emissions: 98g/km of CO2
Fiat say that despite its relatively low starting price the Tipo isn’t a budget car, rather a car for a budget.
Unfortunately, it feels pretty budget inside. The dash-top, and centre console in particular have a scratchy, shiny plastic that feels pretty low-rent.
The rest of the controls look and feel much better but they’re not the thick, nicely damped materials you’d find in a Focus. They are at least clear and easy to use. The media touchscreen, however, is comically small. Even in top Lounge trim it’s a meagre five inches. In the company of Ford’s SYNC3 and Vauxhall’s Intellilink it looks and feels a bit substandard.
Dubious interior features aside the Tipo is pretty good at fulfilling Fiat’s aim to offer a functional family vehicle alongside the more desirable 500 and 124 ranges. The seats are a good size and supportive, and the Tipo has class-leading leg and headroom front and rear.
Boot space, too, is ahead of the curve at 440 litres for the hatch and 550 litres in the estate.
It also drives surprisingly well. It is well composed, has light, predictable handling and certainly doesn’t embarrass itself in the segment.
What’s more, it is impressively quiet. Even on the motorway noise intrusion is kept well under control and the engine hums away unobtrusively.
Our test car was equipped with the range-topping 1.6 diesel. Producing 119bhp and 236lb/ft it felt like a good fit for the car, especially as it sneaks in below the 100g/km CO2 threshold and offers 76mpg.
The Tipo is also available with a 1.3-litre diesel with 94bhp and three petrols – a 1.4 with 94bhp, a turbocharged 1.4 with 119bhp and a 1.6 E-Torq with 109bhp.
In basic Easy trim you get electrically adjustable mirrors, DAB radio and air con but are stuck with steel wheels. Your £1,000 step to Easy Plus adds alloy wheels, parking sensors, cruise control, a touchscreen, fog lights and a leather trimmed steering wheel. Top spec Lounge packs in sat nav, auto lights and wipers, reversing camera, auto climate control and chrome trim for your £14,995 starting price.
Fiat see the Tipo as the brand’s functional face and hope it will appeal to buyers looking for practicality and value.
At its lower prices it makes sense. It doesn’t pack in loads of superfluous kit and can be forgiven for being a bit rough around the edges when you can have a spacious, smooth family car for a shade under £13,000.
When you start reaching the upper echelons with bigger engines and more equipment it begins to edge into the Focus, C’eed and Astra territory where it can’t quite match rivals for quality feel. But even then it packs in more for your money.
The original Tipo sold two million units in its lifetime, whether the new one can match this will depend on how much buyers rank monthly costs ahead of a top-drawer interior and endless options list.