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Fiat set to tackle the mainstream with new 2016 Tipo

Published: 10 March 2016

► New Fiat Tipo revealed in Geneva
► Hatchback or estate, petrol or diesel
► Due on sale in the UK in September 

It’s official: the frugal Fiat Tipo is on its way to the UK, following its reveal at the 2016 Geneva motor show. It’s an important car for the Italian manufacturer, granting buyers a potential alternative to the default choices such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra – and consequently giving Fiat a shot at grabbing some sales in a lucrative, bustling C-segment market.

Fiat needs more mainstream sales: its range is limited to mostly 500-derived models and the company registered 1917 cars in the UK in February 2016. Besides representing a slight drop compared with February 2015’s sales, it's trailing far behind rivals like Ford (11,513 cars in the same month), Volkswagen (6694) and Vauxhall (7868).

Even upstart brands, like Kia and Hyundai, registered nigh-on 3000 cars apiece – leaving Fiat comprehensively behind. While cars like the diminutive 500 and recently launched 500X are proving popular, they aren’t sold in huge numbers. A competitive, competent and affordable family hatch – forming part of the brand’s new ‘rational’ division – could be just the ticket to reinvigorate the company. 

Why has Fiat struggled to boost its volumes?

A glance at the brand’s line-up reveals all. While it initially appears relatively well populated, there’s little in terms of a heavy-hitting volume model – despite the company’s best efforts to spin various derivatives of the 500, like the crossover 500X, into busier segments.

That’s not to say its range is devoid of appeal. Models like the Panda are pleasant enough but, having been launched in 2011, now feel aged and are falling by the wayside – particularly when pitched against newer competition such as the Suzuki Celerio and Hyundai i10. And can you still believe that the Punto’s still on sale? That first appeared in 2005 and has been dragging its heels ever since...

Fiat Tipo

So what’s going to lead the charge?

This, the new Fiat Tipo, which will be offered in hatchback and estate forms. Think of it as a successor to the Bravo/Brava and Stilo. It’s hoped to fare much better, thanks to its unpretentious and affordable nature. Phrases like ‘class-leading legroom and boot space’, ‘exceptional roominess’ and ‘extremely competitive’ are bandied around by Fiat suits. What’s clear is that this should hopefully prove a cost-effective, practical and serviceable choice – which is what many buyers are looking for.

It was designed in Italy and developed in Turkey, where it is now also built. The brief appears to have focused primarily on everyday usability; the Tipo is claimed to comfortably accommodate three six-feet-plus adults in the back, for example, while the hatchback offers 440 litres of boot space. That’s 100 more than a Volkswagen Golf.

The estate boot is an even roomier 550 litres, with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats still in place, but no seats-down figure has been specified yet. Each also features myriad useful touches, including several storage compartments and a USB port for charging mobile devices.

Cabin ergonomics are reputed to be excellent and Fiat makes a particular note about ‘secondary controls which can be easily reached without the driver taking their eyes off the road’. A subtle prod at the primarily touchscreen-controlled Peugeot and Citroen alternatives, perhaps?

Fiat Tipo Estate

A decent powertrain line-up?

There should be something to accommodate most requirements. A total of five engines are on offer and some are available with automatic transmissions. The line-up is as follows:

  • 1.3-litre MultiJet II diesel: 94bhp, 148lb ft
  • 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel: 118bhp, 236lb ft
  • 1.4-litre petrol: 94bhp, 92lb ft
  • 1.4-litre turbo petrol: 118bhp, 152lb ft
  • 1.6-litre e-TorQ: 109bhp, 112lb ft (only with six-speed torque convertor automatic)

Few technical details have been published yet, but Fiat claims the 1.6 MultiJet II averages 76.mpg and emits 98g/km of CO2, granting it exemption from VED – and making it a prime choice for company car drivers.

This engine’s also offered in conjunction with a six-speed twin-clutch gearbox, making it a sensible choice for those enduring longer trips or regular around-town driving.

What does the Tipo come with?

Standard kit sounds comprehensive, which will no doubt appeal to buyers. Every version of the Tipo comes with remote central locking, air-con, electric front windows, electric mirrors, DAB, Bluetooth and six airbags. That should quell any immediate need to dip into the options boxes.

Fiat Tipo Estate

Is the Fiat Tipo due on sale soon?

Not quite. Fiat says it’ll be on sale in the UK in September 2016, at which point more details – such as precise pricing and complete range details – will be made available.

In Italy, however, the Tipo saloon – a smart-looking model that the UK’s not set to receive – is on sale for €14,500. That’s about £11,200 at the going exchange rate, suggesting that the rest of the Tipo range is likely to significantly undercut the list prices of its rivals.

When you consider that the most basic Ford Focus will set you back £15,495, it lends the Fiat a useful initial degree of appeal. Judgment will, however, have to be reserved – as always – until we drive it, but many buyers will likely forgive a few dynamic, powertrain or quality foibles considering the price. There’s still plenty of competition to face up to, though, including the oft-overlooked Skoda Rapid.

It’ll have to compete well on the PCP front if it wants to be a real success, given that buyers are increasingly opting for monthly payments instead of buying outright.

Fiat also had its new 124 Spider on display at the 2016 Geneva motor show, alongside its hotter Abarth twin

Read more of CAR’s 2016 Geneva motor show coverage here

Click here for CAR’s A-Z guide to the 2016 Geneva motor show

By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car

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