► New Fiat Tipo hatchback tested
► Keenly priced, spacious and practical
► Vanilla engine line-up, though
In the days before Fiat started putting 500 badges on all of its cars there was the Tipo – a boxy hatchback that sold millions and even reached the lofty heights of being named European Car of the Year 1989.
But mediocrity ensued. The Tipo gave way to a raft of new names – Brava, Stilo and Bravo – all of which disappeared without trace, while rivals produced a constant bloodline of ever-improving Focus, Astra and Golfs.
Fiat's hatchback quietly slipped off UK price lists - the Italian manufacturer hasn’t given us a medium hatchback for a couple of years. Now the Tipo badge is back to pick up where the old car left off.
The new Fiat Tipo looks a bit bland…
The Tipo is inoffensively styled, something made more obvious by the ultra-chic looks of the smaller 500 family that we’ve come to know and love.
It sits firmly within Fiat’s pragmatic line-up alongside the Punto (remember those?) and Panda, so it’s more about interior space and low running costs than eye-catching looks.
Five engines are offered, along with three trims (four if you count the business-focused Elite) and a handful of options. Nice and easy.
Is one of the other trims called Sedicivalvole?
While the old car came in hot 'sixteen valve' spec, there’s no such indulgence here. You get the option of a 1.4-litre petrol or a choice of 1.3- and 1.6-litre diesels, with different power outputs.
We’ve driven the most powerful 119bhp 1.6-litre diesel, with a six-speed manual (a dual-clutch automatic is available), and found it acceptable enough. It’s a little noisy on start-up and does its best work in the middle of the rev range, unsurprisingly, but Fiat promises 76.3mpg and 98g/km of CO2 – which is competitive in the segment
It goes well enough plus handles and rides tidily too, although the rear torsion beam jiggles about a bit on rough surfaces. It lags behind Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra here.
How much does the new Tipo cost?
The Tipo starts at £12,995 for a base-level petrol, and everything from there upwards basically adds an extra £1000 – the next engine up? Another £1000. A higher trim? £1000 more. An automatic gearbox? That'll be £1000. You get the idea. This concludes with the top-spec estate, which costs £19,995.
There’s a similar staircasing strategy with the PCP finance offerings, too, where each upgrade costs £10 more a month. A boggo Tipo will set you back £159 a month over two years – cheaper than a Skoda Rapid Spaceback, Toyota Auris, Ford Focus or Renault Megane.
Don’t think base cars are poverty-spec though; you get a lot of standard kit, including air-con, DAB radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls, electrically adjustable door mirrors and remote central locking.
Climb the £1000 steps to the range-topping Lounge trim, like our test car, and you get things like 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors and camera, climate control and sat-nav on a five-inch touchscreen.
Just five inches?
It’s a perfectly serviceable sat-nav but looks admittedly diminutive compared with similarly priced rivals – and most modern smartphones, in fact. Just buy an Easy spec Tipo and stick an aftermarket job on the windscreen, is our advice.
The rest of the cabin, on the whole, is pretty good - a class above budget-conscious offerings from Dacia, for example. Squidgy plastic on the upper dashboard contrasts badly with the shinier-looking hard plastic lower down and on the doors – which admittedly shouldn’t and probably won’t trouble most buyers, given its starting price. There are storage spaces aplenty, though, with two half-litre bottle holders in the centre tunnel and a three-litre armrest to stash things in too.
In the back you get more legroom than a Ford Focus, Kia Ceed or Hyundai i30, plus doors that open to 80 degrees for easy access. The 440-litre boot is vast and easy to lift things into thanks to a low-level opening.
The Fiat Tipo pulls the same car-for-the-class-above trick that Dacia applies to its range – this is a Ford Focus for the price of a Fiesta – yet there’s no waft of eau-de-cheapskate when you open the door.
Much like the Romanian maker’s cars though, the best value Tipo is the entry-level one. If you’re going to spend more money then you’re better off in one of its smarter-looking and comparatively priced rivals.
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