The all-new Tipo range starts at £12,995 (£159 a month in the PCP world), and at entry level it really is a lot of car for the money – a family hatchback for supermini money.
The last Tipo was produced between 1988–1995, winning European Car of the Year in 1989, while Fiat hasn’t competed in the Focus/Golf/Astra sector since the Stilo went out of production in 2007.
Fiat may well have dusted off an old name for its comeback, but the Tipo is a completely fresh proposition.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the distinctive looks of the Tipo certainly work for me with bold creases, an aggressive front end and a sexy rear spoiler.
Available as a five-door hatchback or ‘Station Wagon’, it’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into the styling. In fact, it’s so sleek the drag coefficient is a very low 0.29 – and it shows. The hatchback is attractive, but the estate is arguably even better proportioned.
It looks good inside too in a very un-Fiat, conservative way. No retro chic or quirkiness here – the Tipo is a serious car in a grey way.
The front seats are comfortable, the dashboard is functional and uncluttered, while the various cabin compartments add up to 12 litres of storage.
But what sets the Tipo apart is the amount of space – not just up front, but in the rear. It’s a triumph of packaging and there genuinely is room for five adults to sit comfortably in the car.
Its boot capacity is also best-in-class with a volume of 440 litres, while the Station Wagon boasts a massive 550 litres, which is also top of the class, plus a low load sill for extra convenience.
There are five engines available – three petrol units ranging from a 95hp 1.4-litre to a 120hp 1.6-litre MultiJet II, plus two diesels (a 95hp 1.3 MultiJet II and 120hp 1.6 MultiJet II).
We’ve only driven the top-of-the-range 1.6 diesel with six-speed manual, though Fiat’s new DDCT six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission is also available with this engine.
Like most diesels, it’s a bit noisy initially, but soon settles down and on smooth roads the Tipo is refined for its class, rides well and there’s very little body roll in corners.
The engine has plenty of pulling power, though it’s a bit breathless at the top of the range, but for everyday driving or cruising on A roads and motorways, it’s just the job.
For the record, it can accelerate to 62mph in a respectable 9.8 seconds (10.1 in the estate), it has a top speed of 124mph and it’s capable of 76.3mpg with low CO2 emissions of 98g/km.
It’s also “Amore for less” when you look at the spec – air conditioning, six airbags, DAB digital radio, chrome door handles, USB and Bluetooth connectivity with steering wheel remote controls are among the kit available on the most basic car.
There are three trim levels available. Another sign of the seriousness of the Tipo is the fact that there’s no Pop and Pop Star like the 500 – here you have entry level Easy, mid-level Easy Plus and top of the range Lounge.
So far so good, but here’s the thing – once you start moving up the trim levels and engine range, the Tipo goes from being “Amore for Less” to “Amore for Average”.
The top spec Lounge model we drove costs £17,995, which is good, but not quite such a bargain, especially when you weight up some of the car’s bad points. For instance, the 5-inch touchscreen is meagre and some of the plastics used inside are a bit cheap. That said, Fiat has come on leaps and bounds in terms of build quality and the Tipo is well put together.
At this price point it’s also in direct opposition with the likes of the Astra and Focus. So we suspect the best option would be to go for an entry level model, add a few extras and buy your own big screen sat nav.
Verdict: the new Tipo is a bit on the dull side for a Fiat, but it’s competitively priced, distinctive, spacious, economical and practical.