Turkish Delight. Story by Phil Ward Photography by Michael Ward. Fiat is claiming its new Tipo is a class leader in terms of space and value. Priced in the UK at £12,995, does the new car have what it takes to cut it on the road?
Wow. Sensational. Amazing. Three words you probably won’t be using to describe the new Fiat Tipo. Or will you? I’m going to be controversial here and say: yes, those words really do apply to Fiat’s new VW Golf rival.
Not at first, though. In fact the first three words Fiat conjured up in the press conference were ‘authentic’, ‘substantial’ and, er, ‘concrete’. By which I think they mean solid, worthy and practical.
Although it looks clean and modern enough, the Tipo isn’t going to win any beauty contests. To look at, the shape could be any other generic car from Europe, Japan or even China. It’s been styled with what Fiat calls ‘personality’.
But hey, sharp looks aren’t what everyone wants. Some of us have no interest in style, preferring to remain anonymous. And the Tipo suffers no compromises on the altar of style – it’s all about substance. This is a car intended to be as practical and as straightforward as possible. And it genuinely succeeds in being one of the most sensible and great value choices out there.
It’s all a bit different from the last Tipo of the 1990s, arguably one of Fiat’s best ever medium-sized cars, and one that was full of character. The old Tipo won the Car of the Year title in 1989, with every justification. This new one is unlikely to repeat that, but it has won the ‘AutoBest’ award for 2016 – no, me neither, but apparently it’s an award based on value.
No argument there. When it arrives in the UK in September, the Tipo will be priced from just £12,995. Considering that the VW Golf now retails at nearly £18,000 in base form, that price is nothing short of sensational, even amazing. Even wow. There you go.
The UK is getting two of the three body styles Fiat is making: the five-door hatchback and the Station Wagon estate (we won’t be offered the four-door saloon that’s sold in continental markets). Prices forthe Station Wagon start at £13,995, which is exactly £1000 more than the hatchback. Even the highest-spec Tipo won’t cost you more than £20k.
A TURKISH ITALIAN
The Tipo was designed in Italy, but it’s manufactured in Fiat’s Tofas plant in Bursa, Turkey, where it was launched as far back as May 2015. Now it’s being rolled out across European markets, although in the UK customers will have to wait until September 2016. To make sense of the Tipo, you have to accept that it’s built down to a price, not designed to go head-tohead with the Volkswagen Golf. So don’t expect highquality plastics: the materials used for the lower dash, boot lining and certain controls are distinctly low-rent. In fact, the steering wheel and some of theswitchgear is shared with the Fiat 500. There’s also a distinct lack of clever and innovative features – again, that’s to keep prices down.
You do, however, get surprisingly comprehensive equipment. Even the entry-level model (called Pop in Europe but it’s undecided what the badging will be in the UK) has air-conditioning, electric front windows, six airbags, DAB radio, a USB slot and Bluetooth connectivity.
A five-inch Uconnect touchscreen is standard on mid and high grades (or a £500 option on the base model). It works really well with its pinch-and-swipe system and you get sat nav included on the top model. Overall, the dashboard is sensibly laid out with a clear instrument display, easy-to-use switches and useful controls mounted on the steering wheel.
The mid-range trim level (Fiat UK has yet to decide how it will badge it) also adds a leather steering wheel and gearknob, electric rear windows, daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, rear parking sensors and cruise control, all for £1000 more – which seems like very good value to us. Stump up an extra grand and you get the top trim level, replete with climate control, 17-inch alloys, automatic lights and wipers, rear view camera and chrome details.
ROOM AND A VIEW
That boxy shape is superb for one thing: space. There’s so much space. In fact, Fiat is claiming classleading boot volume, rear headroom and rear legroom. Certainly we had no trouble fitting two very tall passengers in the back, and the wide-opening doorsmake getting in and out a cinch. It’s not so comfortable for a third person in the rear, though, as the middle seat is pretty hard.
Of the two body styles – five-door hatchback and Station Wagon estate – the latter is comfortably the more practical. Its longer boot holds a gigantic 550 litres (110 more than the hatchback) and can cope with loads up to 1.8m long. It also has extra storage areas to the sides of the boot, the load sill is flush with the boot floor and its load area is flatter. Oh, and it also has standard roof bars.
In contrast the hatchback’s folded seats leave a step in the load floor, you have to lift luggage up further and the load lip is about 20cm deep. Still, the hatchback remains pretty practical, with 440 litres of boot space. Visibility is also better than class average.
You have a choice of five engines: a mix of petrols and diesels offering between 94bhp and 118bhp. The base unit is a 1.4 petrol (94bhp), while the 1.4 T-Jet turbo petrol has 118bhp; there’s also a 1.6 e-TorQ engine (108bhp) with automatic transmission. As for diesels, the 1.3 MultiJet II produces 95hp, while the 1.6 MultiJet II has 118bhp. All diesels emit less than 100g/km of CO2. Going from a petrol engine to a diesel with equivalent power will cost you a sizeable £2000 extra – you’ll have to travel quite a long way to make that back in saved fuel.
Most buyers will go for the 1.6 diesel with 118bhp. It’s lively (0-62mph in 9.8 seconds, or 10.1 in the SW), and boasts plenty of torque from low down the rev range; peak torque of 320Nm arrives at just 1750rpm. It’s not the quietest diesel around at urban speeds, but once on the open road, it’s pleasantly refined and spins at comfortably low revs on the motorway. Indeed, Fiat claims the Tipo is the quietest car in its class; what noise there is comes mostly from the tyres over road imperfections.
The 118bhp 1.4 petrol model is smoother and keener when you floor the throttle but of course it’s less efficient – its official figures are 47.1mpg and 139g/km. In contrast, the 1.6 diesel emits as little as 89g/km and can average 83mpg with the Eco Pack fitted (which consists of an Active Grille Shutter, smoothly-shaped alloy wheels and low rolling resistance tyres).
The six-speed manual gearbox isn’t one of the Tipo’s best features, as it feels notchy and has a long throw. A DDCT six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission will be offered on many models, but sadly we didn’t get a chance to test this.
The platform on which the Tipo is based is shared with the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade, which have both impressed us so far. The prospects, therefore, are good. But can the driving experience live up to the promise?
In part, yes. The suspension is definitely set up on the soft side. The springs have plenty of travel so the ride over most roads and potholes is very good; occasionally sleeping policemen and bigger bumps do show up ride quality weaknesses but it’s cosseting most of the time. The flipside is that, driving the door handles off the car, you get a fair bit of body roll in corners. This is not the sharpest-handling tool in the box, and while the steering has plenty of weight to it, it doesn’t have a lot of feel.
So what do we think of the Tipo then? We doubt it will win many awards for sophistication or style. But it certainly does get the gold medal for interior space: it offers more headroom, legroom and boot volume(especially in Station Wagon guise) than any other rival.
It’s also brilliant value. With ‘budget’ brands like KIA and Hyundai going increasingly upmarket recently – with correspondingly higher prices – Fiat has stolen the march with a car that’s superb value for its size. We can see the Tipo being a popular choice not only with fleet buyers but also with private owners who want maximum space for supermini money. Romantic? No. Pragmatic? Absolutely.
ABOVE: Fiat Tipo Hatchback with 1.4 T MultiAir engine provided near sporting performance and lighter gearchange than 1.6 diesel.
ABOVE: The Stilo Station Wagon fills a gap in Fiat’s current model range and should be well received by the estate car fraternity.
ABOVE: Despite the remarkable sale price, the performance and build quality of the Tipo has not been compromised.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS FIAT TIPO 1.6 MULTIJET II
ENGINE: 4-cylinder turbodiesel
BORE X STROKE: 79.5mm x 80.5mm
COMP RATIO: 16.5:1
POWER: 118bhp @ 3750rpm
TORQUE: 236lb ft @ 1750rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual or 6-speed DCCT auto, front-wheel drive
BRAKES: 281mm discs front, 264mm rear
WHEELS: 16in or 17in alloy
DIMENSIONS: 4370mm (l), 1790mm (w), 1500mm (h) 4570mm (l), 1790mm (w), 1510mm (h)*
KERB WEIGHT: 1395kg
FUEL CONS (COMB): 76.3mpg( 83.0 Eco Pack)
TOP SPEED: 124mph
0-62MPH: 9.8sec (10.2 Eco Pack)
PRICE (UK): £12,995 – £19,995 / * Station Wagon