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Fiat Tipo 2016 first drive

By raccars Published

Fiat

Fiat’s new five-door family hatch aims to ‘do a Dacia’ and offer a value alternative to the big-selling mainstream brand

Fiat Tipo 1.6 MultiJet II Lounge

● Price: £17,995

● Engine: 1.6-litre turbodiesel

● Power: 120hp

● Gearbox: Six-speed manual

● 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds

● Top speed: 124mph

● Fuel economy: 70.6mpg

● CO2: 89g/km

● On sale: Now

Three 2016 Fiat Tipo facts

1: The Fiat Tipo revives a name last seen in the 1990s. Fiat’s family hatchback has also been called Stilo, Bravo and Brava.

2: The new Tipo is built in Turkey, at a high-tech purpose-built facility.

3: Fiat has designed the trim line-up to offer clearly-graded ‘walks’: £1,000 jumps take you between trims, engines and bodystyles.

What is it?

The Fiat Tipo marks the Italian brand’s return to the family hatchback sector. Its previous contender, the Bravo, was a neat-looking car, but not particularly outstanding considering the mainstream prices Fiat was charging. It faded without trace a few years back.

With the new Tipo, Fiat is trying a different approach. It’s gunning for the value sector, pricing the Tipo below conventional cars such as the Ford Focus in an attempt to carve itself out a niche in this popular car sector. It’s being supported by a big-budget TV advertising campaign.

It’s offered with a comprehensive range of engines, ranging from budget petrols and small-capacity diesels, to turbo petrols and a 1.6-litre turbodiesel that’s expected to be a core seller. That’s the model we drove, in well-equipped Lounge trim. Also available are entry-level Easy and Easy Plus variants, and a fleet-focused Elite.

Styling and interior

The tidy Tipo is a conventional-looking car, clearly designed with practicality in mind. It is fairly tall and voluminous for a five-door hatch, and boasts simpler, more minimalist lines more akin to a Volkswagen Golf than, say, a Peugeot 308. It’s not standout, but is still fairly appealing.

It’s a similar story inside. The dashboard is clearly laid out and easy to use, again with more of a Volkswagen-like approach than the fussier style of some others in this sector. Dials are big and simple, heater controls are big and simple, buttons are big and simple… you get the idea.

The one feature that’s not so big and simple is the infotainment screen. Reflecting the Tipo’s budget-car leanings, this is a little on the small side and the graphics are blockier and more basic than you’d normally find in cars from this sector. It still works fine, but the system isn’t as pretty or expensive-looking as it could be.

The interior is solidly built and doesn’t rattle, but the plastics are a bit on the budget side as well. Whereas they’re soft-touch in a Golf, they’re hard and a bit shiny here. Fiat’s tried to minimise the sense of cost-cutting, but you are aware this isn’t as expensive a car as others in this sector.

Fiat

Performance

We drive the 120hp 1.6-litre MultiJet II turbodiesel during our North Wales test day. Along with the 1.4-litre T-Jet turbo petrol, Fiat expects this to be a core engine in the range. It’s offered with a six-speed manual, a DDCT automatic, and also comes in fuel-saving ECO guise that emits just 89g/km CO2.

It’s an engine familiar from other Fiats, and performs as strongly as you’d expect an Italian engine to do. Acceleration is swift for a mid-range turbodiesel family hatch, with 0-62mph taking less than 10 seconds, and there’s lots of easily-accessible pulling power to ensure maintaining progress is fuss-free.

The six-speed gearchange is a bit rubbery but is otherwise easy to use, and it’s a fairly refined engine so long as you don’t rev it too hard. It suits the Tipo well: painless, punchy and more than potent enough, it’s not hard to see why Fiat expects to sell so many Tipos with this engine.

Handling

Fiat has set the Tipo up to ride well and offer supple, easygoing manners on all roads. This is not a car aimed at enthusiasts – it is not a hot hatch in disguise. Saying that, it does handle fairly confidently, with good accuracy through the light steering and decent grip when you lean on it.

There is some body roll and it gets a bit lively when you start throwing it about, though. The Tipo prefers steady, measured driving: given its value-seeking target market, that’s fine with us. Sportier drivers will still likely turn to the Ford Focus or Seat Leon anyway.

The Tipo does ride nicely, though. The suspension has a tough feel, as if it’s been tailored to take really rough roads in its stride, and this ability helps it shrug off UK roads without too much patter or clatter.

Again, it can run out of ideas when things get challenging, but in everyday driving it proves adept and confident. In focusing more on comfort than back-road dynamics, Fiat has created a well-balanced and likeable car in the Tipo.

Price and value

The biggest draw of the Tipo is its superb value. Ticket price of a 95hp 1.4-litre entry-level Easy hatch is just £12,995, which is less than the lead-in price of a Ford Fiesta – and that’s a car from the sector below this! Most budget buyers are expected to step up to the better-equipped Easy Plus: that’s just £13,995.

A faster 120hp 1.4-litre turbo engine is £1,000 more, and the 1.6-litre turbodiesel we drove starts at £16,995. Our Lounge model, with standard sat nav, climate control, parking sensors, alloy wheels and umpteen other features, cost £17,995. That’s less than an entry-level Volkswagen Golf five-door: yes, the Fiat Tipo is indeed exceptional value.

Fuel economy

The 1.6-litre turbodiesel really scores here. Average fuel economy is a fine 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions are well under 100g/km. You may not see such highs out on the road, but over 60mpg should easily be attainable, maybe even 70mpg on a gentle motorway cruise. This makes the Tipo one of the most efficient turbodiesel family hatchbacks on sale.

Verdict: 2016 Fiat Tipo

Fiat has hit the nail on the head with the Tipo. It’s not tried to take on the family hatchback mainstream with it: instead, it’s aimed at the sector below, adopting a Dacia-like approach of selling similar space and ability for less money.

It’s an approach that’s worked. Overall, a Volkswagen Golf or Vauxhall Astra is a better and more talented all-rounder. But the Tipo’s excellent value and broad range of abilities ensure it still has appeal – particularly given the amount of money you’re saving. Looking for a family hatch bargain? It should certainly be on the consideration list.

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