Fiatâ€™s new rival to the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra is well-priced but not quite a Focus-beater
The Fiat Tipo revives a name from the past as the Italian brand returns to the five-door family hatchback sector. While other models such as the stylish Fiat 500 put looks before practicality, the new Tipo is decidedly function-first, and is equally sensible in terms of pricing: the well-kitted new range starts from less than Â£13,000.
Thatâ€™s striking value when compared to volume models such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, and things look better still when you clock the impressive fuel economy of a core model in the range, the 1.6-litre diesel. Emitting less than 100g/km CO2, it claims a combined average economy of 76.3mpg. On paper, then, the Tipo is immediately attention-grabbing.
The smart-looking model is elegant in the metal too, and the good news continues inside as the interior is very roomy and well-designed. Thereâ€™s plentiful adjustment for the comfortable, supportive front seats and, even if the driver is tall, rear-seat passengers should find enough room behind them.
The rear seat is supportive and thereâ€™s plenty of space under the front seats for feet. Itâ€™s not just passenger space that betters arch-rivals either: the boot is considerably larger than, say, a Volkswagen Golf. For practicality, the only possible grumble could be a lack of headroom in the rear, but youâ€™d have to be really tall for this to be an issue.
Admittedly though, the Fiatâ€™s low price does show up in some of the hard plastics on display in the cabin. Some of itâ€™s a bit shiny and coarse, but the soft-touch dash top does help you overlook this and neat, simple design looks modern. Top-spec models have standard sat nav, an easy-to-read Uconnect system with built-in hard drive, although the 5.0in screen does seem rather small within the dashboard.
On the move, itâ€™s no ball of fire, but the 118bhp diesel is flexible enough so moves along relatively fuss-free. It has decent pull from low revs and, at a cruise, settles down to a relaxed hum.
But the Tipo isnâ€™t particularly fun to drive. Body roll is reasonably well managed but there isnâ€™t a lot of feel through the controls and itâ€™s not as agile as a Ford Focus. The suspension can feel a bit harsh in town too and, although it settles down at speed, it does lag behind the best-sellers in this class.
The new Tipoâ€™s great-value pricing will be Fiatâ€™s response to such criticism: this is very much a car youâ€™ll buy with your head rather than your heart. No, itâ€™s not as satisfying to drive as some others in this sector, but itâ€™s considerably better value than them and offers a lot more space and equipment for the money.
Itâ€™s also more stylish than some of the more budget brands â€“ and, if you only cover a relatively low annual mileage, choosing a petrol model over this diesel would save you even more money. For the bargain-hunting family motorist, it certainly has a lot going for it. More demanding drivers, however, should probably look elsewhere.
Fiat Tipo Lounge 1.6 MultiJet II
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from Â£17,995
Torque 236lb ft
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 76.3mpg
CO2/tax band 98g/km, 19%