Fiat’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 £13,000.
That’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. There’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 there’s plenty of space under the front seats for feet. It’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 you’d have to be really tall for this to be an issue.
Admittedly though, the Fiat’s low price does show up in some of the hard plastics on display in the cabin. Some of it’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, it’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 isn’t particularly fun to drive. Body roll is reasonably well managed but there isn’t a lot of feel through the controls and it’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 Tipo’s great-value pricing will be Fiat’s response to such criticism: this is very much a car you’ll buy with your head rather than your heart. No, it’s not as satisfying to drive as some others in this sector, but it’s considerably better value than them and offers a lot more space and equipment for the money.
It’s also more stylish than some of the more budget brands – 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 £17,995
Torque 236lb ft
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 76.3mpg
CO2/tax band 98g/km, 19%