How does Fiat’s practical family hatchback measure up to rivals?
Fiat is best known these days for the cute 500 city car, a model which still sells by the truckload. It has another showroom star, the 124 Spider, along with variants of the 500 for crossover and MPV buyers.
It also sells the Tipo, a car that, unlike its siblings, is focused very much on practicality, space and value for money. It’s Fiat’s most sensible car, a five-door hatchback that competes with the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
Its headliner is undoubtedly value-packed pricing. Fiat doesn’t give you a miserly standard spec for your budget-level cash, either. All Tipos feature air conditioning, electric front windows, DAB radio and Bluetooth. The equipment list swells further as you go up the range.
The small engine range tops out with two 118bhp power units, one petrol and one diesel. They both do 0-60mph in under 10 seconds, but never feel particularly fast; on paper, the 1.4-litre turbo is the quicker, but the extra pulling power of the 1.6-litre diesel makes it feel faster on the road.
It’s a bit of a pity the diesel isn’t quieter, though. It’s noisy under acceleration and harsh when revved; the petrol is far sweeter. At speed, neither engine is particularly noisy, although this in part is due to the Tipo not being the best at keeping wind noise at bay.
Handling is stodgy and the Tipo leans into corners. The ride is soft as a result, although Fiat hasn’t been able to tune out an underlying ‘quiver’ that gives a shimmery feel even along roads that look billiard table smooth. Pricier rivals feel more settled on the motorway as a result.
The Tipo’s budget roots show through inside, as it’s made largely from hard plastics with an unusual texture. Many buttons and switches feel downmarket. It is easy to get comfortable in it though, particularly if you choose the Comfort Pack (standard on top-spec Lounge cars) which has lumbar support, climate control and a rear armrest.
Drivers will be pleased all but base Easy models have standard rear parking sensors, as the view rearwards isn’t great. All except Easy trim get a five-inch Uconnect touchscreen; it’s a bit small and some of the icons are tiny, but it is at least mounted high on the dash. Lounge trim builds a reversing camera into it.
Passengers will find the Tipo picture mixed. There’s decent space in the back, but the middle seat backrest is uncomfortable – and as there’s no central head restraint on the base Easy car, some may prefer not to travel in it at all. The boot, however, is vast, bigger than a Ford Focus, VW Golf and Vauxhall Astra. Only a Skoda Octavia offers more space, although the Tipo’s functionality isn’t particularly smart – you don’t get a height-adjust boot floor and there’s a step when you fold the rear seats down.
The Tipo is worth considering if you’re on a tight budget, but we’d steer clear of the pricier models with more powerful engines. They don’t make sense alongside more talented rivals, and so-so retained values mean your decision will cost you in the long run.
But a mid-spec 1.4-T-Jet 120 petrol makes much more sense, particularly if you’re buying privately. Pick Easy Plus trim, with alloys, electric rear windows, cruise control, rear parking sensors and the 5.0in touchscreen infotainment, and you’ve a decent family car for not a lot of cash at all.