Fiat Tipo Hatchback (2016 - ) review
The Tipo is Fiat’s answer to family hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, but it concentrates on providing impressive space for a rock-bottom price.
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The family hatchback class is full of conservative, identikit offerings when it comes to styling, and despite Fiat’s reputation for flamboyancy, the Tipo doesn’t make too much of an effort to separate itself from the pack. The front end’s design has elements of the glamorous 124 Spider about it, but otherwise, the features, lines and dimensions are very generic fare. How smart your Tipo looks depends on which trim level you opt for. The entry-level Easy version has chrome door handles and body-coloured bumpers, but makes do with steel wheels. Easy Plus cars get alloys, front foglamps and LED daytime running lights, while Lounge versions add bigger alloys and extra chrome elements.
Climb inside the Tipo, and you can instantly see it for what it is: a budget hatchback that concentrates on the basics rather than the fripperies. The interior makes very few concessions to style or plushness, with a conventional, no-nonsense layout and materials that are rather short on tactility and visual flair. However, the simplicity makes everything easy to use, and what the plastics lack in poshness, they make up for in solidity. The infotainment screen you get with the top two trims is undeniably tiny, but it isn’t too confusing to use, and the fact it’s placed high up on the dashboard means your eyes don’t have to travel too far from the road. The driver’s life is also made easier by lots of adjustment for your driving position and a good view out.
One of the best things about the Tipo is the amount of space inside. It’s generous enough that a pair of six-foot adults can sit in the back behind a pair of similarly sized pals up front, and have plenty of room to spare. A flat transmission tunnel makes life a little comfier for a fifth passenger, too, but the middleman will still have to sit on a seat that’s slightly harder and higher than those either side. The boot, meanwhile, is comfortably bigger than in most family hatchback rivals, providing an impressive 440 litres of space. However, things could be cleverer. There’s a big lip to negotiate when loading heavy items, and the back seats lie at an awkward angle when you fold them down.
Ride and handling
Remember that the Tipo is intended to merely offer cheap transport, and you’ll find it does an acceptable job on the road. The gearshift is woefully notchy, the steering is strangely heavy – feeling rather artificial and inconsistently weighted – and the suspension can struggle to deal with some of the more severe ruts that the UK’s battered road network can throw at it, especially at low urban speeds. However, the car never gets to the point of being uncomfortable, and it does manage to change direction with reasonable accuracy thanks to decent body control. It’s not as fun or as cultured as the best cars in the class, but it’s not at all bad considering it costs thousands less than those cars.
So far, we’ve only had the opportunity to drive the Tipo with its range-topping engine, the 1.6-litre diesel with 118bhp. It’s a cracker, too. The generous low-down urge gives you good flexibility for a nice easy life, so you don’t need to do too much work with the manual gearbox – just as well when the shifts are so notchy. The pace stays pretty limited when you work it harder, but the unit always stays quite smooth, adding to the car’s laid-back nature. This engine can also be specified with a twin-clutch transmission, and the other diesel engine on offer is a 1.3 with 94bhp. Petrol choices include a 94bhp 1.4, a 108bhp 1.6, and a turbocharged 1.4 with 118bhp.
All too often, it’s common for ‘budget’ cars to have all the shortcomings of a budget car, but not have a low enough price tag to justify them. Thankfully, Fiat hasn’t been too greedy in this regard, as the prices are genuinely impressive. It costs a fair slice less than rivals like the Hyundai i30, Kia Ceed and Nissan Pulsar, never mind the Astras and Focuses of the world. It’ll prove pretty affordable to run, too. The version we drove is the cleanest available, returning impressive official figures of 76.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 98g/km, but all the diesels beat 70mpg. Although none of the petrols can beat 50mpg, they all get close. The car’s budget nature means resale values are likely to be pretty weak, but when you’re paying so little in the first place, your losses will still be pretty minimal.
It’s far too early for any meaningful reliability data to be available on the Tipo, but Fiat’s performance in the manufacturer rankings of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index should give you some confidence. The brand currently sits in the top half of the standings.
The Tipo comes with the mandatory safety stuff you expect, like electronic stability control and a collection (six, in fact) of airbags, but it doesn’t exactly go above and beyond. For instance, if you want cleverer stuff like autonomous emergency braking and a speed limiter, you have to pay extra. However, you may well decide that it's money well spent, because while the standard car earned a three-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, a car with the optional safety pack fitted scored four stars.
Considering the car’s budget status, the cabin is stocked with a very decent amount of kit. Entry-level Easy versions come with air-con, remote locking, electric front windows and a stereo that includes DAB, Bluetooth and steering wheel controls, but you’ll want to pay the extra for Easy Plus trim as it brings rear parking sensors, cruise control, powered rear windows, a touch-screen stereo and a leather steering wheel. If you can afford the upgrade to Lounge trim, you’ll get automatic lights and wipers, a rear view camera, climate control and sat-nav.
Because you’re after little more than basic transport for as little money as possible. On that score, the Tipo fits the bill perfectly: it’s very cheap to buy and run and provides enough space for a family. However, if you demand more polish from your car, whether it be in terms of interior finish or driving dynamics, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.