As a kid growing up in the 70s & 80s FIAT was a big car brand in Ireland.
It provided many a family with their first or second car… by second car, I mean old banger! I have vivid memories of the little fliers my Mum would ferry us around in. During Mum’s ‘FIAT years’, pre the obligatory Fiesta and Micra days, there were FIAT 500s, 600s and 126 Bambinos that kept her mobile. Boy oh boy they were shocking by today’s standards. Loved but in truth they were utter rust buckets held together by their paint. In fairness, most cars back then dissolved after a few years of exposure to the elements. The original FIAT Tipo was its first properly rust-proofed car… it even had a composite tailgate! FIATs were plentyful and parts were cheap. Slowly FIAT sales suffered as better value and more reliable upstarts entered the Irish market and nipped at the Italian’s heels. Toyota, Datsun and others offered comparable cars. Buyers found it easy to jump ship from the European brand. Ireland simply fell out of love with larger FIATs and if it wasn’t for the compact big selling Uno that morphed into Punto the brand could have become irrelevant. In more recent years, inspired bt BMWs MINI the new 500 has given the firm a lifeline and a base to build from again with its small cars. With the new Tipo FIAT wants to take on the likes of Focus and Golf but can it really? Tipo is a good looking machine despite its budget starting price of €17,995. Tipo has a sturdy look with a really strong front end and enough stylish body creases to shame most European rivals.
Inside the cabin is spacious too. Money has been saved in front of the driver. The dashboard area is average, but respectable. Despite the car offerin a relative high level of specification across its simple and well priced grade structure there is a comically small 5 inch centre touch screen display that is the only really budget thing on show that lets the car down. Three grades are available in Ireland called Pop, Easy and Lounge are offered. The entry Pop is unlikely to sell as the higher two grades offer better value for specification. Initially Easy is being offered for the same price as Pop as a sales incentive. A three year warranty is standard.
Saloon and a Stationwagon body style are available but the five door hatchback is spot on for Ireland. On the road Tipo is softly sprung and the ride is surprisingly comfortable. Tipo does what it says on the tin without any outstanding vices. A DCT automatic is available but the standard manual works best.
Engines: Petrol power comes in 95hp (1.4 litre), 110hp (1.6 litre) and 120hp (1.4 litre) outputs. The fuel is making a return in the class and the Tipo Tjet is quite good, although I found it a little noisy. Diesel engines come in various sizes 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 (man & auto) with outputs of 95hp and 120hp.
The gem in the range is the 1.6 litre Multijet diesel. Now we know diesel is starting to be demonised but with this oil burner FIAT out performs and undercuts on price all its rivals. The four cylinder delivers loads of pulling power with 120hp and 320nm of torque and can run on the mere promise of fuel. The initial savings compared to rivals is really impressive but we have yet to see how the car will devalue. This is where buyers need to decide whether to save on the new price compared to the usual suspects and take their chances on Tipo’s residual value staying competitive. FIAT says used values should be strong. The 120hp diesel will be the big seller but a 95hp diesel will run it close. CO2 levels are low starting from just 98g/CO2.
The original Tipo was a breakthrough car and sold over 2 million globally. Legends like Punto, Panda and of course the 500 were never an issue but every large FIAT since Tipo has been pants. Lately Korean brands Hyundai/KIA and European brands like VW’s Skoda and SEAT not forgetting Renault with Dacia have filled the gap and built reputions that FIAT can only aspire to. There is no doubt FIAT has to rebuild credibility in the C segment as it hasn’t had a offering in the class in years. FIAT Ireland presently has a small passenger car dealer network of just 10. It sells small cars in small numbers in Ireland but it is making an aggressive return with the competitively priced Tipo. More importantly Tipo is giving access to the big C segment market place that should help it grow.
FIAT Ireland to its credit has put a simple pricing structure in place. To go up a grade the pricewalk is €1,250 and if you want to go from petrol to diesel power it will cost just €1,750. FIAT Ireland has also set a aximum price in the Tipo range of €24,745 for the diesel auto estate.
Nostalgia is a great emotion but practical car buying needs to be a decision made with the head more than the heart. Should Irish buyers give FIAT a shot at redemption? FIAT’s hookline with Tipo is about ‘giving more for less’ and that seems to be the case with the new car. Tipo is worth considering.