The new Fiat Tipo, the car you didn’t know you wanted.
When you look at historical names that can be brought back, Tipo wasn’t one that I was thinking of. Nonetheless here it is and it was worth waiting for. Fiat have been though the mill with product, names like Marea, Bravo, Brava and Stilo all went by the wayside and that left a gap in the Fiat range. I would say that the 500, 500L and 500X have had a good go in the market, although it would be better if there was a bigger dealer network.
This is the Chicken and egg dilemma that Fiat Ireland finds themselves in. They have good product, but dealers want to see how it sells before they take it on; but to sell more, Fiat needs to have a bigger network.
Now they have the Tipo – and not just one of them, there’s three. The hatchback, saloon and estate all different feeling, but strangely the same. The kit level that Fiat are promising is quite high, especially if they want to keep the starting price of the car in around the nineteen grand mark.
The exterior styling of the hatchback is a strange Euro-mix of Peugeot 308 and some Kia’s, it looks like they made a mixed breed that’s managed to be better looking than its parents. There’s a broad, handsome stance to the exterior. It looks solid and rather tough, but there is a touch of high-class looks about it. I’m not sure how the Italians do it, but they always seem to make styling work even when it’s very quirky (see Lancia for weirdness that works).
The thing is, the Tipo isn’t weird at all, it’s quite normal really. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, normal can be very good because it’s easy to live with normal. There’s lots of things the Tipo gets right, especially in the estate version where there’s a lot of extra space in the boot. Fiat say it’s 550ltrs, but it feels roomier than that with lots of little pockets and shopping bag hooks that make it a useful space.
The back seat has ample room for adults and kids to spread out a bit, there’s a nice angle on the rear seats that gains a little more leg room for passengers. It’s the same story up front, the cabin is nicely lit without being too bright. There’s a really clear dash layout with knobs and dials just where you want them.
Fiat are still using the uConnect system, it’s not really a system I’ve ever gotten to grips with so I really did start to mess with this new version, it turns out that it’s excellent. There’s a Tom Tom Sat Nav that isn’t bad, although Garmin make the best systems with Google Maps being the best (free) service. There’s now a uConnect app that you can use to connect to the car for all kinds of streaming fun. There’s no doubt in my mind that the tech Fiat are putting into the Tipo works.
In driving the car I tried both the 1.3ltr and 1.6ltr both diesel units, as you’d expect the 1.3 is a unit that has to be pushed a bit hard to make it go. It’s not a slug, but overtaking might be a problem. That said, it’s a lovey cruising engine. At the 100kph mark you’ll barely hear it, five speed gearbox makes for high revs at motorway speeds.
My favourite drive of the day was the 1.6ltr estate model, the engine pulls well and is an altogether smoother drive than the 1.3. The six speed box is notchy, which I like but perhaps the throw is a little on the long side of fun.
The Fiat Tipo was both a surprise and an eye-opener, it shows me that Fiat are still good at the kind of cars they became famous for. This could be a very good year for Fiat so long as the public take the blinkers off and think of Fiat in the same light as other European car makers.
The new Tipo will be in the UK and Ireland from September with prices for UK spec starting at 12,995 pounds, Irish prices at 19,950 or European prices 10,990. The difference in spec has made the pricing structure difficult and Irish taxes makes our prices look insane.