Road test: Big value Tipo does what it says on the tin

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Fiat's Tipo could be a recipe for success


Travelling by Fiat Tipo went far better this time round than it did the last time we had one.

Not that it was a recent experience because the Tipo model name has been around, on and off, for the last 30 years. Like the previous car, the current model is a five door hatch or an estate, and it does what it says on the tin by providing a good family runabout at value pricing, Fiat’s forte.

Our earlier Tipo outing was during a long term test evaluation. It was a diesel being pensioned off from the Fiat press fleet and we were to run it for six months to report on how good they were as a used car buy.

It had to go back to Fiat for a scheduled service and just after it returned to us the engine went pop.

It seems the driver who brought it back had filled the tank with petrol instead of diesel and, to give the car its due, it did about 30 miles before the petrol fed through, showing how little it drew from the tank. And even after the mass of smoke from the exhaust clearly signalled something major had happened it kept running for another 15 miles until we got to our destination. It was some tough car, that Tipo.

To be honest, the current model looks equally durable, probably more so as modern construction methods will mean the bodywork stays in shape for as long as the oily bits.

You don’t see rust on Italian cars like you used to (or on any others, to be fair – look up the internet sites for motoring survivors and the 1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s models we all recognised have largely disintegrated!).

The current Tipo is not one of those cars that will leap out and grab your attention in a crowded car park. Its styling is fairly middle of the road, safe, and nothing startling. That said, to the majority of buyers it probably doesn’t matter. What they want is a car that doesn’t cost too much, carries a family or four or five, and will last the two or three years they keep it before moving it on.

If that’s the recipe for motoring success that drives your car purchases, get down to your Fiat dealer and take a look.

Fiat, of course, has always excelled at small to medium cars. It has tried bigger and if you look at the Rolls-Royce Camargue that was once the world’s most expensive production car you’ll see it looks exactly like the Fiat 130 coupe, just more excessive. Both are equally rare but the Fiat still looks better.

It’s a shame Fiat never did better with its big cars. The Argenta, an ’80s updated 132 that survived until the Croma, part of a joint venture with Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and Saab, arrived, even had tinted Perspex sunvisors at the side that slid out of the roof lining to prevent glare. Brilliant idea but we’ve never seen it since.

The Tipo has none of this stand-out stuff but at £15,795 for the standard spec 1.4 litre Easy Plus test car that’s not a minus point.

It’s uncomplicated yet it has everything anyone needs to complete a journey while enjoying the essential electronic aids we’ve come to expect. There’s still a touchscreen in the dash, electric windows all round, audio controls in the steering wheel, air conditioning, cruise control, remote central locking, electric mirrors, and even alloy wheels.

Inside the latest Fiat Tipo

You have to wonder how if Fiat can do it for the money others can’t. It’s not as if Fiat is some loss-making basket case. It owns Chrysler Jeep and some highly respected brands including Maserati (but no longer Ferrari). The Tipo is manufactured in Turkey in a joint venture but that’s the way of the automotive world these days.

Get behind the wheel and you’re in a competent Euro hatch that has its fun element for those who need it, a degree of comfort for longer trips, and the feeling of smugness that you can be driving so much hardware for so little cash without it wearing an obscure badge.

The 1.4 litre engine gives the car a brisk performance and even our short journeys produced an average 38 mpg for each gallon of unleaded, better than Fiat’s official urban test figure. Get it out onto the dual carriageway and it settles at a relaxed pace in sixth gear (no cost cutting on the cog count, either). Try it and you’ll be convinced.

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Fiat Tipo Easy Plus 1.4 T-Jet 120hp

Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 9.6 secs
Top speed: 124 mph
Bhp: 120 @ 5000 rpm

Torque: lb ft @ rpm

…and your wallet…
Price: £15,795
Combined: 47.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 139 g/km

Best bits: a big bargain

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