Thursday 30 March 2017

New Fiat Tipo could turn the tide on the brand's performance for the better

Fiat Tipo
Fiat Tipo

Brian Byrne

THE new Fiat Tipo goes on sale in Ireland this autumn, in three body styles and at a starting price somewhere around €19,000.

It's a seriously important car for the brand in Europe, but especially in Ireland where the compact family segment is significant.

Built in Turkey, the model comes as a saloon, hatchback and estate and will target the Focus/Golf/Astra market from a budget level.

The saloon version went on sale at the end of 2015 in Italy and some other European markets and has already sold more than 35,000 units. Best-in-class passenger and luggage space are among the attributes which have reopened the door to Fiat in the compact saloon market.

Diesel and petrol engines will be available, ranging 95hp-120hp. The diesels will be 1.3 and 1.6, and the petrols will be 1.4 in two power outputs. The 1.3 diesel is likely to be a key seller in Ireland, with a sub-100g/km CO2 rating.

The Tipo name is a resurrection from a nameplate previously used between 1988-1995.

Fiat hasn't had a standard compact car since the Bravo replaced the Stilo in 2007, which itself had replaced the Bravo/Brava hatchbacks of 1995-2001. The Bravo was discontinued in Europe in 2014.

The 500L and its derivatives from 2012 have since filled the compact family car space for Fiat, including a 7-seat MPW variant and the more recent 500X crossover.

In Ireland, the Fiat 500 city car is responsible for almost half of the brand's sales, while the 500L has been a relatively poor performer, although the 500X has improved the range sales somewhat. Only one in ten registrations in Ireland are of the other 'pillar' of Fiat's model strategy of recent years, the Panda.

With 634 Fiat passenger cars sold here last year, there's a visible improvement in the 392 units sold during the first four months of 2016. But against a total Irish market registrations of 125,000 cars in 2015, the brand is still not very visible. Part of the problem is a difficulty in expanding the number of dealers.

To extend that, Fiat needs a 'standard' compact car to market in Ireland, where buyer tastes are quite conservative, if it is to rebuild to serious market relevancy.

The new Tipo, on specification at least (which includes Bluetooth connectivity from entry levels), could well be the pivot on which the brand's performance might turn for the better.

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