Wednesday 25 January 2017

Why 'three' is the key number as FIAT roll out new TIPO

First drive in Turin: Fiat Tipo

Brian Byrne

Published 11/05/2016 | 02:30

Fiat Tipo has three new body styles.
Fiat Tipo has three new body styles.
Tipo interior

If some of us getting our first hands-on experience with the new Fiat Tipo in Italy were surprised, we actually shouldn't have been.

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Fiat makes good cars. Has a long pedigree of making good cars. Has the Italian passion which is part of how carmakers from that country make good cars.

Certainly the Tipo looks to have everything necessary to be good.

It needs to have, because the compact car segment is not just one of the most important arenas across Europe, it is also the most competitive.

So, before they let us loose in the Tipo hatchback and estate in the foothills of the Italian Alps, they told us what they were trying to do.

Essentially the brief for the new Tipo - the name is a revisit to the nameplate from back in the late 80s which achieved European Car of the Year status - was to provide more with less.

To design and offer a car which fulfils the needs of the segment buyer across the broadest range, without adding stuff they don't need.

Nothing superfluous, as Luca Napolirana, Head of Brand for Europe and the Middle East, put it in his introduction. But no skimping either.

They've used a 'rule of three' for the new Tipo.

Three body styles. Three trim levels. Three fuel types (no LPG for Ireland, though). Three transmissions - manual, full auto, and dual clutch automated.

Three real seats for the back seat passengers.

And three touchstone words: simplicity, authenticity and substance.The simplicity is exemplified in that Rule of Three.

But Napolirana was adamant that it was not achieved by sparing, by cutting costs just to match budget rivals.

The new Tipo, despite offering value, is not designed to be compared to a low-cost car.

The authenticity is about function, being reliable, and having a personality. Just because a car is designed to offer value for money doesn't mean it needs to be dull. So Fiat say they have built in fun through reactive steering, top quality suspension for both comfort and good handling.

The substance brings content. Bluetooth as standard throughout. The latest version of the Fiat Chrysler Auto U-Connect system, with larger screen in the upper grades. The availability of all the latest safety technologies. The quality of the materials. The feel of the controls.

All carmakers say much the same things at a new product launch, 'class-leading' this and that, 'leading-edge' technologies. The one I hate most - 'more driving pleasure'.

Actually, Fiat never used that through the whole presentation last week. So they were already ahead in the game before I drove.

Did the driving show they'd done all they claimed?

Well, we really don't get to know that until we get the cars on home ground and in a week of living with them. But the signs are good.

The Tipo style is of the time. And it won't date too easily. It also has a certain edginess that will stand it out in the crowd of competition on the road.

On launches, it is always the top spec, so maybe it's hard to judge for the average buyer. But the core element materials, like the dashboard plastics, the instruments, the switchgear - they'll stay the same. And they're all good.

The soundproofing, both of the two diesel engines and from roads with often choppy surfaces, was well damped.

The steering was responsive, the car handled well in a wide variety of conditions. There was plenty of room for me and my driving colleague, and there would have been plenty for at least a pair of people in the back too.

The new Tipo goes on sale in Ireland this autumn and prices are expected to start somewhere around €19,000.

Diesel and petrol engines will be available, ranging 95hp to 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.

Built in Turkey, the model - be it as a saloon, hatchback or estate - will target the Focus/Golf/Astra market.

I'm, for now, impressed. Also happy that Fiat is getting back into the compact game with cars that don't make big style statements by being different.

Instead of pushing style at customers, the company seems to have been listening to them.

And now is offering what more of them want.

Roll on the autumn and I'll see if all that really stands up.

Indo Motoring

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