Review: Fiat Tipo - Tip top bargain
Fiat pull on the heartstrings with the rebirth of an award-winner and a special focus on value for money, but will it be enough to unsettle its rivals asks Philip Hedderman
Nostalgia does strange things to men of a certain age.
It can be a particular song, film, fragrance or even an odd phrase or saying.
For me it’s most certainly cars and quirky names from yesteryear.
The mere mention of Ritmo, Mirafiori and 127 Special is enough to bring me back to an Ireland where the summers were indeed warmer and yes, you could actually leave the key in the hall door.
This however has been duly noted by those clever marketing chaps in the automotive industry and when they looked up the N word in the dictionary its meaning ¬— “a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time” — quickly translated into cold, hard cash.
First up, the MINI brand, which proved a massive success for BMW which was quickly followed FIAT with the astounding 500 and later by VW with the Beetle.
In fact, the relaunch of the ‘Bambino’ created such an impact they’ve decided to have another go with something a bit bigger.
Now younger readers may not recall the Tipo, but the five-door hatchback won Irish and European Car Of The Year in 1989 as a serious contender to the Golf and top of the range models even came with a digital dash
It was reincarnated as the Bravo (three door), Bravo (five door) and eventually the Stilo — but none of the above quite lived up to the original.
So, the Tipo is back but this time around the Italians have decided that the best way to trump the Germans in the battle of the hatchback is on sheer value for money.
Pitched at a bargain basement price of just €16,745, this handsome family runaround has certainly grabbed our attention.
Throw in a bag of goodies as standard like air con, electric windows all round, body-coloured electric door mirrors, chrome door handles, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and now, we’re really interested.
Opt for the mid range Easy trim and you’ll also get a five-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, rear parking sensors and cruise control.
Inside the cabin is well laid-out, roomy and comfortable. The cockpit is familiar Fiat territory with chunky wheel, user friendly controls and soft touch materials around upper centre console and binnacles.
Unfortunately there is lots of nasty, hard scratchy panels around the upper door panels which cheapens an otherwise decent interior.
There’s oceans of room on board with ample head and legroom for five adults and an ample 440 litre boot in the hatch and 550 litres in the estate.
Engine-wise you can choose from are two petrols, a 1.4-litre 95hp and the 1.6-litre with 110hp or a 1.3-litre MultiJet II diesel with 95hp or a more powerful 1.6-litre with 120hp.
We tested the top end estate diesel which proved a very pleasant surprise.
Granted, the oil burner isn’t going to the set the world on fire with a 0-100kph of around 10 seconds, but its’ certainly not lacking in torque and with 320Nm it’s always gutsy and eager to scamper away.
Handling is not as dynamic as we would have liked and the wagon’s steering and suspension had a lacklustre feel with little or no feedback. It was always capable and comfortable.
The hatchback I suspect is marginally better and anyway, estate customers prioritise space and practicality over all else and the Tipo has it in spades.
That said, Fiat lived up to their promise on price and pound for pound (or euro for euro) the Tipo is exceptional value for money.
It’s a pity it doesn’t conjure up the same boyish feelings it’s predecessor once did.