Sunday 8 December 2019

Fiat to undercut VW and Ford with family revival

ALL-NEW: The Tipo will arrive here by next year
ALL-NEW: The Tipo will arrive here by next year

Martin Brennan

Fiat is moving back into the family car market with a car that will undercut models such as Ford Focus and VW Golf by up to €3,000, although offering more interior space than both models.

The plan to broaden the appeal of the Fiat brand will see an all-new model, the Tipo (which has nothing to do with a previous model of the same name), arrive here by next year in hatchback, estate versions, and most likely also in saloon format because of the Irish love affair with three-box models.

News of the new model was released at the launch of a newly revised and improved 500 model which is currently the bestseller for Fiat here. And a better kitted out Punto model will go on sale here in January, offering lots of extra kit without a price increase.

Fiat hopes to raise its market share to over one per cent next year when forecasters say new car sales will reach the 150,000 mark. The brand has languished in the sales league with the 500, bigger brothers, 500L and 500X, Panda, Punto and Doblo, but the arrival of the Tipo to fill the gap in the high-selling family car segment should see a breakthrough for the marque where earlier models Bravo and Stilo failed to impress.

The new model is expected to arrive by early autumn, and the sharp styling up front will impress. The Corolla-sized vehicle is 275mm longer than a Golf with a 520-litre boot in the saloon version. Fiat says there is seating for six-footers up front and in the rear. Air conditioning is expected to be standard with Bluetooth and touchscreen also available.

Indications are that the bargain basement pricing will be evidenced by such things as harder plastics in the interior furnishings than more upmarket rivals, and the suspension set-up will be aimed for comfort if not performance. In Italy, the Tipo is selling for €11-€12,000 and Fiat is indicating that the price here will represent amazing value for money to get a foothold in the segment. A lot of car for little money, is how a Fiat insider described the sales strategy for the Tipo. Dacia proved that value for money is almost as big a factor as style and brand name, and points to the success of its Duster model which is a big hit with motorists on the forecourts.

The 500 is now on sale with redesigned front grille, bumpers and new front and rear lights and new alloy wheel designs. New paintwork combinations are added to the eight existing designs and there are 10 possible interior combinations for colour and furnishings. Three versions, Pop, Pop Star and Lounge are on offer with prices starting at €13,450, just €50 more than the outgoing entry Pop model but with improvements in kit.

Fiat says over 1,900 new components are built into its iconic model to make it a better all-round car and the most popular 900cc and 1.2-litre petrol engines are now cleaner. The diesel offering, a 1.3 litre, is Euro 6 compliant. Fiat is the only manufacturer to offer a diesel engine in this segment but the majority of the 400 sales expected next year will be the Lounge model with the 1.2-litre 69bhp engine. There is also a cabriolet option.

In the safety stakes there are seven airbags, the front disc brakes are now bigger and pedestrian protection has been improved by 20pc.PCP payments on the entry level Pop model start at €150 per month.

Sunday Independent

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