Why Fiat hopes Tipo prices will 'dawn' on new buyers; 124 Spider roadster a treat to drive
First drives: Fiat Tipo and Fiat Spider
I've seen a good few false dawns on the motoring front over the years. And we've certainly had 'big' moments from Fiat in the past only to see the sun sink on their hopes.
Now they're starting the long road to winning over a new generation of buyers with a couple of cars that, on first acquaintance at least, portray what I sensed was a far more realistic approach and appreciation of what is in demand and needed.
It has been a long time since they had a motor in the small-family segment. Former owners of Bravos and Bravas (we won't mention Stilos) are now driving Hyundais and Kias and Opels and Fords.
But Fiat are making their way back again. Leading that return is the new Tipo (its ancestor won the 1989 European Car of the Year).
This majors on price (not many will beat a starting €17,995 for a big, roomy family hatch - it's a Ford Focus rival), but also on what looked to be a robust build and assembly. Prices for the diesels start at €19,745 (for the 1.3-litre MultiJet II 95bhp).
There is a station wagon too (from €19,245) and there will be a saloon in January, which will start with a lower price than the 5dr.
The hatches and SW I drove came across as substantial and felt sturdy. The 5dr is one of the longest in its class (4.37m, 1.79 wide, 1.5m high) with the Opel Astra (same length) and Focus (tiny bit shorter) closest. And there is a 440-litre boot as well as 12 litres of storage around the cabin.
I liked the 1.4 petrol (120bhp, hatch) and the 1.6 diesel (120bhp, hatch and SW) with the larger diesel the pick of a range that includes: Petrol -1.4, 95bhp manual (132g/km, claimed 49.6mpg); 1.4 120bhp turbo petrol (139g/km, 47.1mpg); auto DCT 110bhp 1.6 (147g/km, 44.8mpg); Diesel: 1.3-litre 95bhp (99g/km, 67mpg); 1.6 120bhp (98g/km, 78mpg). DCT auto is 120bhp (99g/km, 54mpg). That 1.3-litre diesel 95bhp will do well.
There are three trims (Pop, Easy, Lounge), but as I revealed a couple of weeks back the first two are priced the same. So forget about Pop (I still don't understand the logic). Anyway standard are manual air con, Bluetooth, six airbags, 15ins steel wheels, full-size spare, electric windows. Easy adds 5ins tscreen, rear parking sensors, 16ins alloys, fogs, cruise control, LED DRL headlamps. And Lounge adds auto air con, nav with radio, auto wipers, lights, 17ins alloys, 5ins radio NAV touchscreen, rear camera, electric driver seat/lumbar support. There are other packs too: Safety, for example, has advanced driver assistance systems.
They've kept the pricing structure simple. Diesels cost €1,750 more than petrols and €1,250 moves you from Easy to Lounge spec. And it costs €1,250 to move from manual to auto.
The station wagons (huge cargo area) cost €1,250 more than the hatchbacks and €1,750 for diesel over petrol.
There is, of course, a PCP deal: €205 a month for Easy trim (5.9pc). Guaranteed minimum future value is 38pc and the maximum deposit is 30pc.
The realism comes through with the forecast that they expect 400 to buy a Tipo next year. Price, especially with the hatch and saloon (they're saying a gap of between €4,500-€6,000 on rivals) will be key.
The best-selling hatches in the segment include the Peugeot 309 and Ford Focus.
It is good for buyers that there is a real edge on price in this market.
The big challenge for Fiat will be to persuade people they are getting value as well. It has been away a long time, so it is only to be expected that people will be slow to buy, initially at least. It is all about confidence in the brand. That takes a good while to build - with no false dawns.
Now, if only everything could be as simple as the new 124 Spider then Fiat would have no problem persuading people they're back with a bang.
The Spider is sparkling to look at and drive. It's a sibling of the World Car Awards winner Mazda MX-5 and is made in Japan.
I have to say I was taken by it. Same underpinnings it may have, but dare I ask: is it better than the MX-5? All the exterior panels are different from the Mazda; so is the engine, the gearbox. It looks bigger and, crucially, has a great exhaust note.
It's more expensive but with those looks and that engine (1.4 MultiAir turbo 140bhp, 148g/km) and a short-shift 6spd gearbox it is an appealing little motor. Really enjoyed my drive. It is more powerful than 1.5-litre in the Mazda, has more torque and is closer to the 2-litre MX-5 on performance.
The Classica trim starts at €31,495 (higher tax band than MX-5) and has 16ins alloys, air con, 7ins radio touchscreen, cruise control.
Lusso (€34,295) adds sat nav with 3D maps, rear parking camera/sensors, 17ins alloys, heated leather seats, auto climate control, front fogs, chrome exhaust tips. Lusso Plus (€35,795) adds adaptive LED headlamps, auto lights/wipers and 9-speaker BOSE sound system.
There are no false dawns here. This is the real thing.