Fiat might have been concentrating on city cars, crossovers and even a sports car of late, but the Tipo marks the Italian manufacturer’s return to the family hatchback class. Of course it will have to go up against the might of the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, but in reality the Tipo is more likely to steal customers from alternatives like the Skoda Rapid Spaceback and Nissan Pulsar. Like those cars, one of the Tipo’s main selling points is its practicality, with class-leading front and rear legroom and a 440-litre boot feeding into Fiat’s slogan “Amore.
For less”. Less, because the diesel Tipo starts from only £14,995 and is fairly well equipped even in entry-level Easy trim. This is realistically a Golf-sized hatchback you can buy for Polo money. The entry-level diesel gets a 1.3-litre with 94bhp, but we’re testing the expected best seller, the 1.6 Multi Jet with 118bhp. It can get the Tipo from 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds, which is respectable enough, but it’s the in-gear shove which is more impressive.
The Tipo isn’t particularly heavy, which helps the engine to feel quite lively and lag-free, although power does tail off noticeably higher in the rev range. The re’s a noticeable diesel sound at idle, but once underway the Tipo is impressively quiet, particularly given its price tag, with little road or wind noise. With words like “functional” and “value” taking precedence in the marketing material, this is one family car which hasn’t tried to be too overtly sporty, and we think it’s better for it. The steering is well-weighted, but it’s a bit vague, while the suspension is fairly soft, so though there’s more body roll than you’ll find in a Focus, the Tipo copes with our pockmarked roads decently, only losing composure over sharp bumps. The interior is a mixed bag, with a soft leather steering wheel which is pleasing to hold and an attractive mixture of analogue and digital gauges. But, despite some soft touch materials higher up, cheaper plastics are easy to find around the cabin, as you’d expect in such a price sensitive car.
Compared with the baby Fiat 500 range it also feels rather bland inside, with a five-inch navigation screen smaller and less clear than most smartphones. Space is definitely it’s number one attribute though, allowing two tall adults to sit in tandem with ample headroom. Fiat has kept its offering simple, with Easy, Easy Plus and Lounge trim levels. In reality, it’s the lower trim levels which make most sense, because at £17,995 the Lounge model looks less competitive, particularly viewed toe-to-toe with the Astra. With air conditioning, remote locking, DAB radio and Bluetooth, the Easy trim should suit families looking for a practical set of wheels with low running costs who can forgo the navigation system in favour of their smartphone. With a focus on usability and a low price point, as well as a claimed 76.3mpg, the Tipo’s package should be enough to attract customers looking for a sensible buy.