Family hatchback offers Volkswagen Golf space at a Volkswagen Polo price
Fiat’s new Tipo is a rather interesting proposition when you consider the tumultuous marketplace that it’s trying to break into. With consumers increasingly shunning conventional hatchbacks and MPVs for SUVs, manufacturers have responded in one oftwo ways: investing in new mid-sized platforms, like Seat with its Ateca, or creating more luxurious trim levels, like Ford with its new Vignale range. So it came as quite a surprise to see Fiat break ranks when it revealed its bargain-priced Tipo earlier this year.
Instead of a bewildering array of options, Fiat decided to offer an impressive amount of kit across three affordable trim packages: Easy, Easy Plus and Lounge. Asa result, a base-spec Five-door Tipo can be had for just £12,995, and even a diesel Station Wagon with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox comes in at less than £20,000. For a car that offers Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf levels of space and practicality, this might be a bold move that pays off. We’ve already tried the petrol Tipo abroad, but here we’ve got the diesel 1.6 Multijet on UK roads. Producing 118bhp, it’s the most powerful diesel in the range and promises impressive real-world flexibility. Granted, with a 0-62mph time of 9.8sec and a top speed of 124mph, it isn’t exactly quick, but at this price point, neither is the competition.
The motor fires into life in a rather gruffand unrefined manner. It’s a disappointingly rattly unit but quickly settles down to a distant hum once under way. Flex your right foot further and there’s plenty of pull from low revs, giving the Tipo strong roll-on performance.
Push on further, though, and you quickly find that the Multijet unit is all done by 3600rpm, becoming rather coarse and asthmatic at the top of its rev range. Thankfully, in day-to-day driving, it’s an area that you rarely need to explore, aided by the well-spaced ratios in the slick six-speed manual gearbox.
Dynamically, the Tipo is equally a mixed bag. The steering is well weighted (albeit lacking in feel), the chassis balance is fairly neutral and the car resists body roll admirably. However, the ride isn’t the smoothest. Larger compressions are handled in a fairly adept fashion, but the Fiat feels rather harsh and fidgety over broken surfaces. Ultimately, the Golf and Vauxhall Astra beat it for ride comfort.
As for the interior, the first thing that grabs you is the amount of space for a car of this price. The cabin feels airy and there’s plenty of adjustment on the front seats. Rear occupants are well looked after, too, with enough leg room to accommodate all but the loftiest of adults. The boot is also an impressive size, beating the capacity of the Golf. And thanks to a two-level floor, there’s little in the way of a load lip. In fact, with such a flexible layout, you might question the relevance of the more expensive estate.
The overall impression of the cabin is that it has been put together on a budget – and, of course, it has been. The hard plastics on the door cards and lower parts ofthc dashboard let it down somewhat, but the soft-touch plastic on the top of the dashboard helps to add a touch of class, and the instruments are clear and attractive.
In addition, Lounge spec comes with an impressive amount of equipment as standard. You’re treated to automatic climate control, a 5.0in touchscreen with navigation, rain and dusk sensors, an electrochromatic dipping rear-view mirror and a rear-view camera.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the Tipo, considering its remarkably low price. Interior space is on a par with cars that cost significantly more, entry-level models have a decent level of standard equipment and the boot is impressively flexible.
The Tipo doesn’t offer a particularly engaging driving experience and the inconsistent interior quality will be a turn-off for some, but if you’re after a practical, affordable and economical hatch, the Tipo has a lot going for it.
Fiat Tipo 1.6 MultiJet Lounge
New Tipo offers impressive space, decent equipment and useful practicality for a reasonable price
Engine: 4cyls, 1598cc, diesel
Power: 118bhp at 3750rpm
Torque: 236lb ft at 1750rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1395kg
Top speed: 124mph
Economy: 76.3mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 98g/km, 19%
Rivals: Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi, Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110