New Fiat Tipo offers a Focus-sized car for little more than Fiesta money. We try the turbocharged petrol version in and around Turin

What is it?

This is the first Fiat in quite some time that hasn’t relied on retro charm to help sales. It may have a name that harks back to 1989’s European Car of the Year, but the new Tipo is a clean-sheet design.

Not that there’s anything ground-breaking here. The Tipo’s engineering is entirely conventional, with styling that’s unlikely to offend. Where this car really excels, however, is the amount of space it offers for a relatively small outlay.

You can spend less than £13,000 on a five-door Tipo, while even a top-spec diesel Station Wagon with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox is less than £20,000. With Ford Focuses, Vauxhall Astras and other C-segment contenders now stretching well beyond that higher figure, the Tipo is certainly worth a closer look.

What's it like?

Under the sculpted bonnet of this particular example is Fiat's familiar 1.4-litre T-Jet four-cylinder petrol engine. A turbocharger lifts power to 118bhp, the most motive force you’ll find in the current range. Performance is adequate rather than swift; 0-62mph takes 9.6sec and the quoted top speed is 124mph. Although the engine can pull from around 1500rpm, you have to work it much harder to extract its full potential. The gearbox is at least pretty slick.

Through the mid-range, the T-Jet sounds quite rorty but becomes strained at its top end. While on paper it may be a bit faster than the identically powerful 1.6-litre diesel, on the road the greater torque of the oil-burner makes it feel more muscular. It also offers much better fuel economy and CO2 emissions than the petrol unit’s relatively ordinary 47.1mpg (combined) and 139g/km.

When the road becomes bendy, you’ll soon find the handling errs on the side of stability rather than excitement. Pitch it hard into a corner and you'll find that the Tipo resists roll well and offers good grip but never feels as agile as a Ford Focus or even an Vauxhall AstraThe steering is a similar story. The weighting is a bit lighter than that of some rivals but not overly so, and it’s also quick enough to deal with hairpins without having to twirl the steering wheel too much, but there’s little in the way of feel.

Calm things down and you can start to appreciate the car’s real assets. When cruising, the engine settles into the background, while the ride is mostly comfortable. We do have some concerns about the way the car jostled its occupants over particularly bad stretches of road, but we'll wait to confirm ride quality back in the UK.

Climbing aboard, it’s hard not to be impressed by the amount of space on offer at this money. Front-seat occupants will find it easy to get comfortable, regardless of height, and those in the back won’t be grumbling, either. Even with someone over 6ft tall driving, there’s still enough leg room for a passenger of a similar size to sit behind them.

Head room isn’t quite as generous, but you’d have to be very long of body to find your head brushing the ceiling. The middle seat isn’t where you want to sit, though. The base feels an odd shape, while the backrest is hard - not something you’d want to endure for long journeys. Move to the boot and you’ll find a load area that comfortably trumps that of a Volkswagen Golf. With the two-level floor in its highest position, there’s little in the way of a load lip and the opening is a good size.

Back to top

Back in the cabin, you’ll find an expanse of soft-touch plastic on the top of the dashboard but not really anywhere else. Still, the controls feel solid in action and the hard plastics are textured. You definitely wouldn’t call it premium, but it'd be harsh to expect it at this price. 

Our test car was fitted with Fiat's latest Uconnect HD Live 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system. This is a definite improvement on the smaller 5.0in system that comes with entry and mid-range models, offering clear sat-nav, easy Bluetooth connectivity and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It’s just a shame some of the menu buttons are too small, and it proved to be a little unresponsive at times.

Should I buy one?

Overall, the new Tipo makes a compelling case for itself. Considering the price Fiat is asking, you get a not unattractive hatchback with plenty of room inside, decent levels of standard equipment and a more modern-feeling interior than those on offer from budget brands.

What you won’t get is something that you could call fun to drive; there’s little enjoyment to be had. It’s also unlikely to appeal if the thought of squishy plastics and Germanic design make you come over all giddy. If, however, outright space for a competitive price is paramount, the Tipo might just be for you.

Fiat Tipo 1.4 T-Jet Lounge 

Location Turin; On sale September; Price £15,995; Engine 4 cyls, 1368cc, turbo, petrol; Power 118bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 152lb ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1350kg; Top speed 124mph; 0-62mph 9.6sec; Economy 47.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 24%

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Add a comment…
talla78 14 October 2018

Decent car?

Reading Alan verdict, It seems all uk and europen people has over 30 K Euro to spent for a family use car! . I Think, Alan but also many others journalist has too finest, but they missing the real needs of a real european family: space, modern looking, solid and reasonable engined car.

I'm an industril technical surveyor and I assure you that all that glitters it's not all gold!. Germans and french make cars focused on the attactive look (futurist?), but they use cheap and commercial massive solution with economic spare parts all over the world(chinese also). My brothers (also mechanical chief) know well as the poor solution, economic mechanical parts disguised under an actrative finest look. I assure you that fiat engines, shift and body materials are engineered for all dayly use, for customer that not has more money to spent to treat their cars correctly. German cars are full of maintenance steps as their customer spents. I say to Alan: when you look Tipo you have to value the low-medium family needs, not AUDI S6 customers! . So In real life use for family a Tipo  lounge 1.6 mjt diesel and you will discover that it has more than you wrote. I saw WV - SEAT interiors destroyed at 50%  atfer 6 Years use and 450 Euros every maintenance step. Mercedes -BMW  low medium range at 600 Euro per maintenance!. So at this maintenance care price also Fiat Tipo become gold!.

mfe 14 January 2018

Differing opinion.

Funny reading some of these negative comments from people who've never driven let alone seen one. Got a very good deal from my local dealer which will cost me peanuts next to what I would have paid for a similar spec Astra/Focus. As for being slow well I'm not sure I'll agree. T-jets have been regularly rr at 135-145 BHP so perhaps their performance is in the 80's hot hatch bracket. Never feels slow with more than enough performance in the real world!
James Purcell 10 May 2016

Looks to me like a very

Looks to me like a very capable, unpretentious affordable car