What is it?
You’re looking at the new Fiat Tipo, or thereabouts, the car with which Fiat is set to make a return to the mass market C-segment – and in a big way.
The car you see here, a functional, compact three-box saloon, forms the basis of a new three-car family that Fiat has created for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
First to be released is this saloon, badged Aegea in the Turkish market in which it’s built. For the UK and mainland Europe, however, Fiat is reviving the Tipo nameplate (from the late 1980s and early 1990s) and has set up additional five-door hatch and wagon versions to be sold alongside the four-door.
While the Aegea/Tipo saloon is out now, the coming hatch and wagon editions are set to appear at the Geneva show next spring, ahead of an on-sale date in the UK next September.
At a private showing at Fiat’s Design Centre in Turin, we’ve seen all three versions of the new Aegea/Tipo series. While the hatch and wagon remain officially under wraps, the Aegea saloon is now ‘live’ (it was actually unveiled at the Istanbul Motor Show back in May). We’ve also had a spell behind the wheel.
Designed around the brief ‘Skills not Frills’ and claiming to provide class-topping roominess, boot capacity and value for money, Fiat’s newcomer is based on the same platform as that used by the Jeep Renegade. Up front, there’s an orthodox mix of 1.4-litre (94bhp) and 1.6-litre (108bhp) petrol Fiat group engines, along with 1.3-litre (94bhp) and 1.6-litre (118bhp) Multijet II diesels.
Expect the coming Tipo hatch to be Focus-sized (although a touch narrower), while this Aegea saloon, with more than 500 litres of boot capacity, stands a lengthier 4.54 metres from stem to stern. The Tipo wagon is just a fraction longer.
At a time when Fiat is dividing up and reassessing its model range as either ‘aspirational’ (500, 124 Spider) or ‘functional’ (Panda and Doblo), there’s no doubt into which camp this new Aegea/Tipo falls.
What's it like?
The first thing worth noting is that in appearance, for a supposedly bread and butter model, the Aegea is surprisingly upscale. The front end, dominated by the attractive full-width grille, narrow headlights and sculptured bonnet, packs the kind of premium look that was never seen on previous Fiats in this class.
Much the same can be said for the elegant tail end, with its sloping rear glass, and sculptured roofline. The Aegea was designed in Italy first and foremost as a saloon; it’s not a converted hatch with boot tacked on. If the sides and, in particular, the rear door and glass area, with Hofmeister kink, carry echoes of BMWs past, buyers out there probably won’t complain too much.
Through the streets of Turin, along the autostrada and up through the hills of Asti, the Aegea proved to be a solid if unremarkable car to drive. That’s with the top 1.6 turbodiesel on board and standard six-speed manual gearbox (automatic and dual-clutch automatic options are also available).
True, there was good pace from the gutsy 1.6 engine, but the lack of steering sharpness through turns was a surprise. So too was the amount of road noise, especially from the back of the car. The gearchange was also mediocre. Maybe the 1.4 petrol (which we didn’t try) would do better, being lighter on its feet and traditionally quieter.
Comfort, though, was good, but even if the Aegea is a fundamentally well-balanced car, on this showing at least, its dynamics aren’t going to have the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus running for cover.
But Fiat has not set out to build a driver’s car. Instead the formula here is based around rationality, roominess, content, running costs and (an expectedly) competitive transaction price. The cabin is comfortable, the dashboard looks and feels good, the instruments are clear and interior and boot space are above average. There will also be two infotainment levels.
How much of this will carry over to the forthcoming Tipo hatch? Only Fiat insiders know for sure at this time. But with the hatch expected to command the bulk of sales (54%, compared to 28% for the saloon and 18% for the wagon), it’s a formula Fiat creatives clearly have to get right.
Should I buy one?
You can’t, or at least you can’t yet. The new Tipo hatch and wagon are still the best part of a year away, and Fiat UK is still deciding whether to take this three-box saloon, which delves into a part of the market that’s had very little traction in the UK of late. So an opportunity, perhaps?
Our first time out with the Fiat Aegea/Tipo in Turin has revealed that style and comfort are good. It’s maybe not the most refined car out there, but it still has the makings of a decent all-around proposition as a straightforward family car.
Fiat Tipo 1.6 110 Multijet II
Location Turin, Italy; On sale September 2016; Price tbc; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 118bhp; Torque tbc; Kerb weight tbc; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-62mph tbc; Top speed tbc; Economy tbc; CO2/tax band tbc