Sadly it’s been some time since my last car review, but fear not, here is a fresh one for you. No it’s not a Suzuki, this time it’s back to the Italians, in the form of the FIAT Tipo, a name that has been brought back from the dead to rival the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, two cars which have enjoyed a fair bit of success recently.
Sure, the Tipo goes in to battle with a smaller asking price and a bigger boot, but is that all it’s got going for it?
The Tipo delivered to me came in a very nice, classy Pearl Sand colour and I have to say it looked good. The diamond cut 17″ alloy wheels were very nice as well, as is the grille, which has a kind of 3D effect to it. One or two other reviewers have said that the styling is dull but I’m sorry, I disagree. Yes, the styling is quite conservative and I do think the rear lights are similar to that of an Astra, but overall I think the look is classy and rather upmarket, so that’s a thumbs up from me.
Pull the chrome door handle to get inside and you’ll find the interior also conservatively styled although I will admit it could do with jazzing up. The trim on the seats is nice enough but there’s not a great deal going on in terms of dashboard design, although I do like the matching Pearl Sand suede panels in the door cards and the round gear knob which looks a bit retro if you ask me – that’s a good thing by the way.
So overall, the Tipo holds its own in regards to styling, meaning this review has got off to a good start.
Space and Comfort
One of the biggest selling points of the Tipo is the big boot – you’ll find 440 litres in the back, which is more than the 316 offered in the Focus and 351 offered in the Astra. It’s not quite as big as the likes of the Honda Civic and the Skoda Rapid but it’s still impressive nonetheless. It ate my filming equipment up with ease, but if you do happen to need to more space you can opt for the estate version, which will offer 110 more litres.
You can also fold the 60/40 seats to increase space but for the life of me I cannot find the luggage capacity for when the seats are down, and I’ve looked in quite a few places! One slight niggle is that the seats do not fold flat, which may be a problem for some but it should be no bother for most.
I felt the space in the rear could have been better for taller people; if I were to sit behind a tall driver or passenger I would want just a tad more legroom, although I know at 6 foot 2 I myself am rather tall. So that slight complaint is more of a personal one to me although I will say that I had ample headroom and because the car is so comfortable I can see no reason why anyone wouldn’t be comfortable in the back for long journeys.
What’s it like to drive?
This is where we get to an area that Tipo is not able to excel in, and that’s the drive itself. The model I tested came fitted with the 1.6 litre Multijet diesel, which offers 120hp, the most powerful unit on offer. There are also a choice of a 1.4 and 1.6 litre petrol engines as well as another diesel which is 1.3 litres. The 1.6 offers decent pulling power and as diesels go, it’s not too bad, I did find it a bit laggy at low revs and if you were in the wrong gear you soon knew about it as there would be little power on offer.
0-62 comes in 9.8 seconds and the top speed is 124mph, which isn’t too bad in all honesty. It’s mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox which was pleasant enough to use but the throw was rather long and it feels a tad lazy, although you can make quick changes when you want it to. I found the steering rather numb though, which adds to the lack of dynamism the Tipo suffers with.
The saving grace is that this car is comfortable to drive and it cruises very well. This is a car which is definitely more at home doing 40mph on an A-road rather than blasting down a windy B-road. Let’s face it though, it wasn’t designed for handling but it I feel the Focus and Astra would be more enjoyable to drive. If you’re looking for a comfortable cruiser though then the Tipo may be right up your street.
This is an area where the Tipo makes up ground because in fact you get a lot for you money. FIAT’s tagline for the Tipo is ‘Amore for less’ and it really does ring true. As mentioned, I had the range-topping Lounge model which comes with pretty much all the bells and whistles, although I feel that the 5.0 inch touchscreen is too small. It works absolutely fine but when you’re trying to operate something the same size as a smartphone whilst on the move, it can be difficult to make out what you are pressing, meaning you need to spend more time looking away from the road which is far from ideal.
Let’s get back to the good stuff though because as I mentioned, the Tipo does well for equipment. The base model ‘Pop’ starts at under £13,000 which is great value although I must admit the specification is far from endless. You’ll get front electric windows, DAB radio, Bluetooth, manual air conditioning and that’s about it.
Pay £1,000 more and you’ll get the mid-range ‘Easy’ trim which is more generous in its offering. You’ll get 16″ alloy wheels, fog lights, all-round electric windows, 5″ touchscreen, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a leather trimmed steering wheel and gearknob. If it were me, I’d go for this trim as it’s not too far of what the Lounge offers but at a cheaper price.
Speaking of the Lounge, that starts at £17,995 (mine was £18,495 with the optional Pearl Sand colour) and that adds rear parking camera, 17″ alloys wheels (which look great by the way), automatic climate control, sat nav, automatic lights and wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror and the electric lumbar support I mentioned earlier. All models are treated to plenty of airbags as well to give peace of mind, which is perfect if you intend you use this as a family car.
You want to hear something that’s going to be a bit hard to believe? The range-topping Lounge is still about £1,000 cheaper than the base model Focus and the equivalent Astra would be over £22,000. That gives you an idea how well valued the Tipo is.
Now fuel economy has been an interesting one for me. I’m going to get this out the way nice and early, I didn’t come near the official figures. The official figures for a combined run was 76.3mpg and I’d say on average I was getting around 43-45mpg – quite some way off, I’m sure you’ll agree. On the motorway the most I could eek out was a rather disappointing 52mpg so I really wasn’t impressed with the economy. I spoke with another publication that was testing the same model and they were getting around the same figures, so it’s not just me that was not able to get a decent figure.
The CO2 emissions are low though, the 1.6 litre Multijet tested produces just 98g/km of emissions which is handy for those that may consider the estate as a company car. Stop/start is available in this car, although it didn’t always activate and there were two occasions where the system completely froze up and the car had effectively stalled, meaning I had to turn the engine off and restart, making me look a fool in the process. Alas…
So with high levels of comfort, nice styling, a generous price and specification, the Tipo is able to live up to its ‘Amore For Less’ tagline. However, this is not a love story I’m afraid as the car itself is just not exciting enough to drive and I’ll admit, I never really look forward to driving, that’s not to sat I hated it because I didn’t.
But I’m afraid the drive in this is about as engaging as sitting in a high school maths lesson and it’s not a drive you’ll remember, although it will be a comfortable one. So for me this is a car you buy with your head rather than your heart, which is an odd thing to say about an Italian car.
Car Obsession Rating: (3 / 5)
- Nice styling
- Big boot
- Generous level of kit
- Dull drive
- Fuel economy is poor
- Touchscreen is too small