New Fiat Tipo Hybrid 2022 review
The Fiat Tipo gets hybrid power for the first time, but does electrification take it to the next level?
Being a jacked-up family car, the Tipo hybrid has to contend with small SUVs as well as regular hatchbacks. Unfortunately, it can’t compete on either front because it’s not that much fun to drive and doesn’t have the technology you expect in either class. The Tipo does claw back some points for practicality and ride comfort, however.
The Tipo isn’t a big seller in the UK, but it represents big business for Fiat across Europe (it was Turkey’s most popular car in 2021), which is why the Italian brand is now offering the value-orientated hatch with its latest mild-hybrid.
The Tipo was facelifted in late 2020 with a new Fiat badge appearing in the grille, a fresh set of LED headlights and some other exterior tweaks. The biggest change however came with the addition of an SUV-inspired Cross model, which is what we’re testing here.
Sitting above both the entry-level Tipo and mid-range City Life models, the Cross features a seven centimetre increase in ground clearance, beefier-looking front and rear bumpers, a new radiator grille, black plastic body mouldings for the wheel arches and side skirts and roof rails.
There are some strong direct rivals to the Tipo Cross, even in its hybrid form. The Ford Focus Active mild-hybrid is the closest contender, but the Citroen C4 and Kia XCeed are also good enough to pose a threat even without an electrified engine option. Beyond that there’s the seemingly endless range of small SUVs that occupy a similar space in the market.
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As standard, the hybrid version of the Cross gets blind spot assist, heated front seats, keyless go, adaptive cruise control, driver drowsiness detection and lane assist. There’s also a road sign detection system, but it's best if you ignore its symbols within the seven-inch driver’s display as they’re not too reliable and regularly conflict with the sat-nav. The rear-parking camera quality isn’t very clear either.
The (RED) edition we tested is a result of a partnership between AIDS charity (RED), which the Italian firm has pledged to contribute £2.9million to in the next few years. To celebrate the partnership, the special Tipo gets red piped seats, a red dashboard, unique door panels and red painted wing mirrors.
Inside, there’s a seven-inch touchscreen on top of the dash with sat-nav, DAB and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s easy enough to navigate, but it’s not the fastest infotainment system out there.
Fiat ditched the 1.4-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel powertrains in the Tipo’s recent facelift, leaving just the 99bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol and now this hybrid 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol model, complete with a 48-volt starter generator and 15kW battery pack.
You can start the Tipo hybrid up in electric only mode, but it doesn’t take much throttle input before the petrol engine bursts into life. This combined hybrid powertrain feels punchy enough with 128bhp and 240Nm of torque, but there’s a disappointing lack of responsiveness, largely as a result of the lethargic automatic gearbox.
It’s also not the most refined engine, as it’s slightly rattly when you’re crawling in traffic (if you’re going too fast for EV-only mode). Thankfully at motorway speeds it quietens down.
The ride quality in the Fiat Tipo isn’t quite on a par with the likes of the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, but it doesn’t feel harsh at any point. The raised suspension is able to keep jolts from road imperfections at bay and the seats are supportive and comfortable.
Where the Tipo falls flat compared to its rivals is in the corners. While it doesn’t roll as much as you’d expect, the steering is incredibly light and doesn’t give much feedback. It’s also difficult to modulate the slow-witted throttle, so it’s best the Tipo Hybrid isn’t pushed hard.
A noticeable benefit to the new hybrid powertrain comes when you’re trying to park. Fiat says it can be done on electric power alone, and while you have to be gentle with the throttle to achieve this, it’s a nice touch.
The Tipo Hybrid is available as a hatch or an estate model. Needless to say practicality is better in the estate, but the hatch still offers plenty of space up front and decent rear legroom and headroom. The boot capacity of 440-litres is also one of the largest in its class, easily beating the Peugeot 308’s 412-litres and the VW Golf’s 380-litres. There’s a bit of a deep lip to the boot so heavy luggage might be a struggle to get in and out.
The entry-level Tipo 1.0-litre starts from a rather eye-catching £19,605 but this mild-hybrid Cross version jumps up to £27,605, while the Cross (RED) version we tested adds an extra £1,000 to the price. The better equipped Ford Focus Active Vignale mild-hybrid comes in £1,065 more, but is certainly worth the extra outlay.
|Fiat Tipo Hybrid (RED)
|1.5-litre turbocharger four-cylinder, electric motor