New Fiat Tipo 1.6 diesel review
Fiat's budget hatchback scores on comfort and practicality buy how well does the value proposition really stack up?
We like the Fiat Tipo more in the UK than we did on our first European drive, its comfortable ride stands up well to rough roads and the spacious interior is usefully practical. This 1.6-litre diesel is a good unit as well, as it’s economical and has plenty of in-gear performance. However the Tipo is dull to drive and this top-spec car’s pricing puts it up against the talented Vauxhall Astra, which handles better, feels more upmarket and is better equipped. If you get a good deal, or pick a cheaper model, you could still be on to a winner though.
The Fiat Tipo is the Italian brand’s return to the family hatchback segment, rivalling the Skoda Rapid and Vauxhall Astra. We drove it in Italy earlier this year and praised its practicality and comfort, but now we’ve finally tested the car on British roads.
Sometimes a comfortable car on smooth European tarmac can seem too harsh for our pitted roads here in the UK, but fortunately the Tipo has managed to keep its comfortable ride intact and, in fact, it suits our roads really well.
The suspension offers up quite a bit of body roll in the corners, and the steering is light and vague but that’s not what the Tipo is really about. Even over harsh roads it rides smoothly and does so without becoming noisy inside, with road noise surprisingly well isolated. Wind noise is more than acceptable at speed, too.
The only real complaint when it comes to refinement is with the 1.6-litre diesel. It’s very rattly and noisy at idle and above 2,500rpm. Keep things relaxed and it fades into the background but there’s no mistaking the four-cylinder diesel drone. At least start-stop means it’s fine for driving in town.
Plus, it’s a very economical unit, managing an impressive 76.3mpg and emitting 98g/km of CO2. Go for a business-oriented Elite model and you get an Eco pack that reduces that to 89g/km, which will make your tax bills that crucial bit lower.
The engine pulls strongly at low revs and although it feels gutless at higher revs, that won’t matter to most. Use the 320Nm of torque by staying in gear and the Tipo makes good progress. The six-speed manual gearbox is okay, but it’s easy to use rather than enjoyable, as the action is a bit too light to be satisfying.
The 1.6 diesel will be the top seller, as it’s the only engine on the fleet-focused Elite trim level. As that spec gets sat-nav as standard it’s a decent buy but this leads us to the Tipo’s biggest problem: the pricing.
This top-spec Lounge model gets sat-nav as standard, plus air-conditioning, cruise control, DAB radio, Bluetooth and steering wheel audio controls, and with the 1.6 diesel it costs £17,995 (plus £550 if you want a colour other than white).
With the paint option ticked that puts it within £500 of a Vauxhall Astra Tech Line with a 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine. Not only is the Astra more powerful, it’s exactly as economical (76.3mpg), more fun to drive, feels higher quality inside and has even more kit. The Tipo’s tiny 5-inch sat-nav is laughable next to the Astra’s 8-inch unit, too.
The Skoda Rapid Spaceback, another budget-focused hatch, is similarly priced to the Tipo. A 1.6 TDI model in top-spec trim costs £18,520, though it’s not quite as well equipped as the Fiat offering.
Overall, car’s price positioning is a bit of a shame. In continental Europe the Tipo is much cheaper than it is here in the UK and there’s also a larger display screen available there too.
Where the Fiat starts to look more appealing is at the cheaper end of the range. You don’t need a model with sat-nav - the tiny screen is worse than any modern smartphone or stand-alone GPS unit so spend the money on one of those instead. Go for an entry-level 1.4 petrol Tipo and you’ll be able to get into one for just £159 a month on a PCP deal (with a deposit of £2,749).
That’s how to make the most of the Tipo, as it’s the price of a supermini - or even a higher-spec city car - but with the space of a family hatch. The boot is bigger than the Astra’s 370 litres, at 440 litres, but rear legroom is also excellent. There’s room for even tall passengers back there and in-car storage is good too so the Tipo is great for families.
The interior feels mismatched, with some soft-touch materials on the dash contrasting against plastics that would have looked out of date ten years ago in some places in the cabin. It collects dirt far too easily as well, with finger and scratch marks appearing everywhere. It looks neat at a glance, but lacks flair and isn’t nearly as appealing as rivals like the Rapid and Astra. This is particularly disappointing given the quirky and fun interiors in Fiat’s 500 and Panda models.
With an entry-level car costing just £12,995, you can forgive some cost savings on Fiat’s part. On a higher-spec model like the one we tested, though, it just doesn’t feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.