Fiat's entrant in the family hatch segment is this car, the Tipo. Smartly styled in Italy and developed and built in Turkey, it looks a much more credible contender than anything the Italian brand has brought us in this class for decades. UK buyers get a choice of petrol engines and a frugal diesel, plus hatch, saloon and estate bodystyles that are exceptionally spacious.
Why Lease A Tipo Hatchback?
The smart styling won't disguise the fact that this is unlikely to be the sharpest handling car in its sector, but we reckon it's close enough to the class leaders to satisfy most potential buyers. The engine range includes two petrol options. Most Tipos will be ordered with a 1.4-litre 16v powerplant producing 95hp and 125Nm. Avoid the Saloon and you'll also be offered an alternative 1.4 T-Jet turbo petrol variant with 120hp and 206Nm. If you want the single diesel unit - a 1.6-litre MultiJet II with an output of 120hp and 320Nm - you'll need the SW estate or the hatch. All units come with manual transmission.
The Tipo's roadgoing demeanour has been set up to favour relaxed comfort rather than any kind of dynamic drive. You can see why: this is, after all, a car designed primarily around the needs of buyers in developing countries who simply want to get comfortably from A to B. So there's no trick suspension for fancy ride quality, torque vectoring for classy cornering or ridiculously powerful engine options that hardly anyone will buy. Where Turin has had modern carry-over technology it can use - the engines, the modular platform, the Uconnect infotainment technology - then that's been thrown into the development mix, but the over-riding priority here has been in the creation of the best possible car for the lowest possible price.
Design and Build
Like its predecessor, this Tipo hatchback is exceptionally roomy and is capable of accommodating three six-feet-plus adult passengers in the rear - thanks to class-leading legroom and outstanding headroom within its 4.37m long, 1.79m wide and 1.50m tall dimensions. Its boot capacity is also best-in-class with a volume of 440-litres, while the alternative Saloon variant has a 510-litre boot. The estate version has 550 litres of boot space and can carry loads of up to 1.8m in length courtesy of an extra 20cm of length (4.57m) over the Hatch, plus flip-and-fold 60/40 split rear seats and completely flat load floor. The estate body style has a height of 1.51m thanks to the standard-fit longitudinal roof bars.
Loading the boot of the Station Wagon estate is aided by a low load sill with reconfigurable components such as an adjustable load floor and removable side storage panels to further increase the width of the luggage compartment. At the wheel, the Tipo features numerous cabin compartments with a variety of shapes and capacities totalling no less than 12-litres. Easily reachable by driver and passengers, these compartments are perfect for storing personal objects, smartphones, game consoles, bottles and coins.
Market and Model
Fiat knows that it will have to price this car competitively if it's to make any real impact at all on the Focus, Astra and Golf-dominated family hatch segment. So prices start at around £14,000 for the Saloon or around £15,500 for the hatch, with a further premium of around £1,000 for the Station Wagon estate. There's a choice of two trim levels for the Saloon - 'Easy' and 'Street'. SW estate buyers choose from 'Easy', 'Mirror' and 'Lounge'. Hatch buyers choose from 'Easy', 'Street', 'Mirror', 'Lounge' and 'S-Design'. The asking figures mean that this car can significantly undercut Focus prices and will be hugely cheaper than a comparable Golf.
Even at the kinds of figures we're talking here, Fiat will still need to make sure that this car is very well specified - and has. All UK models come as standard with air conditioning, Bluetooth 'phone connectivity, power mirrors, a multi-function steering wheel and a DAB audio system. Plus of course there are all the usual safety systems - a full complement of twin front, side and curtain airbags, plus the usual electronic assistance for stability, traction and braking. Fiat also offers some of the latest camera-related safety aids, including lane departure warning and an autonomous braking system that scans the road ahead as you drive for potential colliosion hazards. If one is detected, you'll be warned. If you don't respond - or aren't able to - then the car will automatically apply braking to decrease the severity of any resulting accident.
Fiat knows it has an awful lot of ground to make up in this segment. Is this Tipo the car to do it? It certainly offers a more competitive proposition in this sector than anything the brand has been able to offer for a very long time. And it can be put together in its Turkish factory very cheaply, allowing UK Fiat dealers to offer value pricing and tempting deals, yet at the same time, include lots of equipment for the money.
No, it's not going to appeal to someone who would otherwise be buying a Volkswagen Golf. Or even, perhaps, a comparable Mazda3 or Honda Civic. But then here, you're not going to be paying the sort of inflated prices that tend to be attached to those kinds of cars. If you were looking at more affordable models in this sector, say, a Kia Ceed or a Hyundai i30, say, we definitely think you should include the Tipo in your deliberations. And it's a long time since we've been able to say that about any kind of Fiat in this class.