What Car? says...
The Fiat Tipo family car is a bit like one of those younger siblings who's constantly overshadowed by a more successful older brother or sister.
You see, despite being a practical, well-equipped and affordable five-door hatchback, the Tipo can't match the popularity of the hipper, more Instagram-friendly Fiat 500. While the style-conscious 500 puts fashion first, the Tipo’s strong suit has traditionally been value for money.
Fiat gives you a decent amount of standard equipment on even the most basic version, including a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system, DAB radio and Bluetooth. The latest facelift means that there’s now a sensible amount of standard safety equipment included too.
It has also introduced a more rugged look, giving the impression that you're ready for some off-road driving with extra body cladding and a jacked-up ride. There’s even a version that comes with Garmin GPS and smartwatch compatibility.
To keep things simple, there’s only one engine option: a 128bhp 1.5-litre petrol with added 48V mild-hybrid technology. It uses a small electric motor and battery to help improve efficiency and reduce your fuel bills.
If the Tipo wants to join the ranks of the best family cars, it has its work cut out for it. Indeed, it’ll have to go head-to-head with the Dacia Sandero, Ford Focus, Kia Ceed, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf.
How well does it fare in that company? Keep reading this review to find out, as we test the Fiat Tipo against all those rivals in key areas including performance, interior quality, running costs and more.
Once you’ve made your decision about which make and model of car to buy, we can also help you find the lowest price if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They're a good place to find the best new family car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Fiat Tipo's lack of engine choice is great news if you're indecisive, but it's going to rule you out if, for example, you cover lots of miles and want a diesel for maximum efficiency. The mild-hybrid engine feels sufficiently brisk from a standstill, officially sprinting from 0-62mph in a very respectable 9.0sec. That's more than a second quicker than the Ford Focus Ecoboost Hybrid 150 auto.
The trouble comes when you’re on the move and need a sudden burst of speed. You see, the standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox can be frustratingly slow to react. It's not very smooth, either.
At first glance, you at least get the added perk of being able to run the Tipo on electricity alone for short periods of time. In practice, it only really works when you’re parking or crawling along in traffic. If you turn on the air-con or do anything more than tickle the accelerator, the engine bursts back into life.
If you want a family car that's fun to drive through corners, you'll be better off looking at the Focus. The Tipo is fine in terms of body lean, but it's not as responsive to inputs and is less keen to change direction. That's mostly down to the steering – it's precise enough for you to confidently place the car in corners, but doesn’t have the immediacy you get with the Focus or the Kia Ceed.
Fiat gives you two driving modes to choose from, Normal and City. In Normal, the steering feels keen to return to the straight-ahead position, unlike in the smoother VW Golf. City reduces the effect by making the steering feel lighter, which also helps when you're parking.
The Tipo doesn’t have a particularly smooth ride, and is much harsher over potholes and speed bumps at low speeds than either the Vauxhall Astra or the Golf. When speeds increase, it tends to feel quite unsettled.
There’s far too much wind noise around the windscreen pillars at 70mph, but the engine remains hushed if you don't push it too hard (and is silent during the brief periods you're running on electricity alone).
The interior layout, fit and finish
There's a small strip of soft-touch plastic on the top of the Fiat Tipo's dashboard, but almost everything else is covered with an oddly textured hard plastic. Some of the buttons and switches feel a bit low-rent too. That was perfectly acceptable when the Tipo had lower and less expensive trim levels, but you’d expect better now that it wears a higher price tag than the entry-level VW Golf.
Getting comfortable in the Tipo is easy enough thanks to plenty of adjustment to both the steering wheel and driver's seat. Top-spec Cross trim adds adjustable lumbar support.
Visibility is fine out of the front, but thick rear pillars and a small rear screen restrict your over-the-shoulder view. That makes reverse parking a bit of a challenge, and parking sensors are not available with any trim level. Luckily, if you opt for Cross trim, you get a reversing camera to help you.
Both trim levels come with LED daytime running lights but you can’t have the Tipo with full LED headlights, only halogen lights. That’s a bit disappointing given that full LED headlights are standard on a lot of family car rivals, including the Ford Focus.
No matter which trim you go for, you get DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity, along with a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system with built-in sat-nav from Garmin. You also get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay so you can run your phone apps (Google Maps, Spotify and so on) directly through the screen.
The infotainment screen is mounted high on the dashboard so you don't need to divert your eyes far from the road to see it. It can be slow to respond, though, and some of the menu icons are small and difficult to select while driving. Many rivals have bigger screens. For example, some Kia Ceed models get a 10.25in one.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
While it struggles to compete in some areas, the Fiat Tipo is at least impressively roomy inside. There's plenty of head and leg room in the front for those who are over six feet tall, and even if the driver is quite broad, a similar-sized adult will fit beside them easily enough without rubbing shoulders.
Rear leg room is decent by family car standards too, giving you enough space to get comfortable on a long journey. Even so, if your friends are especially long-legged, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra offer even more knee room.
Unfortunately, six-footers will find that the Tipo's rear head room lets it down. It’s even less generous for the person in the middle because the seat is slightly raised, and that's compounded by an uncomfortable backrest.
You get a bigger boot than in most family cars – including the Ford Focus, the Astra and the VW Golf – but you'll fit even more luggage in the Octavia. Fiat doesn't give you a height-adjustable boot floor in any version of the Tipo, and when you fold down the (60/40 split) rear seats, it leaves an annoying step in the floor of the extended load bay.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
As a cash purchase, the Fiat Tipo looks a little expensive, with even its lowest Garmin trim level costing you more than entry-level versions of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf. The Tipo comes with a decent amount of standard kit, but you could have a top-spec Kia Ceed GT-Line S, with far more equipment, for around the same money.
Things get worse when you look at depreciation. You see, almost all the rivals are predicted to lose their value more slowly over three years. That's bad news if you want to sell after that period and also makes it less competitive on PCP car finance. You can find the best offers by checking our New Car Deals pages.
At least the hybrid engine should do a good job of keeping running costs down. Officially, it returns more than 54mpg. Company car drivers will like that the decent CO2 emissions will keep their benefit-in-kind payments restrained too.
You’ve only two trim levels to choose from: Garmin and Cross. The cheapest of the two, Garmin, comes with 17in alloy wheels, cruise control, electrically adjustable and defrosting wing mirrors and all of the infotainment kit. You also get a Garmin smartwatch, which you can connect to your car.
Your other option is to upgrade to Cross trim. It doesn’t cost much more than the Garmin but you do get a good amount of extra kit. That includes automatic windscreen wipers, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam, a rear-view camera and adjustable lumbar adjustment. It’s only slightly more expensive, and we think it's the version to go for.
When it comes to safety, the Tipo hasn’t been tested by the experts at Euro NCAP since 2016, and its four-star rating has expired. Even so, it’s good to see that automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist and traffic-sign recognition all come as standard. Fiat has also added a centre rear headrest, something older versions lacked, making it safer for a third back-seat passenger.
But how reliable will it be? Well, while we don’t have data for the Tipo itself, Fiat as a manufacturer was included in the 2022 What Car Reliability Survey. It only managed 30th place out of the 32 included brands – a disappointing result that places it below all its key rivals. You get a three-year warranty, which matches Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen, but is nowhere near as good as Kia's seven-year, 100,000-mile cover.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Your only engine choice is a 1.5-litre petrol engine which uses mild-hybrid technology to boost efficiency and to allow very brief driving on electricity alone. The engine gives you 128bhp to play with and is spritely enough for most situations.
Despite its more rugged aesthetic, no version of the Tipo comes with four-wheel drive and it won’t serve you particularly well off road. Its mild-hybrid engine’s power is fed straight to the front wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
|RRP price range||£28,745 - £29,245|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||54.3 - 54.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,538 / £1,565|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£3,076 / £3,130|