Unlike style-led Fiat models, such as the 500 family and the new 124 Spider, the Tipo puts being sensible first. Even though its starting price is just below £13,000, that still buys a spacious five-door hatchback with a decent level of standard equipment.
Even a top-specification estate version with a diesel engine and automatic gearbox costs less than £20,000. With the likes of the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra often coming in way over this figure, the Tipo looks like a bit of a bargain.
Not only is it cheap to buy, but if you pick the 1.6-litre diesel engine it also promises competitive running costs. Official figures put CO2 emissions at 98g/km, while official fuel consumption is an impressive 76.3mpg with the six-speed manual gearbox. It all sounds promising enough, but how does it perform in the real world?
What is the 2016 Fiat Tipo 1.6 Multijet II like to drive?
With 118bhp and a 0-62mph time of 9.8sec, the Tipo isn’t what you’d call fast. Still, this is a flexible engine that feels more potent than the numbers suggest. There’s plenty of pull from low down in the rev range, although you do get vibrations through the controls if you ask too much of it below 1400rpm.
For the most part it remains refined; at cruising speeds the engine settles down to a distant hum and it isn’t too noisy when accelerating. It only becomes coarse at the very top of the rev-range, which is an area you don’t often need to explore.
However, if you associate Fiats with being fun to drive along a twisting road, you may be a little disappointed. Although the steering is well weighted and fairly quick, you don’t get much feedback from the front tyres through corners. There isn’t a lot of body roll in the bends, but the Tipo doesn’t feel as agile as a Focus or even an Astra. At speed, the Tipo deals with larger road imperfections in an adept fashion, but around town the suspension feels too harsh. The Fiat hatch lags behind class leaders, such as the (admittedly more expensive) Volkswagen Golf for ride comfort.
What is the 2016 Fiat Tipo 1.6 Multijet II like inside?
The interior of the Tipo is impressively roomy. Those up front will have plenty of space regardless of height, while there’s lots of adjustment on the front seats to allow both driver and passenger to get comfortable. Even if that driver is over six feet tall, a similar-sized adult will still fit behind them.
Rear leg room is impressive for this class of car, too, and there’s a good amount of room underneath the front seats for feet. Head room isn’t quite as good, but you’d have to be pretty lofty for your head to touch the rooflining.
Equally impressive is the boot, which manages to beat that of the Golf by a considerable margin and comes as standard with an adjustable floor. With the floor set to the higher of its two positions there’s little in the way of a load lip and the seats fold to reveal a near-flat space.
Looking around, you’ll notice a large expanse of soft-touch plastic on the top of the dash but hard plastic almost everywhere else. To be fair, the hard stuff is nicely textured and par for the course on a car of this price.
Our test car came with the top level of infotainment system. Its 5.0in Uconnect HD Live screen is rather small, but it's mounted high on the dash making it easy to read on the move. The sat-nav is easy to follow and it’s simple to connect a phone via Bluetooth. However, some of the menu icons are small and there can be a delay when selecting a function.
Should I buy one?
If you’re the kind of person who buys a car with your head rather than your heart, the Tipo is most definitely worth a closer look. You get a lot of space and equipment for the money and a car that feels much more modern than those from some budget brands.
While the diesel’s low running costs may be attractive, bear in mind that they carry a significant price premium over the petrol models. If you’re doing few miles, a petrol version may be a better bet. We’d also suggest that if you value driving thrills and acres of squishy plastics and can stretch your budget a bit, you’d be better off with a Focus or Astra.
Alan Taylor-Jones and Neil Winn
What Car? says...
Fiat Tipo Lounge 1.6 Multijet II
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £17,995
Torque 236lb ft
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 76.3mpg
CO2/tax band 98g/km, 19%