Fiat Tipo 1.6 Multijet 120 Easy Plus
List price £17,486
Target Price £16,405
Prices for Fiat’s budget hatch start at less than £13,000, while even this punchy diesel is less than £18k
Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 Design
List price £18,195
Target Price £16,983
One of our favourite family cars. And it's just a few hundred pounds more than the Tipo after discounts
Lots of space and lots of miles per gallon for not a lot of money. That’s what we’re looking for here. The brand new Fiat Tipo appears to hit the nail on the head because not only is it usefully cheaper to buy than big-name rivals such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, it also has a larger boot and promises a similarly thrifty 75mpg.
To find out if the new Tipo is the best budget diesel hatch you can buy, we’ve lined it up against the latest Vauxhall Astra . Although the Astra doesn’t come with quite as many standard luxuries as the Tipo, officially at least, it’ll net you even more miles to the gallon. The Astra has already seen off plenty of tough rivals – most recently the Renault Mégane and Seat Leon – so it will be hard to beat.
What are they like to drive?
Both cars have 1.6-litre diesel engines, but the Tipo’s pumps out a few more horsepower. This, combined with shorter gearing, means the Italian car always feels more eager and willing to whisk you up to speed. The extra oomph is most obvious when accelerating from lower revs in the higher gears; the Tipo pulls surprisingly strongly from 1500rpm whereas the Astra feels a bit flat below 2500rpm.
The Astra’s engine is more subdued, though; it emits less diesel clatter when you put your foot down and sends fewer vibrations up through the steering wheel and the soles of your feet. Sit at a steady 70mph on the motorway and the Tipo will also bug you with more wind noise (mainly from around its windscreen pillars), although the Astra’s tyres produce more of a din as they slap the surface of the road.
The Astra weighs less than the Tipo, and that’s obvious when you tackle a corner. Turn the steering wheel and the Astra’s nose darts in the direction you want it to go with surprisingly little accompanying body roll. The Tipo is nowhere near as eager to change direction, it leans more when it does and it ultimately doesn’t grip the road as well.
Neither car’s steering is a great success. The Tipo’s is heavy and gloopy at low speeds and becomes vague on faster roads and, while the Astra’s is always precise, it’s just far too light when you’re going quickly. If you’re hoping the Tipo’s stodgy handling translates to a comfy ride there’s more bad news. Yes, it has fairly soft suspension, but there’s always an underlying quiver through the body, even along roads that look respectably unblemished.
The Astra isn’t only smoother along typical pockmarked UK roads, it also does a better job of smothering potholes and stays more settled on the motorway. Put simply, it’s the much more comfortable car.
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