Fiat's Tipo Saloon delivers third world budget value. Jonathan Crouch looks at what's on offer.
Fiat brings us a Saloon version of its Tipo hatch. It offers basic virtues - but an astonishingly low price. And you get lots of interior space and a big boot. The 1.4-litre petrol engine certainly isn't the last word in performance or efficiency but if you don't much care about that, then this Italian compact sedan actually offers stellar value.
It's always been something of an anomaly that small saloons from volume brands don't tend to sell well here. But stick a premium brand badge on the nose and things become quite different. Which is why an Audi A3 Saloon achieves reasonable numbers in our market but models like the Toyota Corolla Saloon and the Mazda3 Fastback are rarer than hen's teeth. In the face of things then, the auspices aren't particularly good for the car we look at here, the Fiat Tipo saloon. Particularly since hatch and SW estate versions of the Tipo aren't especially flying out of the showrooms. For the right kind of buyer though, this Tipo saloon might make a lot of sense. For a start, it's far cheaper than the Toyota and Mazda rival models just mentioned. And you could easily pay twice as much for premium badged four-door models like that Audi's A3 Saloon we just mentioned or the saloon version of the Mercedes A-Class. Time to take a closer look.
In approaching the driving dynamics of this car, you have to appreciate the background behind it. Unlike most of its competitors, Fiat wasn't trying to produce a Golf or a Focus - or even a Peugeot 308 or Renault Megane. Here instead is a car designed primarily around the needs of buyers in developing nations 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. Which means that in almost every regard, this Tipo delivers most of what you need and not much of what you don't. It only comes (for our market at least) with one engine, the Turin brand's 95bhp 1.4-litre FIRE petrol unit. This is one of the oldest engines the company has in current production, so it's no surprise to find that it can't be ordered with modern niceties like a stop/start system, hence a less-than-stellar set of efficiency figures. On the plus side, refinement is well up to class standards and there really isn't that much wrong with the performance - rest to 62mph in 11.8s and 113mph.
The Tipo was designed from the very beginning as a sedan - unlike saloon competitors that are often converted from existing hatchbacks. And you can see that from the rather neat proportions. Fiat has kept design changes over the hatch to a minimum in order to reduce production costs at the Turkish factory. But you're getting a lot of metal for your money: at 4,530mm long, this Fiat is quite a lot longer than Golf or a Focus. Take a seat up-front and you'll find the dash quite smartly designed, but it's clear that this is a budget-orientated model, with a steering wheel and some switchgear borrowed from the 500 city car. Still, it all feels of reasonable quality, even if lower down the dash and the doors, you'll find hard, scratchy plastics. There's a reasonable amount of kit though, with things like air conditioning and a 5-inch 'Uconnect' touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity. Plus there are numerous cabin compartments with a variety of shapes and capacities totalling no less than 12-litres. At the back, the sloping roofline limits your head space very slightly, but there's still space for lanky driver to sit behind another equally lofty occupant. As you'd hope from a sedan of this size, the boot is pretty big, 520-litres in size.
Fiat knows that it will have to price this car competitively if it's to make any real impact at all on the market and it's gone all out to do that. Just two trim levels are being offered - 'Easy' and 'Street' and both will save you well over £1,000 on equivalent versions of the Tipo hatch with the same trim - which is nice. But wait until you hear the asking prices, which start from only a fraction over £14,000 for the base 'Easy'-spec variant; you couldn't even get a very decently specified supermini for that. £500 more gets you the better-specified 'Street' version. Even at those kinds of figures, 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 includes 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. 'Street'-spec adds LED daytimne running lights, 16-inch black alloy wheels and black trim fir the mirrors and door handles.
The 1.4-litre petrol engine fitted here is one of Fiat's oldest units, so you won't be expecting too much in terms of efficiency - and you shouldn't. The WLTP-rated CO2 figure is 129g/km. And the WLTP combined cycle fuel figure is 42.2mpg. Insurance is at least quite cheap at group 9. Finally, a word about warranties. You get two years of manufacturer cover with this car, plus a further year from the dealer. Plus there's no mileage limitation, which makes this Fiat deal better than the restricted three year/60,000 mile package you get with rival Astra, Golf and Focus models. There's also a year of roadside assistance cover, a reasonable three year paintwork warranty and an eight-year anti-perforation guarantee.
To begin with, Tipo buyers here didn't get this Saloon body style in our market, but its addition to the Fiat UK portfolio now is a useful one. Badged as 'Aegea' in Turkey where it's made, this is a car you'd criticise for its budget feel if it cost the same as market rivals like the Toyota Corolla Saloon or the Mazda3 Fastback. But it doesn't. Around £14,000 seems ridiculously little for the amount of metal you're getting here. Fiat describes the Tipo as a 'Skills, no frills' model and, sure enough, that's exactly what you get. If that's exactly what you need from a new car and you like the idea of a compact yet spacious saloon, then this one's well worth a look.
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