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REVIEW – Fiat Tipo T-Jet S-Design

Associate Editor, Social Content Manager


Fiat Tipo 1.4 T-Jet S-Design
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
3

Summary

Sitting at the budget end of the family hatchback market, the Fiat Tipo brings a surprising sense of style in S-Design trim. Inside, questionable materials and a monotonous colour scheme spoil the party. The 1.4-litre turbocharged T-Jet engine lacks both performance and economy: we expect the Multijet diesel to be more popular. Equipment levels are good, but a lack of more modern technology makes the Tipo feel behind the times. It’s cheap to buy, but we’d be concerned about total cost of ownership: notably depreciation.


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Exterior Styling

With a totally new car (albeit a familiar name) to add to Fiat’s line up, it’s the ideal opportunity to create an all-new style. They always say a blank canvas opens up the mind.

First impressions of the exterior bring a slight amount of shock: Fiat has have moved away from the ‘retro’ designs that feature heavily across its Fiat 500 range.

Now the Fiat Tipo has received some mixed comments from other reviewers, with some even calling the exterior “dull and boring”. We’re going to take the great pleasure of totally disagreeing with those comments. We actually tested one of the range topping Fiat Tipo S-Design which throws some sporty trousers onto the car.

Overall first thoughts are a beefy, slightly leaner exterior with some slight kinks and curves into the bodywork. Yes, it’s the usual design for a hatchback but it works from a practical sense, and we like it. It reminds me of my old Focus ST.

To the front you are instantly drawn to the large mouth, the black grille with Bi-Xenon daytime running lights situated either side. The engine lid is mounted slightly back and features bodywork lines.

Down the sides you’ll find privacy glass and black door mirrors. Prominent lines beef up the appearance, and the Tipo S-Design sitting on 18-inch diamond cut alloys.

To the rear there’s a rather large spoiler with black contrasting sides, and tinted rear lights that stretch quite far across the boot lid.

The main stand out point for our test car was the colour, the metallic Steel Grey. The pictures don’t do it justice, it’s simply the colour to choose. It does come at a cost of £550, but don’t worry, as everyone will complement the choice.

Interior Finish

Fiat aren’t exactly renowned for using high-quality materials in their cars. They do, however, like to funk up the interiors. For example, the Fiat 500 has an air of retro-ness to the cabin, bringing a classical feel to a modern car.

With the Tipo, much like the exterior, this has all changed. Inside you’ll find a more logical, clearly laid out interior. Notice how we avoided saying ‘boring’.

Unfortunately there is a common colour throughout – black – a rather stark contrast to some of the cutesy cream 500 interiors.

Materials used in the Tipo are a mixed bag. At the top of the dash you’ll find soft plastics which feature a rather bizarre leather look. It honestly reminded me of my Nana’s old Ford Escort!

Further down that same leather look texture features on the harder plastics, which is everywhere. It’s shiny, flimsy and honestly won’t scare any rivals.

Putting the materials aside, the overall build quality is good. The Fiat Tipo would easily withstand the endless torture that a family hatchback is subjected to.

At the top of the dashboard is a rather large lump which covers the instrument cluster and a space for the 7-inch touchscreen.

Below this are the air vents and associated controls. It’s interesting to note that said controls are taken from an Alfa Romeo, so that’s a little win.

The front seats have a good level of support and bolstering and the driving position feels spot on.

Engine/Performance

There are three engines available for the Fiat Tipo; a 1.4 litre and a 1.4 litre T-Jet Petrol engine with 94PS and 120PS respectively, and a 1.6 MultiJet diesel engine with 120PS. All come as a 6-speed manual, with diesel also avaiable with a 6-speed DCT automatic.

Our test car had the 1.4 T-Jet Petrol engine with 120PS. On the whole, the performance figures don’t set the world alight: 0-62 mph in 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 124mph.

The T-Jet is the ‘fastest’ Fiat Tipo – if you can call it that. Opting for any of the other engines will result in even less interesting performance figures.

So it’s a sad case of style over substance for the Fiat Tipo S-Design. This is a car that looks like it should be a mildly warm hatch – 7.odd second 0-62. But that’s not going to happen with only 120PS.

Nonetheless, it’s not all completely doom and gloom when it comes to performance. In true Italian style, the engine has character.

It really picks up from the moment your foot hits the throttle, showing want and determination. There’s more torque from lower revs, and once on the move it’s sprightly enough to keep pace with rivals.

Ride/Handling

On the road the Fiat Tipo has a stress-free feel, with soft suspension and a comfortable driving position adding up to a rather smooth driving experience.

The seating position in our opinion was spot on. Plenty of adjustment means it can suit most people, whether they be taller or shorter. All controls were easy to find and navigate – as we said it’s a logically-laid out interior. Not boring. Logical!

The leather steering wheel was rather chunky. It’s also on the larger side – sized more appropriately for a mid-sized boat than a family hatchback. Feedback tended to be vague, and the steering was too light for our liking.

Due to the comfort focused suspension, the Fiat Tipo loses out when it comes to the more exciting side of driving. The Tipo loves to roll like a hippo in mud. It isn’t the worst experience but the likes of Ford, Skoda and Seat handle in a much more competent manner.

But the softer suspension setup does have its advantages. When the road gets bumpy, we’re pleased to say that the Tipo absorbs them rather well.

Furthermore, The Fiat Tipo will fly along the motorway comfortably. It will keep your stress levels to a minimum, always an advantage as you’re heading to work.

Economy

The 1.4-litre turbocharged T-Jet petrol engine feature in our Fiat Tipo S-Design is the most responsive engine in the range. That said, its economy isn’t range topping: that’s left for the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel.

Our test car cited a combined fuel economy of 34.9 mpg under the WLTP cycle. On the one hand, the WLTP figures are more realistic so this figure should be achievable – or beatable – in the real world.

But 34.9mpg from a 1.4 turbo isn’t that great at all. And rivals have far more sophisticated engines with stronger economy credentials.

It’s not just the 1.4 T-Jet that lacks green credentials. The entry level 1.4-litre non-turbocharged petrol – complete with 94PS – only manages 36.7 mpg. Realistically we would trade off the economy for the added performance of the T-Jet engine.

As with any turbocharged engine, the Fiat Tipo T-Jet gets through fuel much quicker when you are more liberal with the accelerator. And with a small engine lacking in power you may find yourself driving harder more often.

CO2 emissions, as an NEDC equivalent, are 139g/km. That means that first-year VED is £205, which is absorbed into the initial cost so you don’t really notice it.

In subsequent years you’ll pay the standard £145, as you would hope. There isn’t much more to say on this, given all its rivals are in the same boat.

Practicality

With the Tipo aiming for the family hatchback market, its safe to say that a practical interior is in order. And with boot space of 440 litres the Fiat Tipo happily obliges.

It’s more than enough to carry the usual family belongings, including when you take a trip to the airport or get a bit carried away in Aldi.

The rear bench has a 60/40 split-folding function. And, rather cleverly, the seat bases fold with the backs to provide a flat load floor; making the Fiat Tipo great for when you need to load larger items.

The Tipo’s load bay isn’t particularly clever, though – there’s no height-adjustable boot floor to iron out the huge lip at the entrance of the boot, so loading heavier items delicately can be a challenge.

With a large boot, you’re probably expecting a smaller space for the rear passengers, and you’d be wrong. Space in the rear is more than generous with plenty of leg room. The only issue to note is the slight slope in the roof line may limit head room for those of a taller frame.

The back seats are fairly comfortable too, and while the middle seat isn’t really ideal for adults, it’s good enough for shorter trips.

There’s also plenty of storage bins and cubbyholes to hide items throughout the cabin. Just be warned you should check them regularly if you have kids that like to hide banana skins!

The Fiat Tipo seems like the ideal family car. And if you feel like you might need even more boot space, you will be pleased to hear the Fiat Tipo is available as an Estate.

Equipment

The new edition to the Fiat Family brings with it plenty of equipment. Standard specification of the Fiat Tipo S-Design include: 7-inch touchscreen with DAB, rear view camera, rear parking sensors, automatic climate control and cruise control.

The Touchscreen is particularly surprising. It’s a TomTom based sat-nav system and includes live traffic updates. Operating the system is a breeze, so you’re not distracted whilst driving.

The only downside is the screen size. With so much space on the dashboard the Fiat Tipo could have easily accommodated an 8 or even 9-inch screen. The 7-inch you actually get therefore feels a bit lost, which is a shame.

As standard, the S-Design comes with the visibility pack which includes rain and dusk sensors for the exterior lights and wipers, and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.

For a further £250 our test car was fitted with the safety pack. This adds autonomous emergency braking and a speed limiter. It’s worthwhile considering the added safety to you and your family, as well as a cheeky discount on the good old insurance bill.

But should this technology really be optional in 2019? We don’t think so – manufacturers should be showing willingness to cram as much safety kit as possible in their cars as standard.

Leading on from that, there was other technology absent on the Fiat Tipo, even as optional extras. For example, there’s no wireless charging pad, digital instrument cluster, lane assist, adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection.

It’s safe to say that the Koreans  – who are the benchmark for equipment – still have the Italians top trumped in this department.

Value For Money

When considering all of the above, I guess the key question is how much does it all cost? It’s safe to say that the Fiat Tipo is pitched at the budget end of the family hatchback market.

It’s never going to have the style of the Ford Focus, the practicality of the Skoda Octavia or the standard equipment of the Kia Ceed. But if it’s affordable enough the Fiat Tipo can bring its own appeal.

The Fiat Tipo starts at just under £15k for the 1.4-litre ‘Easy’ trim. Our S-Design with the range topping petrol engine comes in at £18,875 on the road.

The test car also had two options: the metallic paint at £550 and the safety pack at £250, bring the price up to £19,675. There is no denying that’s significantly cheaper than equivalently-equipped rivals.

However, the Fiat Tipo feels like budget option. Yes, it’s cheap, but it doesn’t hide the fact. With a lack of increasingly-common technology and a rather cheap interior, it will soon be left behind in the family hatchback segment.

That wil have a big impact on residual values. The Fiat Tipo may be cheap to buy, but could end up costing you a pretty penny in depreciation over, say, a Volkswagen Golf.

If your plan is to keep the car for a long you won’t be as concerned by this. And FCA ownership now means that reliability issues are a thing of the past. Sadly the reputation – and related jokes – surrounding unreliability still exist!

All in all, the Fiat Tipo falls short of rivals in terms of material quality and driving experience. However, what it does deliver is a stylish, usable family hatchback at an affordable price.

Facts and Figures

Engine 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Max power 120PS at 5,000rpm
Max torque 215Nm at 2,500rpm
Drivetrain 6-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
0-62mph 9.9 seconds
Top speed 124mph
Fuel tank size 50 litres
Fuel consumption 34.9 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 160 g/km NEDC equivalent
Kerb weight 1,350kg
Towing capacity 1,200kg braked / 500kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 440 litres
NCAP rating 3 stars / 4 stars **
Base price £18,875
Price as tested £19,675
Company website www.fiat.co.uk/tipo/tipo-hatchback

** With the optional Safety Plus Pack, which includes Autonomous Emergency Braking

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