Fiat is set to make its long awaited return to the Irish C-segment market this September with the new Tipo. This week we travelled to Turin for the international launch of the 5 door and station wagon variants – the four door Sedan is already available in some European markets. The Tipo name is one whom those of you who can remember the late 80’s and early 90’s will be familiar with. It was a car with which Fiat had great success. And while titles such a European Car of the Year and Irish Car of the Year have eluded the Italian manufacturer over the last decade or so; the bosses at Fiat must be hopeful that the Tipo can put them back on the road to correcting this. It’s early days yet but perhaps they can possibly even add those same accolades which held by the original Tipo back in 1989, to the prestigious Autobest “Best Buy Car 2016” award which the new Tipo has already picked up.
In its first 4 months alone the Tipo sedan has sold over 22,000 units in Europe, however anyone who has ever set foot on the continent will know that Fiat has always held a far higher share of the market there than it does here in Ireland. If we’re to be honest, for the last number of years they quite simply haven’t had the models to appeal to Irish motorists on mass. The Bravo was discontinued a couple of years back and the lack of representation in the incredibly important C-Segment market always meant FIAT’s share of the Irish market was going to be a rather poor showing. However that’s all behind them now and hopefully Fiat can look forward to rebuilding their brand in Ireland and restoring the strong position which they held some 15 years ago.
The first thing worth noting is that in appearance, the Tipo is a very stylish looking car. While many of Fiats other models primarily focus on ‘styling’, the Tipo clearly places every day practicality first and then uses styling to complement it. The front end is dominated by the attractive full-width grille, narrow headlights and sculptured bonnet; it’s fair to say that this new Tipo has a premium look to it which you would not normally associate with the brand. Regardless of which guise you’re looking at, the rear is equally elegant. The hockey stick rear lights, sloping rear glass and sculpted roofline lend themselves to each variant. It’s clear to see that the Tipo was first and foremost designed as a 4 door sedan. As is the case with some C-Segment rivals, the saloon version often looks like it was an afterthought to appease certain markets, but not so with the Tipo.
The Tipo’s designers have resisted the urge to taper the cars roofline towards the rear. Instead the horizontal roof profile gives passengers added centimetres of headroom in the cabin – 1.87 m in height at the front and 1.80 m on the back row. Legroom is also top-in-class. The rear middle seat has been designed as a full-sized seat too. The Tipo hatchback, saloon and estate will be offered in three spec levels – Pop, Easy and Lounge. In its most basic form, the new Tipo will come with the Uconnect 3.5″ infotainment system. Air-conditioning, six airbags, remote central locking are all standard features. The mid-range ‘Easy’ trim level cars get LED daytime running lights, chrome door handles, body-coloured mirror fairings and a leather steering wheel. The Uconnect infotainment system is upgraded to a 5″ display with integrated Bluetooth, voice control and steering wheel controls. The range topping ‘Lounge’ trim level adds 16″ alloy wheel rims, chrome details, a leather steering wheel and gear shift knob for a more refined touch. Comfort and safety features include rear parking sensors, front fog lights, automatic climate control, cruise control, front armrest and driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment. The high-tech equipment is enhanced by the UconnectTM 7″ HD LIVE system.
The Fiat Tipo will be offered with an updated range of “Euro 6” compliant engines. While both petrol and diesel variants are available, it is the 1.3 Multijet II which will undoubtedly be the big seller among Irish motorists. Over the course of the launch I had the opportunity to try out both the 1.3L and the 1.6L turbocharged diesel options. The 1.3, which has an output of 95hp and 200 Nm of torque, was mated to a 5 speed manual transmission while the 120 horsepower 1.6L Multijet II came equipped with a 6 speed manual. Over the hour long test route both proved very comfortable around the streets of Turin. However once we hit the foothills of the Alps it was naturally the 1.6L which prevailed. The steep, twisty climbs forcing me to work the 1.3L more than I’d have liked. Fiat has quoted the 1.6L Multijet II with being capable of registering 3.7 litres/100 km of fuel consumption and 98 g/km of CO2 emissions, so it should be a fairly inexpensive car to run too. Alternatively there will be a couple of 1.4 and 1.6 petrol offerings available too.
Speaking of expense, the exact Irish pricing of the Tipo won’t be available until closer to the launch date but I’m told that we can expect to be able to pick up the entry level model for as little as €19,000. That kind of pricing would make it considerably cheaper than its immediate competition. Combined with the fact that it’s the best car the Italian manufacturer has produced in a long, long time, I have to say… I reckon Fiat is onto a real winner with this one!