In-depth reviews

Fiat Tipo hatchback review

“If you’re after a small family hatchback that’s strong on value, practicality and standard equipment, then the Fiat Tipo could well be for you”

Carbuyer Rating

3.6 out of 5

Pros

  • Impressively practical
  • Well equipped
  • Good value

Cons

  • Rivals are cheaper to run
  • Suspect interior quality
  • Not that great to drive

The Fiat Tipo is the Italian company’s contender in the competitive family hatchback class, so it’s a bit bigger than the Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda. It’s up against a huge array of new rivals, so has to fight hard in an incredibly tough class.

Among its rivals are such successful models as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Renault Megane and SEAT Leon, while it also has to persuade customers away from value-conscious choices such as the Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30, Citroen C4 and Skoda Scala. With superminis like the Renault Clio becoming increasingly practical, you might consider it a rival to the Tipo as well.

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Now available as a Cross version with a slightly jacked-up ride height, the Fiat Tipo also has to compete with the Ford Focus Active, Kia XCeed and the endless stream of small SUVs. Even with a new mild-hybrid petrol engine for 2022, the Tipo struggles against many of its rivals.

The entry-level Tipo starts at under £20,000 and looks decent value at that price - even though UK buyers aren’t offered the ultra-cheap model sold in some countries for the equivalent of less than £9,000, which would make an interesting alternative to a Dacia Sandero. The UK Tipo range is pretty straightforward: there are only a few trim levels and a fairly brief list of engine choices. Hybrid models dramatically increase the price, and top-spec Tipos are too expensive.

The Fiat Tipo is smart and businesslike on the outside. You could call it understated and elegant if you wanted to be kind, but there isn’t much in the way of charisma or imagination to its styling. A 2020 facelift brought new headlights and exterior tweaks. Inside, the Tipo feels well put together, but the overall dashboard design is disappointingly short on style and looks rather dated against fresher rivals.

Better news is that interior space is generous, with an impressive amount of rear legroom – although the hatchback, unlike the estate, features a sloping roofline that compromises rear headroom slightly. The Tipo is a practical car, too, with 440 litres of space in the boot, plus an additional 12 litres in cubbyholes dotted around the interior.

The Tipo feels planted and safe on the road, but it can’t match rivals like the Focus or Leon for driver enjoyment. There’s noticeable body lean around corners, while the steering is overly light and doesn’t inspire confidence. Instead, the soft suspension does a pretty good job of insulating passengers from the shocks of potholes and broken tarmac.

For 2022, the engine line-up consists of a 1.0-litre petrol engine with 99bhp and a mild-hybrid 1.3-litre petrol with a useful 128bhp. Previously, the Tipo was available with a 118bhp 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel or two versions of a 1.4-litre petrol with outputs of 94bhp and 118bhp. The newer engines are far more modern and efficient; just don’t be fooled by all the hybrid badges on the bigger engine, because the electrification is very mild.

Current trim levels are an unnamed base model, City Life, Cross and a RED edition that’s the result of a partnership between Fiat and a charity that raises money to fight AIDS and COVID-19. All are reasonably well equipped, with air-conditioning, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth standard across the range.

City Life includes bigger wheels, bright LED headlights, traffic sign recognition and chrome trim. Cross brings a reversing camera, digital dials, heated seats and keyless entry, plus the higher ride height. RED, based on the Cross, gets exclusive trim and badging. We reckon the entry-level models offer the best value, though: top models compete on price with the more talented Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra and lose sight of the Tipo's central appeal – value for money.

Fiat finished a disappointing 26th out of 29 manufacturers in our 2021 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. The Tipo scored a slightly underwhelming three out of five stars when crash tested by Euro NCAP, though this score rose to four stars with the autonomous emergency braking system fitted. As this is standard on all UK cars, the Tipo is effectively a four-star car in the UK.

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