1.4 Street 4dr
By Jonathan Crouch
In its original form, Fiat's second generation Tipo, launched in 2016, offered a sensible, spacious and affordable option to rationally-orientated buyers looking for a five-door model or an estate in the Focus-class family hatchback segment. If you're not troubled by badge equity and don't need irrelevant niceties of design, it might actually be well worth a look as a used buy.
5dr hatch/ 5dr SW estate (1.4, 1.4 T-Jet, 1.3 Multijet diesel, 1.6 Multijet diesel [Easy, Mirror, Lounge])
By 2016, it had been a long time since Fiat had brought us a class-competitive Focus-sized family hatch or estate contender. To try and put things right, the Italian brand revived its Tipo badge for this model, a car that aimed to offer a segment-leading value proposition in this closely-fought sector. You can see why the name was chosen. Fiat wanted to remind us of the last time it competed on equal terms with the industry big-hitters in this class. That was with the first generation Tipo model of 1988, a design decorated with the European Car of the Year award in 1989 and still fondly remembered by some loyal buyers. By 2016, Turin hadn't provide these people with much to cheer about in this segment since then, two generations of Bravo separated by the equally forgettable Stilo. In fact, it almost seemed as if the Italians had given up in this sector. That wasn't the case, though if you're expecting that from this point, we're going to go on to tell you that Fiat marshalled all its firepower into creating a definitively dynamic Golf or Astra rival, then you might need to manage your expectations a little. This car came instead from a project the Italian conglomerate jointly funded with the Tofas manufacturing firm in Turkey to create a simply-structured, low cost family model for developing markets in the Middle East and Africa. Selected European countries got it too, ours being one of them. That didn't mean that this car couldn't be a very credible contender in the 'C'-segment though. After all, it shared the same engineware and high-strength modular steel platform that had already featured in highly regarded FCA Group products like the Jeep Renegade and the Fiat 500L. Buyers got the same kind of infotainment technology too, yet the simple structure and low-cost manufacturing concept meant that Fiat could sell a Tipo for thousands less than most competing brands could charge for a car in this class. And there was the choice of a smart 'Station Wagon' estate or a more conventional five-door hatch body style. A saloon version was also offered in the 2019-2020 period, but these are very rare. The Tipo sold in its original form until 2020 when it was significantly facelifted. It's the pre-facelift versions of this second generation model though, that we look at here.
Where the original Tipo was all sharp edges and boxy styling, this modern interpretation of that model line was content to make a more subtle statement. This Station Wagon estate body style is more distinctive than its five-door hatch stablemate, but neither derivation is particularly recognisable as a Fiat. Perhaps that was the idea. A saloon version was also offered in the 2019-2020 period, but these are very rare. And inside a Tipo? Well if the back story behind this car leads you to expect a cabin with all the sophistication of an Albanian thrift store, then you might actually be quite pleasantly surprised by what's on offer here. Yes of course it lacks the sophistication of a Volkswagen Golf and the trendy touches of, say, a Renault Megane, but both of those cars cost more. You might feel the need to be critical if you've shelled out for a top-spec version - aside from the soft plastic used on the fascia top, hard scratchy plastic features almost everywhere else - but if you limit yourself to a more affordable variant and manage your expectations, we don't think you should be grousing too much. A bigger issue is the restricted size of the 'Uconnect' infotainment touchscreen in the centre of the dash. The little 5-inch monitor is fine if all you're doing is using it to control the standard DAB radio and the trip computer, but the display is really rather small if it's been embellished with navigational capability. One writer likened using it to trying to read the map on someone else's 'phone from the other side of the room. This is all the more frustrating given that in other markets, this car came fitted with a far-preferable 7-inch 'Uconnect HD Live' version of this screen, a set-up never available here. To be fair, the screen does provide an awful lot of functionality, once you figure out its various different menus. There's Bluetooth, audio streaming, voice recognition, an SMS reader and access to an eco:Drive system that monitors your driving efficiency. And in the back? Well the rear compartment is accessible via wide-opening doors that'll make it easy to lean in with things like child seats. Get in yourself and you'll find that this is another area of the cabin that's a little more spacious than the segment norm, with plenty of room for legs, knees, shoulders and heads. Finally, let's consider the boot space on offer, another area where the Tipo enjoys an advantage over most of its competitors. With the back seats occupied, there's 550-litres of cargo room in the Station Wagon and the hatch isn't far behind with a very generous 440-litres.
Tipos from this era are pretty affordable. We'll quote prices based on the 5-door hatch; the alternative SW estate version attracts a premium of around £1,400. The base 1.4-litre 95hp petrol model starts in MK2 form from around £6,500 (around £8,500 retail) in base 'Easy'-spec on a '16-plate, with values rising to around £10,800 (around £12,800 retail) for a later 1.4 'Mirror'-spec model on a '20-plate. Allow around £300 more if you want the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel, around £900 more if you want the more powerful 1.4-litre T-Jet petrol or around £1,100 more if you want the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. <a href="https://hpivaluations.com/">Click here for a free valuation.</a>
You'll need to choose carefully. Build quality wasn't stellar; nor was the technology behind the infotainment system, so make sure that everything works as it should and connects to your 'phone. Otherwise, it's the usual things with family hatches - signs of child damage in the interior, car park exterior dents and scuffs and alloy wheel scratches. Things to note include the fact that only the SW estate got a full-sized spare wheel (with the hatch, it was a space-saver one); and the car was supplied from new with only one key. Note also that base spec and entry engine cars lack an engine stop/start system. There are some product recalls for this MK5 model you need to be aware of - an issue with the seat belt buckle releasing the seatbelt - and an issue with handbrake adjustment - both applicable to 2017-2018 models; check that this has been attended to if it applies. Otherwise, just, a usual, insist on a fully stamped-up service history.
(approx based on a 2018 Tipo 1.4 95hp ex VAT) An air filter costs around £5-£13 and an oil filter costs around £4-£10. Front brake pads sit in the £22 to £34 bracket for a set (rears £17-£63). Front brake discs cost between £62 to £141 for a pair (rears £43-£56). A wiper blade costs in the £7 to £17 bracket. A fuel filter will sit in the £18 bracket. A pollen filter is in the £8-£14 bracket. A water pump is around £28-£106.
The Tipo's roadgoing demeanour was set up to favour relaxed comfort rather than any kind of dynamic drive. You can see why: this was, after all, a car designed primarily around the needs of buyers in developing countries who simply wanted 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. Where Turin had modern carry-over technology it could use - the engines, the modular platform, the Uconnect infotainment technology - then that was thrown into the development mix, but the over-riding priority here was in the creation of the best possible car for the lowest possible price. Which meant that in almost every regard, the Tipo delivered most of what buyers needed and not much of what they didn't. On the 'what you'll need' side lie a frugal pair of MultiJet diesel engines, a 95bhp 1.3-litre unit and the 120bhp 1.6-litre powerplant, which is the one you'll need if you want Fiat's dual-clutch DCT automatic gearbox. We've found that this engine provides really strong overtaking performance, yet it's still impressively frugal, virtually duplicating the returns of the 1.3-litre unit in managing 76.3mpg on the combined cycle and 99g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). If you simply must have petrol power, there's an entry-level 95bhp 1.4-litre unit, a 120bhp 1.4-litre T-Jet turbo option and a 1.6-litre E-Torq variant that can only be had with an old-tech torque converter auto gearbox. Whatever your choice in engines, you'll find that on the move the Tipo's suspension is troubled only by really poor surfaces and body roll is well controlled through the bends. There's also a neat 'City' button that lightens the steering for parking.
This isn't the Focus-sized family hatchback from the 2016-2020 period that the magazines and so-called 'experts' will tell you to buy. But they're not the ones signing the cheque. Doing that may well leave you viewing this segment in a rather different light. A Focus is good to drive but has a tiny boot. A Golf has a nice image but is very over-priced. And almost every other contender in this class costs more than perhaps it should do. Here's an exception. And in summary? Well in some ways, this modern Tipo shared much in concept with the Eighties original. Like that model, it was a global car built in Turkey, used modular front-driven architecture and prioritised plenty of interior space. The difference with this MK2 Tipo though, lay in the simplicity of Fiat's approach - which wouldn't work if this car was priced directly against its main rivals. But that isn't the case. The bottom line is that if you're looking for the best car in this segment from this period, then this isn't it. If you're looking for the best value choice in the class though between 2016 and 2020, it might well be.
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