MODEL TESTED: Fiat Tipo 1.6 Multijet Lounge 120HP PRICE: £18,795 ENGINE: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 118bhp
THE Fiat Tipo arrived last year, adding a new budget model to the Italian brand’s range in both hatch and estate form. Here we’re driving the hatchback version in Lounge trim, fitted with the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel engine. It costs from £18,795.
DESIGN & ENGINEERING
WHILE the Dacia has its chunky looks and the Skoda is understated, the Fiat Tipo is actually quite a handsome family car. The wide grille, chrome details and double-bubble roofline all give the hatchback presence on the road, and we think it’s the best-looking car of the bunch. Our Lounge model’s 17-inch wheels are stylish, too, as is the £550 Tango Red metallic paint.
It also has the most interesting interior design of the three cars in this test, and although it’s a shame the model isn’t as characterful inside as the trendy Fiat 500 range, it does at least come with some chunky details and sporty-looking instrument dials.
The infotainment screen is laughably small; at just five inches across, it’s tinier than many smartphones. But it does have sat-nav, Bluetooth and DAB radio just like its competitors here, as well as a reversing camera and parking sensors.
However, the Tipo’s cabin is let down by the large black plastic surfaces, which have an ugly pattern and make the car feel darker inside than its rivals.
KEEN drivers will find little to get excited about in any of our three test cars, but the Tipo is the best of the bunch from behind the wheel. While the steering doesn’t have a lot of feel, it’s weighted well enough, and there’s plenty of grip. The gearshift sits in between the smooth Skoda and the vague, rubbery changes in the Logan. It’s a reasonably short shift, but getting it into gear can take a bit too much effort.
The Tipo does have the most powerful engine here as well. Thanks to 118bhp and 320Nm of torque it took just 3.3 seconds to go from 30-50mph in third gear, and 6.4 seconds to go from 50-70mph in fifth. That was faster than either rival, although it’s also because the six-speed box allows those gears to have shorter ratios. It was still quicker than both from 50-70mph in top gear: the Tipo took 7.8 seconds in sixth versus the Skoda’s 10.3 seconds and the Dacia’s 13.4 seconds in fifth gear.
While the Tipo is a little behind the Rapid for ride comfort, there’s really not much in it and the Fiat does tackle bumpy roads pretty well, as well as keeping small imperfections in the background.
The seating position feels lower than its rivals’, although no more comfortable. Sadly, the Tipo suffers from the same problem as the Skoda in terms of refinement, with the 1.6-litre diesel engine being rattly and sounding unpleasant in the cabin.
THE Fiat’s boot is bigger than the Skoda’s, but smaller than the Dacia’s. The step in the load bay floor with the rear seats folded means it’s harder to get long items in smoothly, but like both of its rivals here, the luggage area opening is wide and easy to access.
While the rear seats are comfortable and there’s lots of headroom, the dark materials inside ensure it feels more cramped than it actually is. The Tipo has the longest wheelbase of all three models here, which means there’s more than enough legroom for even tall adults to sit in the back.
A maximum towing weight of 1, 200kg is a match for the Rapid Spaceback’s and better than the Logan’s, and enough to tow a small caravan or trailer.
AUTO Express readers voted Fiat as the 17th best manufacturer in our Driver Power 2017 survey, which is a lot better than Dacia, but also a long way behind Skoda. Owners weren’t happy with refinement or comfort in their cars, but they were pleased with the in-car tech.
Fiat dealers also didn’t do well in the survey, and although the Italian company’s 19th place is ahead of Dacia’s 26th, Skoda easily beat both by finishing fifth.
The Tipo is the only car in this test that’s available with autonomous emergency braking (part of the £250 safety pack), and it scored reasonably well in its recent Euro NCAP crash test. Four stars is behind the Skoda’s five, but the Skoda was assessed in 2012 under a less stringent rating system.
All three cars get a three-year warranty, including breakdown cover. The Fiat doesn’t have a mileage limit; its rivals are covered up to 60,000 miles.
EVEN though the Tipo sits in between the Skoda and Dacia on price, it’s closer to the Skoda. Our example PCP deals (see Through the Range, opposite) showed that it’s even more expensive to buy on finance than the Rapid.
The Fiat sits in the lowest company car tax bracket of the three cars in our test, at 21 per cent, while the Logan is 22 per cent and the Rapid is 23 per cent.
However, the low list price of the Dacia means it’s still the cheapest to tax if you’re a business buyer. The Fiat will set a lower-rate taxpayer back £782 a year, while the Logan costs £603. All three will cost £140 a year for normal road tax, though.
The Logan MCV Stepway sits in insurance group nine, which makes it the cheapest to insure. Our example quote from the AA for the Dacia was £675, next to £777 for the Fiat and £864 for the Skoda.
All of that goes to show that the Tipo and the Rapid aren’t as cheap as you might think. It’s only the Dacia that really is a family car at a supermini price, and with low running costs.