MODEL TESTED: Fiat Tipo 1.6 Mul­ti­jet Lounge 120HP PRICE: £18,795 EN­GINE: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 118bhp

Auto Express - - Road Tests -

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

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.

OWN­ER­SHIP

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.

RUN­NING COSTS

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.

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