IN these times of niche marketing, carefully targeted micro-sectors and classes of cars that never even existed a decade or so, it's refreshing to stumble across a model that has straight forward family appeal.
That model is the Fiat Tipo - a good value, roomy hatchback that's aimed clearly and obviously at the mass market.
With price tags starting at less than £13,000, the Tipo represents a lot of car for the money. Petrol and diesel models are available with the 1.6 MultiJet diesel possibly becoming the best selling version in Britain.
All models include air con, DAB radio, split folding rear seats, electric front windows and Bluetooth in their specification.
The MultiJet is not the quietest engine at tickover, bearing a distinctly clattery tone at first, but on the move things get quieter and more relaxed and with 118bhp at your beck and call, there's no shortage of shove. In typical diesel fashion there's ample top gear power allowing it to polish off the sprint to 62mph in a nifty 9.8 seconds.
Obviously, in this sector particularly every penny counts when it comes to running costs and the Tipo's low emissions level and correspondingly meagre thirst will appeal strongly to family buyers. The official combined mileage is 76.3mpg with CO2 levels of 98g/km.
My own average proved to be in the high 40s, with a couple of cross-country runs nudging into the low 50s.
With a footprint similar in size to a Focus or a Golf, you'd rightly expect there to be ample passenger room. In fact, the Tipo passes expectations with generous leg and headroom and space for five adults. Surprisingly the square shaped boot, which has a two-level floor, is actually bigger than the Golf's and can absorb no less than 440 litres of cargo.
Few onlookers would dislike the Tipo's regular lines which follow the well trod hatchback template. In profile for it looks remarkably similar to the Peugeot 308 - no bad thing, many would say.
The cabin is reasonably stylish and easy to live with, if a tad lacking in personality. Soft touch plastics adorn the top of the fascia but there are some less tactile materials dotted around the cabin, reminding you that it was built to a budget.
With a good turn of speed and safe, predictable handling, the Tipo will satisfy most family motorists although those who are looking for sporting credentials may find in lacking. Steering is light and quite precise and body roll is kept a minimum despite good damping which insulates passengers against shock from poor road surfaces.
The six-speed manual gearbox is slick and pleasant to use. The final ratio is high enough to prove relaxing and economical for motorway cruising. Although the engine is audible at idling speed, it is quiet enough at the legal limit. Fiat offers the option of a twin clutch automatic.