Fiat Tipo S Design

1.4 120 T-Jet

Fiat Tipo, dynamic
Fiat Tipo, front
Fiat Tipo, dashboard
Fiat Tipo, rear
Fiat Tipo, dashboard
Fiat Tipo, interior, rear
Fiat Tipo, interior

MENTION Fiat to most folk and you will probably conjure images of dinky city cars such as the retro-chic 500 and the quirky Panda.

Chances are that the Italian brand will be far from the first to spring to mind for anyone in the market for a family hatchback.

Shrewd car buyers may want to reflect on this oversight, though, and take a look at the Tipo - which is spacious, well equipped and very competitively priced in a somewhat crowded sector of the market.

Those with particularly long memories may remember the Tipo's first incarnation, launched in 1988 as a somewhat boxy looking - as many cars were back then - hatchback that focused on delivering practicality, simplicity and functionality.

It did so until the mid-90s when a prolonged hiatus from our roads began, only ending four years ago when Fiat resurrected the nameplate with a sleek and modern, although understated, look but with the emphasis still very much on value for money.

With entry-level Easy spec cars starting at £15,820, you can have a Tipo for less than some superminis from the class below will set you back.

At such a competitive price point there will, of course, be compromises which are most evident in the Tipo's case in the broad expanses of scratchy black plastic that characterise the somewhat bland interior.

If you are prepared to look beyond this, though, then the Tipo has plenty of other things going for it. Whichever of the six available trim grades you go for it is a well-equipped and impressively roomy compact family car.

All versions get digital radio with Bluetooth, air conditioning, automatic emergency braking, cruise control, a space saver spare wheel as opposed to a can of gunk, and a capacious 440-litre boot that easily accommodates the weekly shop.

Stepping up to the S Design spec of this car, one below the range-topper, adds such niceties as 18-inch alloys, sporty matt black exterior trim detailing, leather and cloth upholstery, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, navigation, Apple and Android smartphone connectivity, a rear view camera, driver's seat electric lumbar support, rear privacy glass and an automatic start/stop system.

Admittedly, the touchscreen is a little small and fiddly to use when on the move but that is a lot of kit for a car which still comes in at less than £20,000.

There is also plenty of space in the cabin four four adults to get comfortable, five at a push on shorter trips, with decent head and leg room for those in the back, while the 60/40 split folding rear seat backs add load carrying versatility.

Power for the Tipo range comes from a choice of two 1.4-litre petrol engines or a 1.6-litre diesel, all mated to a six-speed manual transmission as standard.

Our car had the pick of the bunch beneath the bonnet, the more powerful, turbocharged petrol unit, which kicks out 120ps and will shift the Tipo from 0-62mph in a snip under 10 seconds and on to a top speed of 124mph.

This engine offers plenty of punch - pulling well from low revs and with sufficient pace and power to also be comfortable at motorways speeds, where it is also surprisingly refined, though it is noisier under sharp acceleration.

Throttle response is prompt and decisive, with power coming on quickly when you ask for it, and there's enough in-gear grunt to make overtaking possible without always having to resort to dropping down a gear.

This turn of pace, coupled with decent grip and some agile handling, make the Tipo an enjoyable and relatively engaging car to drive. A week behind the wheel certainly left me wondering why you don't see more of these Fiat hatchbacks on the road.

FAST FACTS

Fiat Tipo S Design 1.4 120 T-Jet

Price: £19,225

Mechanical: 120ps, 1,368cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph:9.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 39.8

Insurance Group:14

C02 emissions:166g/km

Bik rating:37%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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