The bland cabin isn’t helped by the forgettable driving experience – the Fiat Tipo is about average in a class that has some highly accomplished rivals such as the comfortable Renault Megane and sporty Vauxhall Astra.
The Fiat Tipo is available with four different engines in five power outputs. Two diesels come in 1.3 and 1.6-litre capacities while petrol-powered models come with either a 1.4 or 1.6-litre engine. Although the diesels cater for the more cost-conscious buyer thanks to better fuel economy, the petrol units are both more refined and make the car far more involving to drive.
The 1.3-litre diesel engine produces 95hp, just enough to accelerate the five-door Fiat Tipo from rest to 62mph in a sluggish 12 seconds. This engine has to work hard at all times and is less refined as a result – not only is it loud around town but it drones at motorway speeds. These problems are compounded by the five-speed gearbox that feels loose and old-fashioned. This engine is, however, fairly economical and can return a claimed 76mpg – CO2 emissions of 99g/km are also fairly impressive.
The 1.6-litre diesel is noticeably more refined than the entry-level 1.3. Not only is it quieter but it feels less agricultural thanks, in part, to a slicker six-speed manual gearbox. Performance is improved thanks to a 120hp power output and 1.6-litre diesel models can sprint to 62mph from rest in 10.1 seconds. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are almost identical to the smaller 1.3-litre diesel (76mpg and 98g/km respectively) but the significantly more refined 1.6-litre unit is the one we’d recommend.
The 1.6-litre diesel is the way to go, providing a decent turn of speed and reasonable running costs
The 1.4-litre petrol engine in both 95hp and turbocharged 120hp forms is more fun to drive and quieter, but it loses out in terms of fuel economy and CO2 emissions. The 95hp model is capable of returning 50mpg and emitting 132g/km of CO2. The 120hp model costs the same and can return a comparable 47mpg. This engine allows the Tipo to sprint to 62mph from rest in 9.6 seconds – 2.5 seconds faster than a cheaper 95hp car.
The 1.6-litre non-turbo model with 110hp caters for drivers looking for a petrol-powered car with an automatic gearbox. This engine, however, is not only less powerful than the 1.4-litre model but with CO2 emissions of 147g/km. Fuel economy also takes a hit – cars fitted with this engine can only manage a claimed 45mpg.
Fiat has focused on reducing the effect of external noise, vibration and ride harshness throughout the Fiat Tipo’s development – the result is a car that can cruise comfortably on motorways with minimal disturbance from rough roads or unruly wind noise.
It might not be as fun to drive as a Ford Focus nor as refined as a Vauxhall Astra but, for a significantly cheaper family hatchback the Tipo has decent levels of grip and corners without lots of body roll. The power steering feels over-assisted and numb, however, and little feedback is transmitted through the steering wheel.
The ride is reasonably comfortable but harsh bumps can often be jarring and the stiff suspension results in a car that always feels slightly unsettled. This is especially obvious on pitted or poorly maintained roads.