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Fiat Tipo comes as a pleasant surprise


The Fiat Tipo caught me unawares. It arrived with little fanfare in May this year, and the first I heard about it was when it popped up on my schedule for evaluation during the second week of August.

The Tipo comes in two body types - hatch and sedan - with three trim levels, three engines and three gearboxes, and there are eight models in the line-up, priced close together at between R230 000 and R295 000.

The car sent our way was the Tipo 1.3 turbodiesel  Easy sedan. This, the only oil-burning version available in the South African market, serves up 70kW/200Nm. The other engines are a naturally-aspirated 1.4-litre petrol offering 70kW or 1.6-litre petrol with 81kW. There are also three transmissions: five-speed manual, six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic.

Trim levels are Pop, Easy and Lounge with the latter being available only in the 1.4-litre hatch. With all that behind us, we can now go onto the Fiat that I drove, and first impressions were very favourable. 

The doors are wide-opening, allowing for easy ingress and egress, and they close with a very satisfying "thunk", which is always a good sign. There's lots of space inside, the seats are comfortable, the dash layout is attractive and the boot is truly massive. The Tipo is a fairly large car all round, and Fiat likes to claim that it has more skills than frills, which is a pretty accurate statement. That's not to say that it's short on anything you'd consider essential.

All models come with Bluetooth, AUX and USB ports with iPod integration, steering-wheel controls, and electric mirrors with defrosting, as well as all the usual electronic safety gubbins. The Easy spec on the test car added 16-inch alloy rims, LED daytime running lights, chrome door handles, body-coloured mirrors and a leather steering wheel. Satellite navigation and a rear-view camera are amongst the available options.

All of this, along with the size of the car, adds up to a fairly hefty 1.5 tons of metal and plastic to move down the road, which is a big ask for a 70kW engine. The torque figure of 200Nm from just off idle gets that out of the way, though, and the well-built Fiat gets the job done with aplomb. Handling is good, noise, vibration and harshness have been well taken care of, and I found the car to be very likable indeed.

This, the only diesel version, would be my pick of the bunch at R275 000. All come with a standard three-year/100 000km warranty and service plan.

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