FIAT South Africa aren’t known for introducing many models into the local automotive sphere, but when it does, the motoring media normally takes note.
I was recently invited to Port Elizabeth to drive the brand’s new Tipo, which has been on sale in Europe for around a year now and has achieved a reasonable amount of success.
What is Tipo?
In very basic terms, the Tipo is a C-segment vehicle produced in both hatchback and sedan configurations by Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, to compete against the likes of the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta and Kia Cerato.
Design, in brief
The Tipo has been designed with a low initial purchase price as its primary objective. That being said, it’s not a bad looking vehicle with some design elements lifted from the attractive Abarth 124 Spider in terms of its front end, which features a wide grille and signature narrow headlamps. In side profile, the sedan is rather bland but does offer a strong character line that extends from the headlamps to the boot.
The hatch is a better looking car in side profile, with a similar character line which extends to an attractive rear-end, although the elongated section of metal behind the C-pillar does give it a bit of a station wagon-like appearance. The rear-end of the sedan is one of the more interesting in the segment, but at the end of the day, it’s still a small sedan which limits its appeal with the general public, and opens it up to fleet and rental car companies.
The interior of the Tipo is a relatively inoffensive place to be. The first thing you’ll notice when stepping inside, is the use of several different surfaces and textures throughout the cabin.
The material used on the dashboard and the top of the door panel is quite strange and doesn’t really match the rest of the cabin. Aside from this, build quality is pretty solid. Depending on which model you’ve chosen, the infotainment system is acceptable with USB and Bluetooth connectivity and an optional five-inch UConnect system featuring satellite navigation.
It was driving the Tipo where I noted a few problems, particularly if you live above sea level. The engine range, especially in the consumer-focused hatchback portion of the line-up, may prove underpowered.
The 70kW/127Nm 1.4-litre naturally aspirated motor that powers many of the hatch and sedan models felt underwhelming even at sea level, while the 1.6-litre motor is only available with an automatic gearbox and provides 81kW/152Nm. The sedan range does benefit from a 1.3-litre MultiJet turbodiesel motor with 70kW/200Nm, which is certainly the pick of the range in terms of powertrains.
Other than the power starved engines, the driving experience provided by the Tipo is commendable with good sound insulation, reasonable comfort and good interior space. There is enough front and rear space for four adult occupants to sit comfortably, while boot space is an impressive 440-litres in the hatchback and 520-litres in the sedan.
In terms of standard spec, the base Pop model gets a six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth and USB, cloth seats, heated electric mirrors, electric windows, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and ESP, Tyre Pressure monitor and Hill Hold Assist. Cruise control and rear parking sensors are optional on the hatch only.
Moving one up, the Easy specification adds 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome door handles, leather trimmed steering wheel, cruise control, automatic air-conditioning and rear parking sensors with a reverse camera and satellite navigation being optional. The top-of-the-range Lounge model features 17-inch alloy wheels, the aforementioned UConnect system, reverse camera and techno-leather seats.
Warranty and service
All Tipo models come with a three-year/100 000km warranty and a three-year/100 000km service plan as standard.
1.6 Easy AT
Article written by Sean Nurse