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Entering a cutthroat segment in which it hasn’t competed since the Bravo, Fiat is hedging its bets on the new Tipo...

Golf, Astra, Focus, Mazda3, Mégane, Auris, 308, Civic, i30, Cerato… The C-segment isn’t exactly devoid of talent, is it? To varying degrees, each of these competitors offers something unique to buyers for whom a balance of sophistication, space, comfort, performance, frugality and quality, all at a palatable price, are paramount.

But they’re under pressure from the proliferation of faddish light and compact crossovers and SUVs. Sales of C-segment hatches have taken a knock and, with a spread of excellent cars vying for a dwindling slice of pie, elevating themselves above their peers is the only way to survive. Therefore, like any newcomer, the freshly added Tipo faces an uphill battle.

Aside from those pesky crossovers, not only is the Fiat badge an unfamiliar one in this segment of the market – the long-since-discontinued Bravo, despite being a stylish offering equipped with strong 1,4-litre T-Jet turbopetrol engines, never really found much traction with buyers – but the local affiliate has decided to launch the hatchback range with naturally aspirated engines in a market that’s embraced forced induction to great effect.

Here we’re testing the 1,4 Lounge, which sits at the pinnacle of the five-door range in terms of specification, but not price; costing R5 000 more, the 1,6 Easy Auto boasts 11 kW extra, coupled with a six-speed torque-converter automatic, but sacrifices some equipment. Curiously, Fiat offers its excellent 1,3-litre MultiJet II turbo-diesel, developing 70 kW and 200 N.m from 1 500 r/min, only in the sedan range (which, in turn, doesn’t have a 1,4 Lounge).

Unveiled at the 2015 Istanbul Motor Show and built on Fiat’s Small Wide LWB platform (co-developed with General Motors) that, in adapted form, underpins the 500L and X, as well as the Jeep Renegade, the Tipo bears little relation to the original Tipo launched in 1988. Penned by the Fiat Style Centre in Italy around the official brief of “Skills, no frills”, the new Tipo features a understated, neat design lifted here by Mediterraneo Blue paint with chrome-trimmed door handles, and by this flagship Lounge model’s 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in chunky 225/45 R17 Continental tyres.

Those handles open doors that have a satisfying heft and leave big gaps for easy ingress, even to the rear bench. Drop into the enveloping front seats, trimmed in stylish dark-grey fabric, and the impression remains positive. The seating position is widely adjustable (though we’d like a smidgen more vertical range on the driver’s chair to leave more clearance under the roof lining; the front passenger, meanwhile, will have to make do with the fixed height of their chair), the multifunction steering wheel feels pleasingly chunky and the slush-moulded dashboard top stands up to the finger-prod test.

According to our measurements, the Tipo is one of the more spacious vehicles in this class – as you’d rightly expect, given it’s one of the largest – and rear legroom bests efforts by the Volkswagen Golf and Renault Mégane, although not quite the commodious Opel Astra. Headroom, however, is less impressive but, thanks to a scalloped ceiling, it’s sufficient for adults of 1,8 metres and shorter to get comfortable.

Storage space is well thought out, especially the deep cubby in front of the gearlever that’s perfectly placed for plugged-in smartphones. Likewise, the neatly trimmed boot is one of the larger cavities in the C-segment, offering 288 litres with the 60:40-split rear seatbacks in place. That’s a whole 72 litres more than the Golf can muster.

Where the Tipo can’t match the Volkswagen, however, is in perceived fit and finish. Solidly constructed it may be, but the Fiat’s cabin sits at the bottom end of this segment in terms of the quality of its interior trimmings; the door cards feel especially bargain basement. Where Fiat has priced the Tipo lower in international markets and trim problems can be ignored, locally it’s on a level footing cost-wise with its main rivals; therefore, plastics which belong in the B-segment don’t help the Tipo’s cause.

The specification on this Lounge model is also a mixed bag. Where it boasts such standout items as satellite navigation, climate control and a reverse camera as standard, it lacks auto lights and wipers, lumbar adjustment, rear air vents and airbags beyond the two front ones catering to the driver and passenger. The UConnect infotainment system, although fairly simple to use, operates through a small five-inch touchscreen that’s rendered inoperable in direct bright light. USB, Bluetooth and aux-in functionalities are standard, and sound quality through the system’s six speakers is good.

Fiat’s 1,4-litre Fire engine is a familiar one, having performed service in a number of the brand’s products since 2005. It sends power to the front wheels through a slick-shifting six speed manual gearbox … what little there is, at least. Despite having to lug 1 245 kg (the more well-endowed Golf 1,0 TSI we tested last month made our scales groan less), the powertrain develops just 70 kW at 6 000 r/min and a weedy 127 N.m at 4 500 r/min.

Initially, though, the Fire engine doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the Tipo’s girth; stop-start driving in dense traffic sees the powertrain pick up speed smoothly. However, that impression doesn’t last. Venture onto a highway and the Tipo 1,4 quickly runs out of puff. Keep in mind we test vehicles at the coast; reef altitudes generally drain an engine of 15-20% of its power; we’d venture a guess the Tipo will have very little oomph in reserve for overtaking in, say, Johannesburg.

Not to harp on about the Golf – although it is a direct competitor to the Tipo and our 2017 Top 12 Best Buys compact hatchback champion – but that 1,0 TSI hit 100 km/h from standstill in 10,23 seconds versus the Fiat’s 13,86; accelerated from 80-120 km/h in fourth gear a whopping 7,29 seconds quicker; and needed 22,57 seconds less to complete the same discipline in top gear. The German also used 1,1 litres less unleaded on our standardised 100 km fuel route. Does any doubt remain about the merits of downsized and turbocharged petrol engines?

The Tipo does manage to win back some favour in terms of dynamics. Utterly vice-free in the manner in which it trundles down the road, the long wheelbase suspended with MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam aft sees the Fiat resist roll well while damping away most surface scars. It also steers fluently – the City function, which lightens the steering further, is superfluous considering the relative lack of weighting – and posted an excellent average time of 2,95 seconds after 10 emergency braking procedures. Only a curiously large amount of road noise kicked up by the rear tyres affect the impression of rolling refinement; the engine is one of the better-sounding four-cylinders.

2020 Fiat Tipo hatch 1.4 Lounge

Ref No: 1789908

Latest Resutls for Fiat Tipo

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Lumbar support adjustment: opt driver
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Optional
  • Curtain airbags: Optional
  • Airbag quantity: 2 (opt 4 / opt 6)
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear
  • Central locking: remote
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 790 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 6
  • Gearshift: manual
  • Transmission type: manual
  • Front tyres: 225/45 R17
  • Reartyres: 225/45 R17
  • Spare wheel size full: Standard
  • Length: 4368 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1792 mm
  • Height: 1495 mm
  • Wheel base: 2640 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 10.9 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 440 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 440 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1195 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 45l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 7.7 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 4.5 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 5.7 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 132g/km
  • Power maximum: 70 kW
  • Power maximum total: 70 kW
  • Power peak revs: 6000 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 58.6 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 127 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 4500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 127 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 106.3 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 11.5s
  • Maximum top speed: 185 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1368 cc
  • Engine size: 1.4l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.4
  • Engine + detail: 1.4
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Valves quantity: 0
  • Warranty time (years): 3
  • Warranty distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 3
  • Service plan time (distance): 100000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Fiat
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 20039170
  • MMVariant: TIPO 1.4 LOUNGE 5DR
  • MMintrodat: 2017-04-01
  • Introdate: 2017-05-08
  • DuoportarecordID: FiatTipo1h3

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New Tipo hatch 1.4 Lounge availbale from the following auto dealer:
Reeds Belville New Cars new car dealership located in: Bellville, Western Cape, South Africa
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