Midrand – Fiat is straddling the B and C segments with the Tipo hatch and sedan, launched this week in South Africa with the catchphrase “Skills, no frills”, in a straightforward range of three engines, three transmissions and three trim levels.
Under the typically Fiat ‘cute ‘n quirky’ styling (the sedan comes very close to being a four-door fastback) it’s actually a very conventional contemporary small car, with McPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension.
The hatch is 4.37 metres long, the sedan 16cm longer; each is 1.79m wide and 1.5m tall. In fact the hatch is actually longer, although slightly narrower, than a VW Golf, yet it's priced closer to the Polo (see full list below). Their conservative rooflines, says Fiat, allow sufficient rear leg and headroom to make either a proper five-seater – as well as 440 litres of luggage space in the hatch and 520 litres in the sedan.
And there’s more storage (a total of 12 litres of it) in nooks and crannies all over the cabin, including a ‘media centre’ for connecting devices just ahead of the gear lever.
The Tipo comes with a choice of three drivetrains, none of them new but each, we are assured, updated for this application.
The entry-level offering is actually the mid-sized 1.4-litre, 16-valve twin-cam Fire petrol four, rated for 70kW at 6000 revs and 127Nm at 4500, driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
The smooth-running, lightweight 1.6 E-torQ petrol four, with graphite-coated pistons, forged-steel con rods and aluminium oil sump, delivers a quoted 81kW at 5500 revs and 152Nm at 4500rpm, routed to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Finally, there’s the 1.3 Multijet II turbodiesel four, coupled to a five-speed manual ‘box, and rated for 70kW at 3750rpm and 200Nm from 1500rpm.
Standard kit across the range includes a hands-free Bluetooth interface, audio streaming, text reader and voice recognition, Aux and USB ports with iPod integration, satellite controls on the steering wheel, a full-sized spare wheel, driver and front passenger airbags and electronic stability control.
The entry level Pop sedan and hatch roll on 16 inch steel rims with plastic covers, and come with electric front windows, electrically adjustable door mirrors with defrosting function, 60:40 split rear seat (hatch only) and manual air conditioning. The hatch has black fabric upholstery, the sedan is trimmed in black and silver.
The Easy trim adds auto aircon, 16 inch alloy rims, LED daytime running lights, chrome door handles, body-coloured mirror covers and a leather steering wheel. The hatch has the same black fabric upholstery as the Pop, the sedan comes with a textured black and grey weave.
The Lounge flagship version, in hatchback format only, comes with 17 inch alloys, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear-knob, rear parking sensors and camera, front fog lights, cruise control, front armrest and driver's seat with optional lumbar adjustment, UConnect infotainment system with navigation as standard – and your choice of grey fabric or black techno leather.
All Tipo models come with a three-year/100 000km warranty and service plan.
Interestingly, the sedan is priced R20 000 lower than the hatchback and seems like a very good value proposition given its size. Or is it too good to be true? Jesse Adams is attending the South African launch, so look out for his driving impressions in The Star, Mercury or Cape Times this Thursday.
FIAT TIPO PRICES
|1.4 Easy||70kW/127Nm||R249 900|
|1.3 Multijet Easy||70kW/200Nm||R274 900|
|1.6 Easy auto||81kW/152Nm||R274 900|
|1.4 Pop||70kW/127Nm||R249 900|
|1.4 Easy||70kW/127Nm||R269 900|
|1.4 Lounge||70kW/127Nm||R289 900|
|1.6 Easy auto||81kW/152Nm||R294 900|