Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie

Is this 1991 Tipo suspiciously underpriced?

1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie
1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie

It seems like only a bit of while ago that Fiat were offering the Tipo Mk1 (1988 to 1995). It is however, actually a really long time ago indeed.This car is actually quite old though it seems not to look it, to my eyes at least. When Fiat first offered the Tipo they made something of a big deal about the galvanization and general rust protection. This one is 23 years old (and is on sale here) which is something of a testament to the resistance it has put up to the salty roads and generally abysmal winter climate of Denmark. What Fiat didn´t seem to do was put so much extra effort into putting the rest of the car together which is why there are so few of these left compared to rivals such as the Golf and the Astra***. In all likelihood quite tidy examples of this car were scrapped because unrusted bits fell off too quickly or uncorroded connectors failed to connect…. It´s so tempting to write that, really but some research showed that it generally was well assembled and reliable.  I looked at Parker’s  price guide to provide

1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie: reduced to clear
1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie: reduced to clear

 some real-world guidance on the problems. Among those problems were “rust” and “generally falling apart” (said a 1991 1.4 Formula 5-door owner). But other owners were happy: very little gone wrong (another 1991 1.4 DGT owner who called their car “almost perfect”.) and very little (a 1990 DGT owner) and very little (1996 1.4 ie 3-door model). In fact, most of the owners reported general satisfaction with their cars. I looked at ten or twelve comments and the great majority were positive about their Tipo.

1991 Fiat Tipo interior: no digital fun here
1991 Fiat Tipo interior: no digital fun here

With the passage of time you can see the charms of the Tipo more clearly. For one thing it´s not a recent or new Fiat, is it?. It has neat, reserved good looks and must be commended for its excellent packaging. That was all thanks to Ercole Spada at the IDEA institute. I peered closely at a parked Tipo recently and the interior was remarkably airy, bright and roomy. It would put a Focus or Golf to some shame. For another thing, it´s not a Ritmo or a Strada which, while having a certain late 70s ID charm about the designs, were nearly as prone to reacting to water as pure sodium. The Tipo dashboard was effective and available with digital read-outs, another retro plus point. The photos here show a non-DGT interior though. This means it had conventional analogue dials for the speedo and rev-counter. Given the rest of the car actually appears to be far from something rotten you could overlook that minor defect. But for the Tipo purist this car would have to be a DGT to make it truly worth the investment asked (in this case £1250). That said, the 1988 interior design holds up as well as anything from VW and perhaps outshines the stodge offered by Mazda, Renault and Ford at the same time. Finally, the car isn´t a recent or new Fiat either (did I mention that?). You can probably work on the Tipo yourself though that would not very be often, it would appear. The Tipo is probably able to carry more things than whatever it is Fiat is offering in this class now (I can´t remember). According to owners and period reviews, the Tipo was also rather fun to punt around too. LJK Setright liked the very good-looking 3-door when it was finally launched, in 1993.

1988 Fiat Tipo DGT interior.
1988 Fiat Tipo DGT interior. Is that 160 kmph in a studio with no driver?

In all, I imagined before writing this that I´d spend most of my time smiling patronisingly at the Tipo. But on reflection, I can see that in isolation this example is probably under-priced for its condition and rarity. The seller shows little interest in selling it too, to judge by the carelessly selected images. So you could get another few hundred quid off the price easily. Additionally, the Tipo also shines a harsh light on Fiat´s present range not one of which is as thoughtfully styled or packaged as the 1988 car nor as enjoyable to drive. Sergio Marchionne and his staff really ought to take a long, steady look at an example of this car and ask themselves what has gone so very wrong. Meanwhile, I earnestly commend this car to the the readers of DTW.

***but not Escorts. Nobody seems to like the late 1980-1986 Escorts, not even me and I generally like Fords. There are very few here in Denmark whereas a Tipo isn´t that unusual a sight.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie”

  1. I always liked these, but it is true that they seem a very rare sight these days. The current car is the Bravo (I think)

  2. The Bravo. Yes. I had to squint to summon it up. Isn´t that a really old design by now? And if I remember correctly, was not very competitive from day one. For at least four model cycles Fiat have failed to predict and provide class leading design in the small family car sector. Ford and VW and GM easily and cónsistently make a car that has some USP that lasts the entire model cycle. Fiat nearly never provide a class leading advantage that holds for more than a few seasons. One thing they could do is make the cars fun to drive.

  3. I seem to remember that someone who worked on the replacement (the Bravo/Brava) said that the Tipo was a fridge. I’m all for healthy criticism of car design, but I find the public breaking of ranks within car companies unseemly, and comments like that don’t sound like refreshing honesty, just political manoeuvering.

    So it’s with some satisfaction that I note that the original Bravo/a designs, which I admit that I found good looking in the mid 90s, particularly in 3 door form, have not aged as well as the Tipo. The Tipo is indeed a fridge, if you consider it as an object designed logically to be fit for purpose, rather like the Series 3 Passat. Both the original and the current Bravo certainly seemed more stylish on release, with the more recent one aping the vaguely Maserati inspired snout of the Grande Punto but, once that wore off about 3 weeks later, it became a deservedly forgettable car.

    I hired a Tipo once. It was metallic green, a colour that always looks better in sunny Italy than in the UK, and it was fine, which is really all the praise it needs.

  4. The was also the ‘GTI’ version of the Tipo, the finely named Sedicivalvole which, if you could find one these days that hasn’t had the Max Power treatment, was a nice and subtle hot hatch of decent ability. It bears the modest distinction of being the first car that showed me that the fast premium GT of yesterday (Citroen SM) was well matched by the hot hatch of today (today at the time being 1996).

  5. I love my 91 – 1.4 (analogue) Tipo that I bought in September 1999, it has cost less in repairs since then than my wife’s 2002 Seat Ibiza that we bought in 2012.
    This model Tipo is sturdy and reliable, with no electronics apart from the ignition system. It has no rust at all, but we do live in a dry part of Spain.
    The Tipo abounds in most South American countries.

  6. Hi Earthling: is that name a reference to any 1997 album?
    Anecdotally I hear both good and bad about the Tipo. Users report sterling reliability and bits falling off. In Ireland the roads and weather wrecked Tipos.
    It’s a roomy, useful car. I can see why you like it.
    R

  7. Mixed memories of our two 1994 1.4 i.e office hacks. Plenty low speed willingness, and sportingly geared powered steering, but weight and frontal area was ultimately too much for the little engine. The interior felt Eastern European compared with what Ford, Vauxhall and Rover were producing by the mid-90s.

    The white one was prone to cutting out in heavy rain, (its predecessor, a Tempra 1.4S was a damn sight worse in this matter). I can’t remember if it was that one or the slightly older red example which I drove 800 miles in a working day, 6:00AM to 6:00PM going from Glasgow to Manchester, back to Glasgow, on to Newcastle, then back to Glasgow. It never missed a beat on that run.

    I’ve just checked the DVLA Vehicle Details:

    M994WSN: 1/1/94 – 3/2/04
    M913XSN: 20/3/94 – 16/7/03

    I’m surprised their lives were as long. They were handed back after four years of thrashing with 120,000+ miles up, and would have been worth so little that any major failure would have finished them off.

    1. You have a remarkably efficient archive. I am not sure where my vehicle documents are and the prospect of going to find them makes me perspire. If we think about the competitors for this, we find cars with very distinctly different personalities: the Astra, Golf, Escort, 306 and ZX. I feel I know what each of these cars is offering and where their strengths lie. Today´s batch are very closely spaced. Only Alfa´s Giulietta really stands out though perhaps I ought to include Mercedes´front driver and Audi´s A3. I have no idea which one I´d want to drive first whereas the class of ´91 has a clear winner.

  8. My own car at the time was a Civic ESi. (The LJKS effect – if only I had the means to buy a Prelude…) Never quite lived up to its elegant and futuristic looks and the complexity of its chassis, but the precision of the build quality was a revelation. Possibly the most extreme car of its class. Closer to the mainstream, but still with Honda, the Rover R8 200/400 was well ahead of its main domestic rivals. Unfortunately for Rover, it also thrashed (In What Car-speak) the cars which replaced it.

    The Civic’s successor was a HHR Rover 400. A horrible car, and not one of my choosing.

    I had limited experience of the ZX, but it may well have been the best of the early ’90s bunch. Dimensionally a Golf Mk.2 clone, and probably not the future any true Citroëniste would have wished for, but the engines and chassis were vastly better than what VAG were doing at the time.

    The other joker in the pack was an Escort in its final iteration, a three door hatch with the 1.6 Zetec. Unobtrusively competent, and always a pleasure to drive.

  9. What’s hiding behind the phrase “never quite lived up to”? Is that precision or understatement? If it’s the first then I’d suppose the Civic to be rather good; if the latter I wonder how much of a disaster it could have been? Did the carpet grommet under the rear passenger seat work lose?

  10. The Civic’s problem is that it was neither fish nor fowl, effectively a supermini on a C-segment footprint, and more of a coupe than a 3 door hatch in the European manner. The US-made coupe which came late to that series was a more practical car. That said, I loved the Civic’s looks, and even contemplated replacing it with the quicker VTi, but the petty impracticalities were tiresome.

    The suspension bothered me more. All that complexity and it neither rode nor handled particularly well. VAG products with the near-universal MacPherson strut / torsion beam underpinnings surpassed the Honda in both endeavours, the ZX and 306 were better still with their torsion bar independent rear suspension.

    The Honda problem seems to have been twofold. Very short suspension travel, and the need to set the suspension up on the production line, rather than just bolt it into place. A person close to Rover told me that the problem with their cars using the suspension was even worse, as they either didn’t know how to set up the suspension, or couldn’t be bothered.

    It’s no surprise that a few generations later, Honda accepted the MacPherson strut / torsion beam orthodoxy for the 2006 European Civic, adopting a suspension design differing only in minor detail from that of the 1972 Audi 80.

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