Missing the Marea? Still smitten by the Stilo? Sergio’s got something for you.
Is Sergio Marchionne still shaking flak out of his bulk-knit cardigan? His demeanour on the first media day may have suggested otherwise, and FCA’s workrate can’t be faulted, notwithstanding more than a little help from their Japanese and Turkish friends. The recently launched, Turkish-built Tipo saloon, was joined at Geneva by a five door hatchback and a useful looking estate car. The saloon and hatch could be dead ringers for the – wholly unrelated – Qoros 3, even down to the chrome doorhandles. Some also saw echoes of the Brava and Marea. Can it really be twenty years since these hire fleet heroes first appeared?
The Nuova Tipo is not a rework of these ‘90s cars, but a new design, using a current Fiat platform and engines. It’s reported that much of the engineering work on the Nuova Tipo was undertaken by FCA / Koç Holding joint venture Tofas, although the styling was the work of Fiat Centro Stile, and the cars sit on the Fiat Small Wide platform, which has evolved from the 2005 Grande Punto’s component set shared with GM. The Tipo’s first production base is Tofas’s Bursa plant, and engines include two sizes of MultiJet diesels, a 1.4 litre indirect injection FIRE, and the 1.6 litre EtorQ, a lightly upgraded version of the BMW/Chrysler Tritec engine which powered the first-generation MINI, still produced in Curitiba, Brazil. TwinAirs and petrol turbos are conspicuous by their absence.
The first pictures of the Aegea concept suggested something which had enough flair and character to carry a Prisma badge and keep these fast-selling Ypsilons company in the Lancia showrooms. The production reality is a neat, visually unchallenging exterior which successfully avoids looking like a “developing world” car. The interior is less successful, gloomy, generic, devoid of delight and any hint of luxury even in the top-end ‘Easy’ trim. Rather at odds with this was the Easy’s high level of equipment and “infotainment” features, including a multi-function steering wheel so laden with secondary controls that the bewildered driver might forget its primary function. Simpler specifications are available, and they probably suit the spirit of the car better.
I checked some wheelbase dimensions and confirmed my notions about where the Tipo sits:
VAG Rapedo: 2602mm
Dacia Logan 2: 2634mm
Stablemates and antecedents:
Nuovo Bravo: 2600mm
Delta (Tipo 844): 2700mm
Giulietta (Tipo 940): 2634mm
In France the Tipo is a €12-20,000 car, therefore it sits alongside the Škoda / Seat Rapedo, and above the Dacia Logan.
Some time before its European launch, Fiat brand CEO Olivier Francois described the Tipo’s brand positioning as being “like IKEA”. The unkind might say it is more Aldi or Lidl. The Geneva strapline “You don’t need much to get a lot”, could come from either German Merchant.
At least in Europe, Fiat are not talking of the sky-high sales ambitions they had for preceding C-segment products – remember the 450,000 per year target for the Stilo? The best it managed was 170,000.
There’s no such thing as a truly basic car these days – legislation and consumer expectations have seen to that. However, even in supposedly sophisticated Europe, there is a demand for unpretentious, good value vehicles. If the pricing is right, and the dealer networks are up to the job, the Tipo range looks well placed to take a slice of the Skoda and Dacia action, and also fill the space left by the Koreans as they hubristically move upmarket.