Geneva Bites – Nuova Tipo

Missing the Marea? Still smitten by the Stilo? Sergio’s got something for you.

Image:ansa.it
Image:ansa.it

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.

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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:

Rivals:

Tipo: 2637mm
VAG Rapedo: 2602mm
Dacia Logan 2: 2634mm

Stablemates and antecedents:

Bravo/Brava/Marea: 2540mm
Stilo: 2600mm
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.

12 thoughts on “Geneva Bites – Nuova Tipo”

  1. This looks worthy and practical – it reminds me in concept of the Nissan Pulsar. Is the engine really the Tritec? Are there no diesels? Both factors seem rather limiting.

    1. It’s the engines: you need lots in this sector, from 1.3 to 2.0 (or the equivalent power outputs, stepped at 20% intervals) in diesel and petrol with auto or manual options. And stop-start tech too, standard. Anything less is a marketing hand-cuff. It’s all about price points, Sergio.

    2. The Campo Largo plant was bought from Chrysler by Fiat do Brasil in March 2008 in a strategic deal preceding the Fiat involvement with Chrysler. With BMW abandoning the Tritec in favour of the Franco-British BMW-PSA Prince unit, and the Neon no longer in production, Campo Largo was only supplying Lifan, Chery, and Chrysler itself, for a small number of PT Cruisers sold in Latin-American markets. For Fiat do Brasil, the 83 million Euro price was a terrific bargain, particularly as it meant they were no longer dependent on GM for their larger capacity engines.

      Fiat claim that 70% of the EtorQ engine is new, including components such as blocks, crankshafts, connecting rods, pistons, intake manifolds, valvetrains, electronic injection systems, engine pulleys, water pump, valve caps, cylinder heads and injection nozzles.

      Nevertheless the EtorQ still has the SOHC 16V top end from the Tritec (itself a scaled down Chrysler Neon 2.0 engine) which would preclude the fitment of a cam-phasing VVT system. The block remains cast iron, with the Tritec’s baseplate and through-bolts arrangement. This all appears to be ‘continuous improvement’ rather than a complete re-working.

      The 1598cc version has the same bore and stroke as the Tritec, but Fiat have added a larger 80.5mm bore version giving a 1747cc capacity. This seems to be a Brazil-only variant and was developed to replace a bought-in GM engine.

      In Western Europe the 1.6 EtorQ is available in the 500X, Jeep Renegade and possibly other cars.

      The MINI experience suggests that it’s a robust little engine, capable of taking serious power increases, and much more durable than the Rover K series, which Tritec would have replaced in the Rover range, had history taken a different course.

  2. How about re-styling this platform as a Lancia estate car with three or five doors?

    About quality: this is beyond management, isn´t it? It´s a cultural thing. You can´t make Italy into Switzerland. Yes broad brushstrokes do Italy a disservice. The Ansaldo-Bredo Oresund train set is a perfectly good design but the DSB IC4 is shockingly bad. And Ferrari make believable cars while Fiat can´t. It´s so inconsistent, as if quality is down to personal leadership and circumstances. On another front, Chrysler were always a bit crap at quality. The same kind of Americans make Buicks and Fords and BMWs that are not a bit crap, overall. So, is it management or culture or what?

    1. Lancia is on life support already – I think this idea would kill it off for good. For Lancia to make a credible comeback, it needs to be based on genuine quality engineering. Jaguar have thrown the kitchen sink at the XE – like it or not, you cannot accuse them of taking short cuts.

  3. I’ve seen a few these now on the road in Turkey. Just as impressive in the metal as when I saw the first one at the Istanbul Motor Show. Trust me in the metal it looks far more upmarket than its badge ever suggests.

    Pity then that one of my favourite details on the sedan, the intricate rear lights, have not made it over to either the hatch nor the estate. Both got extremely humdrum rear lights in comparison with not even the smallest nod to the sedan’s lights or any of the 3D intricacy of the sedan’s rear light design. A great shame..

    1. I agree with you that the rear of the saloon is much more interesting and provides balance to the whole car – good spot! The saloon therefore manages to look rather more premium than the hatch or estate. I’m still concerned about it being commercialised in the UK and rest of EU without a diesel – it just sounds half-hearted.

    2. According to a piece on TWBCM’s website, which thanks to Johann, I had the dubious pleasure of reading today, the engine line up looks as follows;
      1.3-litre MultiJet II diesel: 94bhp, 148lb ft
      1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel: 118bhp, 236lb ft
      1.4-litre petrol: 94bhp, 92lb ft
      1.4-litre turbo petrol: 118bhp, 152lb ft
      1.6-litre e-TorQ: 109bhp, 112lb ft (only with six-speed torque converter automatic)
      So while not Golf-rivaling in scope, appears (on the face of things at least) to be plenty – to start with at least. Fiat really don’t know how well this is going to play, so keeping a fairly narrow engine choice is probably prudent.

      Also, given that its on a stretched version of a smaller platform, it may not require larger capacity engines in order to deliver decent performance. With a value proposition, an emphasis on low running costs may prove a better tack to take anyway.

      Johann’s correct about the tail-lamps however – I can see no reason whatsoever to prevent them being fitted across the board. I think it would have made all the difference. Perhaps it’s my advancing age, but the berlina is my pick of the range.

  4. at least it looks better than the Linea, the saloon version of the Punto – which suffers from a serious case of narrowness – especially when compared to its length.

  5. Another Tipo engine has crept in, a 120bhp 1.4 turbo FIRE. No information on which markets get it, but it has an LPG option. Not very exciting, as the 1.6 MultiJet (a diesel) has the same power output and one and a half times as many torques.

    Since the Jeep Renegade uses a variant of the Tipo’s platform, would the 2.4 Tigershark fit, along with the Renegade’s 4WD system?

    There was a production 285 bhp turbo version of the Tigershark – Poor Man’s Integrale, anybody?

  6. I’m surprised Marchionne thinks this isn’t a suitable Dodge Dart replacement. It’s certainly better than giving up.

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