Reverting to Type

A harmless trip to the shops leads to a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Tipo.

Tipo Berlina. Image: Car Suggest

A walk around my local retail car park in suburban Cork is a dispiriting experience at any time, even when the rain isn’t horizontal. Filled with the usual drear parade of monochrome conveyances, there is little for the eye to linger upon, or indeed for the uninfluential auto-blogger to spin an article. However, earlier in the week, I was stopped in my tracks by, of all things, a 2017-registered Fiat Tipo Sedan – the first I’ve witnessed in the wild.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the ‘sedan’ was even offered in the Irish market, but lo, Fiat appears to have gone to the trouble of producing it in right hand drive form. This leads me to wonder where else it’s offered, because if Sergio’s banking on the Irish to bail him out, his delusions really are boundless.

Image. Fiat.ie

Fiat offer the Tipo with all three body styles, in three trim levels; Pop, Easy and Lounge – (well you did ask) – four engines, and with six speed manual or automatic transmissions. Engines are normally aspirated and turbocharged 1.4 litre petrols or 1.3 and 1.6 litre turbodiesels. Fiat.ie are coy about the technicalities, but that isn’t unusual nowadays it does appear.

Okay, I’m almost 200 words in and to what end? Well, having taken the time to examine the exterior up close, I must admit to being quite pleasantly surprised. What I discovered was a surprisingly well proportioned shape, clean lines, a refreshing lack of fussy detail and at the rear especially, a strong sense that Fiat stylists made a genuine effort to make an inexpensive compact car look just that little bit nicer than strictly necessary. It put me in mind of the sober, appealing Fiat berlina’s of yore – I’m thinking of the 1100 series, 124’s and 128’s really, although at 4.54m in length, the Tipo’s actually a good deal more generously dimensioned than photos suggest.

Image: Fiat.ie

Certainly, if Autocar is any guide, the car itself has proved something of a critical disappointment, lacking finesse in steering, ride and handling. Interior space and cabin quality were also faulted. Which is a pity, because had Fiat finessed the car a little more, what we could have had was exactly the sort of pleasant and pleasing middle-ranking compact saloon that is becoming virtually extinct.

But herein lies the rub. For years a bastion of the three volume saloon, my local industry sources suggest this prevalence is dying out – or is being skewered by the inexorable rise of the crossover CUV. So with the format falling out of fashion, Fiat may have missed the boat here.

A lack of visibility could be another issue. Fiat’s pan-European TV ad campaign doesn’t make clear what’s on offer – or indeed that the better proportioned, prettier saloon is over €1000 cheaper than the ‘where did I park it again’ hatch. Once there were three large Fiat dealers in the central Cork area. Now, there is one, tucked away in a remote corner. As I said, visibility counts.

Image: Fiat.ie

You’ve got to feel sympathy for Fiat Ireland. When you look at what they’re being given to sell, they clearly have their work cut out. The Tipo Sedan should have been ideal for budget-conscious Irish customers, being cheaper to buy, yet somehow contriving to look more upmarket than its hatch counterpart. But the growing shift away from saloons removes perhaps the only unique selling point for the model line.

Likely to be the final tre volumi Fiat to be offered here, when the Tipo Sedan is pulled from these shores an era will have come to a close. And with FCA’s stateside woes redoubling and Sergio flinging himself at anyone with a pulse at Geneva, Fiat’s mid-term prospects are not encouraging.

With the Tipo sedan, it initially looked a little like Fiat reverting to type, but in truth, once you drill down it feels much more like an ending.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

11 thoughts on “Reverting to Type”

  1. Apparently the Tipo sedan is even offered (I’m not saying sold) in Switzerland. There was one on display at the front of our local shopping centre where dealers take turns in parking their newest models. I’ve never seen one on the streets, though, but recently one in hatch guise crossed my way. They didn’t do that as nicely as the sedan, it seems. The rear looks bulky and uninspired, und very un-Fiat. The last generation Nissan Almera came to my mind.

  2. Not that bad looking in saloon format, is it? The drooping DLO makes more sense in this guise. If a Chinese manufacturer turned this out, we would all be saying how mature it was.

  3. It is a relatively sober looking thing indeed. And according to our friends over at carsalesbase.com it isn’t selling all too bad either.

  4. I like that feature at the back, the panel that rises up from the body work to allow the user to stow their belongings. I can see why Fiat made a big deal of that. It must be a USP in this class of product. If it was electrically operated that would be even better. I wonder is it lockable and can you open it from the inside of the car?

  5. I bet Fiat has plans to launch the Tipo in India, where the Linea is still sold. IIRC that’s the only huge RHD market where a budget mid-size saloon could still matter.

    On a side note, I’m surprised to learn that the Tipo already has a badge-engineered sibling, the Dodge Neon, on sale in Mexico and the Middle East.

    http://www.mideast.dodge.com/en/neon/

    1. May I say that its problem is that it doesn’t look like much whereas, like them or not, Renaults, Kias and Hyundais actually do have a look. Fiat doesn’t know what it stands for and has no particular style.

  6. All very fair points Richard – although I think Hyundai’s and Kias are becoming more alike.

    1. I could not say precisely what characteristic differentiates Kias and Hyundais. I suppose Kia and Hyundia know. I think there is a difference though. It is a remarkable trick that they can sell these cars without much cannibalisation of sales. Presumably, they don´t care which model is sold as long as one is sold. That´s VAG´s line as well: flood the market with choice and that means an increased chance of a sale. If they added a reasonably priced quite hot but not sizzling hatch with a bespoke steering rack/suspension combination they would have a real image builder.

  7. Is nobody impressed by the opening lid at the back of the car? It looks as if will keep the rain out and keep luggage safe. Is it standard? You have to give credit to Fiat for this kind of innovation.

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