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A Fiat Tipo review. Isn’t this 30 years too late?

Nope, because the Fiat Tipo is back. Originally launched in 1988 – and winning European Car of the Year in 1989 – it made a name for itself in the late eighties and early nineties by being boxy and practical, and affordable to buy. There was even a decent hot hatch.

In 2016, its modern-day namesake is looking to tread a similar path, though without a performance variant for now.

How much does the Fiat Tipo cost, then?

Prices start at £12,995, which is less than a base Ford Fiesta costs. And yet the Tipo is the size of a Focus. Bigger, in fact, should boot space and rear legroom be your major concerns. It’s the age old ‘big car for small money’ offer, which Kia and Hyundai used to major in (they’ve upgraded and now sell at VW Golf prices) and which Dacia has recently become the go-to brand.

While Fiat has one of the smaller ranges in the mainstream car business, it increasingly has one of the more diverse: there are glamorous, fun cars like the Fiat 500 and Fiat 124 Spider, and then utterly prosaic models like this Tipo and the even squarer Panda. Oh, and the 500L and 500X, which sit somewhere between the two.

Are you trying to say it’s dull?

Well it’s not a firecracker, but don’t let that put you off: a good, honest hatchback lies beneath the slightly generic skin. There are nice touches on the outside, mind: the angled fuel filler cap may borrow heavily from the Mk7 VW Golf’s, but it helps perk things up. It’s fair to say Fiat’s past contains more stylish family cars than this, though.

Inside, it’s a similar story. Material fetishists will not like some of the hard plastics, but in all honesty, they’re not in the places your hand will brush or knock unless you’re looking for something to criticise. It feels well put-together and the layout is decent. If it was priced directly against a Golf, you might take issue with some of the cabin fixtures (like the weirdly small sat nav screen), but it’s not. So you shouldn’t.

Also worthy of note is its driving position. It’s normal, and you should find it easy to shuffle the seat and wheel around to match regular human proportions. Not every Italian car in recent history can boast the same.

And how does it drive?

Nicely, actually. It’s not as fun as a Ford Focus – little in this class is – but all of its basic controls are nicely weighted, and there’s enough grip to keep your confidence high on a sodden British back road.

Feedback doesn’t flood in through the seat or steering wheel, but that doesn’t stop this being a simple car to drive. The ride quality is competent enough that you never actually think about it.

“Competent enough.” Faint praise?

Possibly. But everything about the Tipo is good enough for what most people need from a reasonably priced hatchback, and if you’d rather buy new than risk even a year-old used car, it’s easy to see the appeal in something like this.

There’s a reasonable choice of engines, too. Our favourite is the 120bhp 1.4-litre petrol turbo, but there’s a lower powered petrol and a couple of diesels. Here, we tested the 120bhp 1.6-litre Multijet diesel. It’s a purposeful enough engine, and impressively refined at a typical motorway cruise. It makes a small racket when cold, but many diesels can be accused of that. Once again, it’s competent enough.

It’s okay then, the Tipo?

Absolutely. Little else inhabits the section of the price/size graph this car lives in, and the cars that do – Skoda Rapid, Nissan Pulsar – are very dull. We’d have the Fiat. In fact, there are a number of more expensive rivals that we’d argue are less interesting. Would you rather drive a Tipo or a Toyota Auris, for instance?

Also worth of note is its massive 440-litre boot, to which you can add another 110 litres if you pay an extra £1,000 for the Tipo estate. One for the local minicab driver to think about.

In light of how fun the 124 Spider is and how cool the 500 remains, the Tipo is probably Fiat’s least interesting car. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth ignoring if you love a bargain. Even if there isn’t a Tipo Sedicivalvole this time around.

What do you think?

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