Road Test: Fiat Punto

Reporter:

David Mullahey

Who remembers the Tipo?

It was Fiat’s ground-breaking family hatch, renowned for its class-leading space and practicality and voted European Car of the Year in 1989.

Well, it’s back and, like its namesake, is all but unbeatable when it comes to space, outgunning the usual suspects Focus, Golf and Astra.

When it comes to price, it wallops everyone starting at £13,415. That’s Focus size for Fiesta money and almost as big a bargain as the Dacia family, so should we all be rushing out to buy a Tipo?

Fiat likes resurrecting names from the past and has done incredibly well developing the little retro 500 from pint-sized runaround to a family MPV in the shape of the 500L.

It is this car that has been valiantly waving the flag while the much cheaper Tipo is readied for action.

The shape is conservative, though not unattractive, and from the side has a bit of Hyundai i30 and even a BMW 1 Series about it.

Off to a decent start then and the temperature is still rising with a peek inside, which is clearly spacious, particularly for back-seat passengers, an area often overlooked.

Then you get behind the wheel and scan the dashboard, only to be stopped in your tracks by the infotainment centre.

The screen is tiny, hardly bigger than a smartphone, and what you would expect on cars a decade ago.

What made it worse was that my test car was top of the range, which begs the question: what do you get at the bottom?

Really, a five-inch screen at this level beggars belief when the going rate is around eight.

Does it matter? It does when trying to tap in a postcode or address into the navigation because the letters are so small.

It got Mrs Rogers shouting expletives in frustration which is not like her, so it must be bad.

Her instruction was clear: tell them about this in your write-up. She didn’t need to. I totally agree.

Up until then she liked the Tipo, particularly its performance, which she described as like something off a shovel... bet the pupils in her teaching career never heard her speak like that!

Actually the 1.6 diesel is quick, scooting off at pace in any gear and at just about any revs.

Pity it is such a growler, and unusual for a modern diesel. A definite case for additional sound deadening.

And that is not the only area where noise levels are higher than is normal.

Road noise is intrusive on all but the best surfaces and there is a fair bit of buffeting from the door mirrors.

Some might find the ride a touch on the hard side but it has its advantages with excellent cornering stability and precise, quick steering, all areas where Tipo shoots up the ratings.

Kit level is adequate rather than exceptional – hardly surprising, given the low starting price – but digital radio is standard, something a good many of Tipo’s rivals should take note of; while the top-of-the-range Lounge has the usual auto lights and wipers, climate control and powered door mirrors.

The info display between the main binnacle dials includes a clear digital speedometer, which is just as well because the speedo is set up for Europe in 20,40,60 etc increments, with the 30mph point barely visible.

The Tipo’s space advantage mentioned earlier is best demonstrated in the boot which is by any standards exceptional.

Even with the back seats in place, the hole is 440 litres, way ahead of the opposition, and that becomes much bigger with the split back seat down.

It is not a flat area, mainly because of the excellent depth, but Fiat should consider a removable shelf, common enough on other cars, to make lifting heavy objects a bit easier when all the space is not needed.

In many ways, the original Tipo was Fiat’s last hurrah in the family hatchback field because the Brava was not able to carry on the momentum.

Let’s see what it can do to make the new model a real contender.

Fiat Tipo Lounge

Engine: 1.6 diesel; 120bhp

Performance: 0-62mph 9.8secs; 124mph

Economy: 76.3mpg combined

Emissions: 98g/km. Road tax £140

Insurance group: 15

Price: £18,485 (starts £13,415)

Email:

david.mullahey@nwn.co.uk

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