Review and road test of the Fiat Tipo (1988 - 1995)
BY JONATHAN CROUCH
The predecessor to the more modern Brava and Bravo hatchbacks, the Tipo range, enjoyed only moderate success in the UK. Ironically, sales took off right at the end of the cars' life as Fiat discounted stocks in mid-1995 in anticipation of the new models' arrival. This was all the more unfortunate, as the Tipo was always an excellent car. A sceptical British public, who'd had their fingers and wallets burnt with old and rusty Italians from years before, were always going to be unjustly wary of the Tipo.
All of this is great news for the used buyer, of course. The cars are built to last and suffer very few mechanical, electrical or bodywork problems. In fact, a Tipo is amongst the most corrosion-proof of cars you can find, new or second-hand. The high-performance 16-valve models offer thrills for not much money and the turbo diesels boast spectacular economy with a dash of Brio.
Models Covered: 1.4 [base, DGT, Formula, S]/ 1.6 [DGT, S, SX, Selecta]/ 1.8 [DGT, SX]/ 2.0 [base, GT, SLX]/1.7 Turbo Diesel/ 1.9 Turbo Diesel [SX]
The Tipo arrived here in June 1988 as a base 1.4 or DGT, 1.6-litre DGT and SX and 1.9-litre TDs. The 1.7TD arrived a few months later and became the SX in January 1992. The base models disappeared in April 1990 and were replaced by the Formula and S. The hot hatch GT was introduced in February 1993, only five months before the range was facelifted. At this time, a three-door body was introduced as well as a modified version of the existing five-door. The range was replaced by the Bravo and Brava models in 1995.
What You Get
A three or five-door Euro-hatch that's competent in every way and a darned sight more inspiring to drive than a contemporary Escort or Astra. The cars are generally well equipped and offer very good value for money, along with those stylish looks.
What to Look For
If you've never trusted Italian cars since the engine fell out of your Lancia Beta on the drive out of the dealer's showroom, the Tipo will change your mind. Rust is hardly ever an issue with these cars; such was the latent bad publicity for Italian cars, Fiat went almost over the top with corrosion protection.
The Tipo is not a badly built car but be wary of electrics in older cars - just check that everything works as it should and watch for oil leaks and leaky radiators. Trim materials can be a bit cheap and prone to wear on base-model cars. It could be worth haggling over, if you feel strongly enough.
Don't be overly concerned by noisy power-steering pumps; they may sound strange occasionally, but they're mostly reliable. Some cars can suffer poor paint quality. Again, a cosmetic thing but maybe on the list of items that add up for negotiation with the seller.
(approx) A rear exhaust section is about £57. A clutch kit will be around £90. An alternator (exchange) should be close to £113 and a starter motor about £100.
Brake pads for the front are £30 and rear ones are about £45. A replacement headlamp is close to £71. Major and minor services are £200 and £100 respectively.
On the Road
The slow 1.4s are probably best avoided if you're looking for something to carry the kids and luggage. The hot hatch GT is an excellent handler and rides well, to boot. Standard cars tend to wallow a little round the bends but they hold the road well, nevertheless. Aerodynamically, the shape is excellent, so the Tipo is a fine motorway cruiser, whatever model you choose.
A thoroughly sensible car. It's one that deserves to win over the many doubters who wouldn't have considered it when new, as a second-hand bargain.
Fiat Tipo (1988 - 1995) review by JONATHAN CROUCH