Fiat Tipo

The Tipo has proved to be one of Europe's favourite family cars since its launch. In January, it gained a fiery hot-hatch version to top the range. Sedicivalvole means nothing more than 16-valve in Italian, but it translates into an exciting road car.


The chic Italian styling remains very much unchanged from the lesser models, although there are smart alloy wheels and delicate side skirts. Lurking beneath that streamlined bonnet, however, is a very powerful, fuel-injected, two- litre engine, which lets rip with 148hp. The result is a rapid top speed of 129mph, and acceleration to 60mph in just eight seconds.

Despite this scorching performance, the Tipo has a very gentle nature. Engine noise is well suppressed until above 4,000rpm, when it sounds a little more aggressive. It's a great motorway cruiser, though, and very comfortable.

If you are expecting the softish ride common to the other Tipo's, you will be pleasantly surprised. It behaves like a true hot hatchback, with a firm ride and hardly any body roll. It's a pleasure to chuck it into tight corners, as it sticks like glue.

Specification Tipos have always been awarded high points for good accommodation and the 16v is no different. The interior is sportier, with neatly contoured front seats to hold you in place, although not everyone likes the driving position; even the rear seats have been specially designed to form three individual seats. The 16v escapes the digital display, offering analogue dials.

The equipment list is impressive. Included in the £13,945 price tag are electric windows, height-adjustable steering, electric sunroof, remote central door locking and power steering, plus a galvanised body. Recaro seats and anti-lock braking are optional extras.

The Tipo offers smoothness, lively response from its two-litre engine, great gearbox excellent acceleration and bags of refinement. What's more, it costs nearly £2000 less the Ford Escort RS 2000.

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