Captain Misery's Miserable Mishaps

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

My case for the Fiat Tipo

An early Tipo

An early Tipo

Largely gone from Britain’s roads and largely forgotten, the Fiat Tipo was a game changer not just for Fiat but for the whole market sector. Furthermore, it was built with a galvanised body shell to help prevent rust and to replace the Ritmo/Strada. This couldn’t have been better timed as not only had the Ritmo/Strada become rather pensionable but also a car that gained the unenviable reputation for being one of the most rot-prone cars built.

Launched in 1988 to universal praise, it was a modern looking, crisply styled car, though back in 1988 the Tipo’s styling was considered “controversial”. A range of strong engines including 1.1, 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 petrol lumps and a fantastic 1.9 turbo diesel (which, for a time, was the fastest car in the Tipo range) coupled to a brilliantly thought out and superbly packaged interior ensured this forward thinking car won the Car of the Year Award for 1989. It had a good size boot and three proper sized seat spaces in the rear, high-end models had a full digital dashboard and it was so far ahead of the competition it was embarrassing. Think of Mk4 Escort, Mk2 Golf, Maestro, 309, need I go on? The only car that got anywhere near it for a while was the R8 Rover 200 series, that car also a bit of game changer for Rover.

A couple of years into production, a high performance Sedicivalvole (sixteen valve) version was launched with the engine from the Lancia Thema which was good for 130 mph. The Tipo also marked the proper beginnings of platform sharing within the Fiat Group. The Tipo lay the foundations for the Tempra and Tempra SW, the Lancia Dedra, the Nuova Lancia Delta from 1993, the Alfa Romeo 155, 145 and 146, the 916 series Alfa GTV and Spider, the Fiat Coupe, Fiat Bravo/Brava and Marea and it provided the basis for the Alfa 156 (though this had been modified quite significantly) which in turn leant itself to the Alfa 147 and GT.

Tipo 3 door Sedicivalvole

Tipo 3 door Sedicivalvole

A three door version was absent from the launch, however in 1993 Fiat gave the Tipo a facelift and a three door option and the digital dashboard had been dropped. The Tipo gained some tweaks and improvements as newer rivals had been launched. However, to my humble and totally biased opinion, none of them were as good as Tipo. Mk5 Escort, Mk3 Astra, Mk3 Golf, need I go on? True, it started to age and was replaced by the Bravo/Brava (also based on Tipo platform) and although the Bravo/Brava may have had more striking and interesting styling, the packaging genius of the Tipo had been diluted at least in the form of the Bravo. I have also owned a Stilo (which replaced the Bravo/Brava) and there’s nowhere near as much room in that than in the Tipo! Don’t get me started on the current Bravo.

Why am I making a case for a largely forgotten car that no one is interested in anymore? Well, other than what I’ve just waffled on about and the fact that I may possess a pair of spectacles with a rose tint, everything about the Tipo was right (except perhaps build quality inconsistencies) from the off. They looked great, they were spacious, they handled and rode very well, they were fun to drive. Mainly, though, it’s because I’ve loved the Tipo ever since my Dad bought one to replace his Uno back in 1992. It was a three-year old 1.4 DGT, registration no. F62UAF,  finished in white – I even remember the colour code – 210. I was ten years old and my Dad had just bought a car with what appeared to have a dashboard from the future. It was comfortable to me back then, and my Dad recalls that car with a lot of affection. To him, it was reliable, good to drive and became part of the family. He part exchanged it some four or so years later for a new Punto (more on that car another time). The dealership delivered the new car and collected the Tipo, and to date it’s the most emotional my Dad has been about getting rid of a car.

Tipo3doorMore than that, I’ve had a Tipo – a 1.4 i.e. S facelift model. I very briefly had a Tempra saloon before selling it to a mate who desperately wanted a car. It gave him three years sterling service before it had to go. The Tipo history and derivatives are compelling, the original car is much underrated and under-appreciated. Shame, really. A lot of people don’t know what they’ve missed.





January 18, 2014 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment


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