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Fiat's Tipo hatch gets a little extra attitude in Cross form. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Cutting-edge hybrid technology might well price the family hatchback you have in mind out of reach. But possibly not if the car you have in mind is a Fiat Tipo. In SUV-style Cross form, this model can offer you a very clever electrified engine indeed. And a bit of a crossover vibe into the bargain. High technology and lifestyle looks have never previously been things you'd have associated with this sensible Fiat. Tipo history goes all the way back to 1988 and this current version has been on sale since 2015. A far-reaching facelift was introduced in 2020, with the range initially restructured around a single 1.0-litre petrol engine. More recently in early 2022, the line-up's been slimmed down to a five-door hatch body shape. And a 1.5-litre Hybrid 48V petrol engine option has been added to the range for Cross customers.
Obviously, this Cross model's SUV demeanour is only for show; even light trails are really beyond its remit. And on tarmac, the smart styling won't disguise the fact that this is some way from being the sharpest handling car in its sector, but we reckon it's close enough to the class leaders to satisfy most potential buyers. This Cross variant can be had with the 100hp 1.0-litre unit that must satisfy other Tipo customers. This comes only with manual transmission but rather has its work cut out propelling a family hatch of this size along, though the performance figures aren't too far off the class norm - rest to 62mph in 11.8s en route to 119mph. The alternative Hybrid 48V variant's 1.5-litre unit puts out 130hp and 240Nm of torque (rest to 62mph in 9.3s) and is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch auto transmission. The propulsion system includes a built-in 48 volt 15kW (20hp) electric motor delivering 55Nm of torque, which can propel the wheels even when the internal combustion engine is turned off. Whatever your choice of engine, you'll find that the Tipo's roadgoing demeanour has been set up to favour relaxed comfort rather than any kind of dynamic drive. You can see why: this is, after all, a car designed primarily around the needs of buyers in developing countries who simply want to get comfortably from A to B. So there's no trick suspension for fancy ride quality, torque vectoring for classy cornering or ridiculously powerful engine options that hardly anyone will buy. Where Turin has had modern carry-over technology it can use - the engines, the modular platform, the Uconnect infotainment technology - then that's been thrown into the development mix, but the over-riding priority here has been in the creation of the best possible car for the lowest possible price.
You'd certainly notice this Cross variant as being a little different from the rather unassuming ordinary Tipo hatch model. It'll have to be a hatch because the UK importers have decided not to continue offering the Tipo SW estate body style here. Which is a pity because that estate variant suited the Cross body styling package quite nicely. This hatch version does its best though. Thanks to the Cross package, this variant stands 70mm higher than an ordinary Tipo and gets silver plastic skid plate-style panels at the front and rear - and along the bottom of the side sills. Roof rails also make the kit list, as do smart 17-inch alloy wheels. Not as much has been done inside to set this more lifestyle-orientated version apart from humbler Tipo models. So as with those, you get a 7-inch central touchscreen (though this one's fitted out with navigation) and a 7-inch full-colour digital instrument cluster screen too. Hard plastics dominate around the cabin but there's a pleasingly styled 3-spoke wheel and automatic climate control. In the back, there's a bit more room than is normal for a family hatchback of this sort, thanks to the Tipo's boxy shape. And there's a decently sized 440-litre boot, extendable by 60:40-split rear seats.
Fiat knows that it will have to price this car competitively if it's to make any real sales impact at all with it. So in 1.0-litre manual form, the Tipo Cross comes fully kitted out for around £22,500. It's rather more debateable whether you'd want to pay nearly £28,000 for one, which is the sum required for the 130hp Hybrid 48V DDCT auto model. At those kinds of figures, Fiat will still need to make sure that this car is very well specified - and has. All Cross models get the exterior visual embellishments we detailed in our design section, including also full-LED headlights, front fog lights and LED tail lamps. And a fairly well kitted out cabin too, with keyless entry, automatic climate control, a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster screen, heated front seats and intelligent speed assist. Connectivity is covered off by a 7-inch central touchscreen, with satellite navigation, Bluetooth, USB ports and a DAB tuner. Safety features include autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, driver drowsiness monitoring, a Lane Support system and Traffic sign recognition.
Let's get to the WLTP figures. In Cross form, this Tipo's 1.0-litre 100hp petrol engine delivers up to 48.7mpg and up to 130g/km of CO2. A little down on the 51.4mpg and 125g/km readings you'd get in a conventional Tipo. The alternative Hybrid 48V unit manages 54.3mpg and 119g/km. This is the first Fiat Hybrid that uses the electric motor by completely disconnecting the petrol engine, which can remain idle for up to 47 per cent of the time according to the total WLTP cycle. In the urban cycle alone, the percentage rises to 62 per cent. Insurance is group 11 for the 1.0-litre and group 22 for the Hybrid 48V. Finally, a word about warranties. You get two years of manufacturer cover with this car, plus a further year from the dealer. Plus there's no mileage limitation, which makes this Fiat deal better than the restricted three year/60,000 mile package you get with rival Astra, Golf and Focus models. There's also a year of roadside assistance cover, a reasonable three year paintwork warranty and an eight-year anti-perforation guarantee.
When the Tipo Cross first arrived in 2020, we struggled to see why you might want one. Crossover-like versions of family hatchbacks usually demonstrate the manufacturer concerned's lack of a properly developed comparably-sized SUV - as here. But this one had the advantage of at least being sensibly priced. Adding into it the Hybrid 48V engine you'd ideally want in this Tipo Cross adds a much-needed reason for purchase. But it also dilutes the strong value proposition we just referenced. If you can somehow get yourself the Hybrid 48V version of this car at a price that's right, we could see why you might want one. As ever, it all comes down to the bottom line.