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Monday, 22 April 2019
AN entry to the recent annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run demonstrated the longevity of some of Europe’s best-known car makers.
As part of the heritage trial on November 5, the oldest Fiat in the UK — the 1899 Fiat 3½hp — took part in the event’s 60-mile drive.
Now I have no idea what kind of power one can coax out of a 3½hp engine, but from this week’s drive in the new Fiat Tipo Station Wagon I can reaffirm my admiration for Fiat’s incredibly willing powertrains.
As a young reporter I drove relentlessly hard in succession two plucky little Fiat 500s — the splendid new version of which I shall be reviewing shortly — and was never disappointed with their performance.
Actually, the Fiat 3½hp’s horizontal two-cylinder engine producing 697cc and a three-speed (no reverse) gearbox, could reach a top speed of 21mph while returning a respectable 35mpg.
The new Tipo Station Wagon of course does a bit better than that. But all these things are relative.
For example, now in the 21st century, available as a choice for the new Tipo Station Wagon are five engines, two diesel and three petrol, with automatic and dual-clutch transmission also an option. The top diesel engine in the range is the 1.6 MultiJet II 120hp unit and in the Tipo it is combined with a six-speed manual gearbox (there is also a new DDCT six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission).
This engine produces 120hp and the manual model I have been driving is capable of accelerating to 62mph in 9.8 seconds while the top speed, official combined cycle fuel consumption figure and CO2 emissions are 124mph, 76.3mpg and 98g/km respectively.
So we’ve all come a long way since the Fiat 3½hp first ventured out on to dusty early 20th century roads.
What I do like about Fiats — practically any Fiat — is this willingness to perform and the new Tipo Station Wagon is no exception.
It may be that compared to some other makes and models, the more workaday Fiat cars — excepting the 500 range which has turned its retro antecedents into a 21st century marketing phenomenon — are not showing the kind of accelerated development that other major carmakers are striving to achieve.
And yet, the Tipo Station Wagon was a perfectly serviceable and spacious family car with performance (and economy) that I found perfectly satisfying.
The new Tipo Station Wagon adds an additional 110 litres of boot space and can also carry loads of up to 1.8m in length because of an increase of 20cm in length and its flip-and-fold 60/40 split rear seats providing a flat load floor.
A low load sill aids loading the boot of the Tipo Station Wagon and there are removable side storage panels to further increase the width of the luggage compartment. The roller cover can be removed with one hand and stored under the floor panel.
There are two lights, two bag hooks and four load-retaining hooks positioned on the floor.
There are compartments for storing personal objects, smartphones, game consoles, bottles, and coins, and there is also a USB port for charging and connecting devices.
For some reason I cannot think of now, I recall learning what the name Fiat stands for — Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino — in case it ever came up as a pub quiz question!
But although the full monty so to speak may not be planted in the car-buying public’s consciousness, the name Fiat certainly is.
It may need to keep upping its game like any other car maker but longevity of engine performance cannot be in question.
The odds are that few of us will be preserving our present cars for another century.
But it’s a nice thought that Fiat is a marque that has survived and thrived for such a long time.
Fiat Tipo Station Wagon
• With new body styles (hatch and station wagon) the new Fiat Tipo offers roominess and practicality with good legroom and boot space
• Five engines available, two diesel and three petrol, with automatic and dual-clutch transmission available
• UK specification includes air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB on all versions
• Prices start at £12,995 (on the road) for the Fiat Tipo hatchback and £13,995 (on the road) for the Tipo Station Wagon