Reverting to Type: Fiat Tipo 16v

Reverting to Type: Fiat Tipo 16v

Take a look through PetrolBlog’s current eBay watch list and there’s one car that sits head and shoulders above all else. It’s white, has five-doors, is priced at £1,450 and was born in Italy. We’re talking about the Fiat Tipo 16v, and right now we want it so badly, it’s beginning to hurt.

Think about it, when was the last time you saw a Fiat Tipo on the road? Even by Fiat’s standards, the fact that the number has plummeted from a peak of 65,000 in 1995 to a low of around 350 today, is quite staggering. There was a time when the Fiat Tipo was everywhere. Launched in 1988, the former Car of the Year had reached a million sales in just two years. For a while, it was a familiar sight on Britain’s roads.

But being an Italian child of the 1980s, it’s no surprise that numbers dwindled so dramatically. We remember seeing relatively new Tipos suffering from battle scars and the car wasn’t exactly known for its bulletproof reliability. But less than 350 on the road at the end of 2013? That’s quite a shock.

Rear of Fiat Tipo 2.0 16v

So as you would imagine, the Tipo 16v is at risk of imminent extinction. Like any Italian car of the 1980s or early 1990s, one or two brave pills would need to be taken with your Peroni before you took the plunge, but by ‘eck, it’s a tempting proposition.

It took a while for Fiat to launch a hot version of the Tipo, with the 16v – or Sedicivalvole – arriving in 1992. Initially available solely as a five-door hot hatch, a three-door version was added later.

In a sector containing the likes of the Vauxhall Astra GSi and the Ford Escort RS2000, the Fiat Tipo 16v may not have been the obvious choice. But those who did opt for the Italian (sensible people), we’re rewarded with a spacious and good looking hot hatch that loved a good thrashing. In proper old school 16v style, the Tipo 16v’s peak power of 148bhp arrived at 6,250rpm, so exploring the revs range became a necessity.

But that didn’t matter, because the 2.0-litre Fiat Tipo 16v had a suitably evocative exhaust note to match its Italian heritage. In the same way that you need to push the Citroën ZX 16v and Suzuki Swift Sport to get the best from them, the Fiat Tipo 16v thrived on being pushed to its limits. Get past 4,500rpm and the Tipo would burst out in an Italian symphony of noise, theatre and drama.

Fiat Tipo 2.0 16v

The inside of the Tipo 16v was cavernous, with genuine class-leading levels of space. For a smidgen under £14,000, buyers were treated to sports seats, centre-mounted temperature and pressure gauges, plus a delightful leather-trimmed Momo steering wheel. Recaro seats and ABS were an option on the 16v.

But it was on the outside where the changes to the 16v were the most noticeable. Subtlety was the order of the day, but the side skirts, red-tinted rear lights, twin air intakes in the grille, 15-inch alloy wheels and lowered suspension created a suitably understated hot hatch.

Also check out the very 1980s red pinstripe, which runs along the side skirts and on the front and rear bumper. We’ve always liked the way in which the stripe curves off at the end of the bumpers, as if the detailing chap was late for lunch and needed to get away.

A 0-60mph time of 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 128mph was about par for the course in the early 90s, but in PetrolBlog’s books, it has the edge over most rivals for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s Italian. Secondly, it looks superb. Thirdly, it’s Italian. Fourth, it’s getting increasingly rare. And fifth, it’s Italian.

Did we mention it was Italian?

It stems from a rather rich Italian bloodline, too. The Fiat Tipo 16v evolved from the Fiat Strada floorpan, and the same platform later went on to be used for the Fiat Coupé, the Alfa Romeo 155 and the second generation Lancia Delta.

Red Fiat Tipo 16v and aircraft

All of which means we’re finding it increasingly hard to resist the lure of the Italian temptress giving us the eye on eBay.

It’s a 1993 car which looks in remarkably good condition, especially taking into account its mileage of 126,000. The fact that all Tipos had electro-galvanised bodies would have helped.

The seats look in good shape, as does the rest of the interior, although given that the Tipo isn’t known for its quality plastics, it is bound to be a little rattly by now. And we’re not entirely sure where the rear badges have gone.

For the full and authentic Italian experience, we’d prefer ours in red, but with numbers so slow, beggars can’t be choosers. And besides, the PetrolBloggyness rating for the Fiat Tipo 16v is simply off the scale.

How will we sleep tonight, knowing that this car is for sale. The last time we lusted over a car so much, a Citroën ZX 16v was purchased. And the time before that, we ended up with a Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato.

Reverting to Type, could we add a Tipo 16v to the PetrolBlog Fleet? Buy it, before we do something stupid.

Here’s the Fiat Tipo 16v for sale on eBay.

All images © Fiat.


Written by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

The chief waffler and person responsible for getting PetrolBlog off the ground in February 2010. Has a deep fascination of cars from the '80s and '90s, especially if they originate from France. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

16 Comments

  1. Ant

    Tipo = best example of platform sharing ever. Because it was used under the 155, that car begat the 156, which begat the 156 GTA. And indeed the 147 series and the GT. Eat your heart out, Golf-based Audi TT.

    I do like the Tipo. My dad owned one for a few years, sadly not the 16v. We also had a few Unos and prior to my birth, both parents owned 127 Sports. Since then there’ve been Alfa 147s and 156s too, plus my Panda. Fiats and their ilk pretty much run in the family.

    1. Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      The bit about the platform sharing is stuff that gets forgotten these days. Properly interesting stuff.

      It’s funny, once went through a decade of swearing by German cars, but right now, I reckon my Dream Barn could consist entirely of French and Italian cars.

      May need to do a Dream Barn: Reprise.

      1. Peter Counsell

        It is a W Nirschl H 100. Engineered by Germans who were kicked out of the Audi factory for being too good. Probably.

        Two owners. Us and an instrument rental company. As a result, it has probably been thrashed to and from a regional airport for the first 3 months of its life.

        To enhance the value I can take a picture of it in a very nice village.

        1. Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

          Will you take a Mitsubishi Carisma in part-exchange? Lexus-style rear lights and a genuine 12,000 miles on the clock. Just the seven owners from new. Never raced or rallied. Once owned by Nigel Mansell. Rare limited edition model. Two-tone green. Optional puddle of water in boot (rare). Only on second engine rebuild. Superb. Long MOT (two weeks). Perfect in every way. First to see will buy. L@@K.

  2. Jon M

    Interesting read. My first car was a Tipo. Not a 16V unfortunately, but a 1.4i was fast enough at that age and it loved being pushed hard. Also it looked the part in what I think was some kind of dealer’s special spec called ‘Tirol’. This meant it was Alpine White with colour-keyed bumpers and side skirts, quite understated and very clean looking. Still in great condition when I sold it around year 2000 I guess/hope it may still be on the road.

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