Successful comebacks are tricky. Especially when you’ve been away a while. Just ask Fiat, which returns to the Golf/Focus compact hatch and estate heartland this September with the revived Tipo nameplate.

Once upon a time (1989) it was European Car of the Year, but the car stopped production in 1995 and its successors have been so-so. Indeed, the brand’s last five-door hatchback was the Bravo, last seen in 2014, and Fiat hasn’t offered a compact estate since the Stilo Multiwagon in 2007. 

But when the segment is the second-biggest in Europe and the largest for fleet, it’s a sector a mainstream player needs to play in. Enter Tipo mk2. What’s it like in the metal? Somewhat visually uninspiring, but on the aesthetic plus side it does feature shapely LED headlamp eyebrows and bonnet louvres.

From a functional point of view the long wheelbase and flat-ish, rather than rakish, roofline ensure good rear passenger leg and headroom too. The plastics back there are spartan, but the packaging approach leads to a very decent 440-litre ‘seats-up’ boot space that trumps the Focus, VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Hyundai i30 and is only beaten by the Honda Civic and Peugeot 308 (while the Tipo Station Wagon offers 550 litres with useful loading flexibility too).    

Understanding that fleet sales will be crucial to the Tipo’s success or failure, Fiat is launching with a (yet to be formally named) ‘business-spec’ edition. But if the name isn’t decided, at least the kit within it is. Based on the mid-range trim that already offers rear parking sensors, 16-inch alloys and an updated five-inch colour screen Uconnect infotainment system, the fleet-focused spec adds satnav, safety-relevant autonomous emergency braking, electric lumbar support and the Eco pack that gets the car’s CO2 figure to 89g/km. Available on the 120hp 1.6 diesel, that equates to 83.1mpg (up from 76.3mpg and 98g/km on the regular version) and costs £16,995 for the manual and £17,995 for the dual-clutch model.  

An entry-level 95hp 1.3 completes the diesel offering (it’s slower to 62mph but registers the same mpg and CO2 as the 120hp 1.6) and there are three petrols: a 95hp 1.4 (49.6mpg and 132g/km), 120hp 1.4 (47.1mpg and 139g/km) and a 110hp 1.6 auto (44.8mpg and 147g/km). The 120hp 1.6 diesel manual is still expected to be the key unit, taking 40% of sales, and has enough power for considered overtaking with reasonable suppression of noise and vibration in the cabin.

The Tipo is not a car designed to be driven too enthusiastically – the word ‘sport’ was refreshingly absent from the press presentation – but it has decent steering, brakes and body control through corners. No automatics were available to test this early, but the fairly sprightly (9.6secs to 62mph) 120hp 1.4 turbo petrol is also worth a mention for those not requiring, or liking, diesel and appreciating the £2000-lower £14,995 price.

Overall, the Tipo is a really good-value car – especially in Business Edition trim – but it’s so rationally focused, it may get overlooked by those wanting a little more emotional spark to go with the practicality.  It will be interesting to see how the costs look when they are released nearer to the September launch date.

Fiat Tipo 1.6 diesel Business Edition*

Model price range £12,995-£19,995
Fuel consumption 83.1mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 89g/km (18%)
BIK 20/40% per month £51/£102
Warranty 3yrs/unlimited miles
Boot space (min/max) 440 litres/undisclosed
Engine size/power 1598cc/120hp
* Trim names still to be confirmed