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Tipo History



Special Editions

What We Said

Register Interest

Tipo 16v - a touch of Fiat Class

Tipo Intro

Fiat's mid range saloon and family work horse was greeted with very mixed comments from the motoring press. The angular lines and squared off body shape reflected the Giugiaro designed Uno and earlier Strada/ Ritmo. The UK press just can't seem to accept the idea that Italian cars don't always have exotic curves and exciting lines. Reliability maintenance and body finish had all improved for the Tipo, yet most of the general press chose to focus on its weight - heavy for its class. In fact the Tipo was roomy, palatial even with the rear seat down, and wide too.

What can we say with hindsight? Well firstly you'll note there are still an awful lot about. That's because they were fully galvanised. Like it or not the Tipos will be around for a long time to come. Secondly we know the engine range is all but bomb proof. Yes there are a few niggles with the gearbox synchros and drive shaft rubbers, but overall there is no reason why these cars can't deliver their full mileage quota. And of course they'll be going for a song on the second hand market.

But is there more to them? The best Fiats always have some engineering class and pure driver enjoyment too. Can the Tipo deliver on the hidden performance and smile factors as well as on top value? Yes they can. For this we turn to the GT (8-valve that Fiat UK say weren't imported) and 16-valve Sedicivalvole models. So lets take another look, have another go at this intro by turning things around a bit....

The 16-valve Tipo is really a Delta Integrale without the turbo and four wheel drive. They are both derived - rather evolved - from the Strada floorpan. And by the third version used in the Tipo things were getting sophisticated. Fiat/Lancia were so confident in this floorpan that it continued to be used for the Fiat Coupe, and other Lancias into the mid nineties.

All these cars share the front anti roll bar under the passenger compartment bulkhead and similar MacPherson strut front suspension, and similar engine layouts. Yes they are all heavy too - but not by today's medium saloon standards. The 16-valve had the new twin balancer shaft Twin Cam with similar engine management to the Weber-Marelli design pioneered in the Delta range.

Drive one of these cars and your first impression will be of solidity, quality and weight. It takes time for the Twink to lift its skirts and fly... but fly it can. With some simple de-congestion on the air filter, management chip and exhaust you have a 170bhp car to go anywhere. Unfortunately the combination of late launch and UK anti Fiat prejudice means there are little more than 700 around the UK. But to you that means they are a rarity. Look after yours and you'll be rewarded! They have long since hit there depreciation minimums. The under bonnet may come as a shock too. There's little room for anything beside the canted forward twin cam, injection system, exhaust and six reservoirs that great you. So servicing is not going to be cheep. The 16-valve heralded the nineties race to emissions control but with power. The Coupe, Bravo and Marea owners would see the same sort of layout - but to any used to earlier Fiat Twinks the increased complexity comes as a bit of a shock.

On the road the solid feel is retained - on wide profile tyres the power steering is needed and the steering retains feel but is heavy and a bit clunky - just like the gear change. Get beyond this and into the mid range torque band of the engine and the familiar twin cam delivers performance wit a lovely noise. Yes there is understeer if the car is pressed through corners, but on the motorway the whole package comes together very, very well.

Tipo General History

All 10 models in the Tipo range were manufactured at Fiat's Cassino factory capable of producing 1,000 cars per day using state of the art technology both in the manufacturing machinery and in the materials used to construct the cars which meant that many aspects of Italian mass car manufacture changed for ever when the Tipo was launched in early 1988.

At launch Power units comprised three petrol engines, the 1.1 F.I.R.E. (Fully Integrated Robotised Engine another Fiat innovation using 30% less parts than previous engines) 1.4 and 1.6 (updated versions of engines previously available in the Strada/Ritmo) along with two 1.9 litre diesels (one normally aspirated one turbocharged), a year later the 1.7 litre normally aspirated engine was added along with the 1756cc 110bhp non catalyst 8v Twin-cam, followed in 1991 by a 16 valve 138hp version of the 1756 twin-cam and finally in late 1991 the 1995cc 148bhp "Sedicivalvole".

A mark two version of the car was launched in 1993 featuring a three-door version of the car as previously all models had been five-door most other changes were purely cosmetic all cars carried a different grille, different wheel trims etc. It would seem Fiat were very careful not to go too overboard with the styling changes to the Tipo for several reasons (a)The Brava/Bravo project was nearing completion (b)The smaller Uno had been heavily re-styled for its mk2 incarnation and had become somewhat un-loved by the motoring press and motorists alike.

The illustration to the right shows that the external parts of body shells (coloured green) of all models were zinc galvanised and extensive use was also made of composite materials (coloured red), the tailgate and many other items were manufactured from various plastics, rather strangely though internal metalwork was not galvanised (coloured yellow) as it was judged to have a lower risk of corrosion and therefore a small weight saving could be made from an already over-weight body shell.

Extensive wind tunnel work was carried out and a drag co-efficient of 0.32 was achieved unfortunately when compared to their competition the Tipos tended to be heaviest in their class (partially due to the galvanising) which of course led to the cars not being as sporty as previous Fiats and also to higher fuel consumption these were perhaps the only two criticisms that could be leveled at the cars, indeed the buying public seemed not to be put off at all as the cars had many more positive points than negative such as cavernous passenger cabin (largest in its class) including a large boot space, an innovative digital dashboard (series one cars only), much better build quality than earlier Fiats leading to higher re-sale values and a shape which didn't look as euro-boring as many of its competitors.

Model Evolution

Date Model Evolution Details
JULY 1988
Five-door Tipo range launched with 1.4/78bhp and 1.6/86bhp carburettor petrol engines and five-speed gearbox. Base 1.4 had split rear seats and rear wash/wipe. 1.4/1.6 DGT had digital instrument display, central locking and electric front windows.
DECEMBER 1988 Diesel versions added. 2.0 TD had height adjustable steering column, headlamp wash/wipe, electric door mirrors and front window lifts, plus digital instruments.
APRIL 1990 Base 1.4 became Formula. 1.4 S version had glass sunroof and improved trim.
OCTOBER 1990 New 1.8ie launched with 110bhp, DGT SX trim and equipment, plus power steering.
NOVEMBER 1990 Selecta CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic on 1.6 DGT, with power steering standard. DGT SX gains electric sunroof.
JANUARY 1992 Sedicivalvole 16-valve 2.0 twin cam with 148bhp, lowered suspension, alloy wheels, close-ratio gearbox, cat, PAS, electric sunroof, power steering and Recaro seats.
FEBRUARY 1992 Revised range: 1.4 (78 bhp) Formula, 1.4 S, 1.6 S, 1.6 SX, 1.6 SX Selecta, 1.8ie SX and 1.9 TDS SX (92 bhp), with uprated transmission, revised suspension, improved sound insulation. S models have analogue instruments. 1.4/1.6 S have central locking, sunroof, rev counter and electric front windows and mirrors. SX models have electric sunroof, PAS, remote central locking. 1.8ie SX has alloy wheels. 1.9 TD SX replaced TD. 1.8is SX replaced DGT SX. 1.6 DGT Selecta dropped.
MAY 1992 Special edition 1.6 S 'Brio' launched.
JUNE 1992 Special edition 1.4 'Forza' launched.
SEPTEMBER 1992 1.4ie and 1.6ie engines now with petrol injection and catalytic converters. 1.4ie power down from 78 to 71 bhp due to cat. 1.6ie power down from 86 to 75 bhp due to cat.
NOVEMBER 1992 Special edition 1.4ie 'Eleganza' launched.
FEBRUARY 1993 Eight-valve 2.0ie GT with 115bhp replaced 1.8ie. Uprated suspension, disc brakes, alloy wheels, remote locking, plus power sunroof and windows. Selectas dropped. Special 1.4ie 'Forza' reintroduced with injection engine and 'cat'. Special edition 1.6ie 'Brio' reintroduced with injection engine and 'cat'.
JULY 1993 Revised range and 3 door model added. 3 and 5 door 1.4ie S, 5 door 1.6ie SX, 1.9 TD SX and 2.0ie SLX, and 3 door 2.0ie 16v (142 bhp), all with restyled exterior (new grille and narrow headlights), uprated brakes, power steering, central locking, and electric front windows. 2.0 became SLX. Safety improvements; side impact beams, stronger front subframes, sills and floorpan.
FEBRUARY 1994 1.6ie S 5 door model launched. 1.7 DS (57 bhp) 5 door model launched with PAS, electric windows and central locking.
MARCH 1994 Special edition 1.4 'Action' model.
JUNE 1994 Special edition 1.6ie SX 'Liberty' launched.
SEPTEMBER 1994 Airbag, fire prevention system and seat belt pre-tensioners standard.
OCTOBER 1994 Revisions: height adjustable driver's seat. Special edition 1.4ie 'Start' launched.
FEBRUARY 1995 Drivers airbag becomes standard across range. VIN security window etching on all models.
OCTOBER 1995 Discontinued.

Model Recalls

To check if your car is affected call the SMMT recall point on 0171-235 7000. Most recalls are completely effective, but it is worth checking with the manufacturer importer if you are unsure about your car's service history.

Date Recall Details
JULY 1990 Incorrect accelerator cable fitted to 5,261 cars built during 1990. Faulty fuel return pipe on some 1.4 and 1.6 models built in 1988 and 1989.
FEBRUARY 1994 Faulty rear wheel bearing on Tipo 2.0 and TD cars built between 1991/92. Front coil spring corrosion on some Tipo 1.4 and 1.6 models built between September and November 1988.
JULY 1995 D/TD models built between September 1992 and April 1994 pre-heater leads and main battery cables could chafe against clutch slave cylinder or brake pipes.

Special Editions

Flagging Tipo sales were kick-started in 1989 with the 1.4-based Clan , with alloys, mud flaps and a tailgate spoiler. In 1992 came the Brio , with 1.6 S engine, power sunroof, metallic paint and front fog lamps. The 1.4 Forza in the same year had a sunroof, tinted glass, red or blue metallic or white finish. The 1.4is Eleganza came in early 1993. The Action followed in the spring of 1994 having a sunroof, roof-rails and metallic paint. Best of the bunch was the 1994 1.6ie Liberty with air conditioning.

What We Said

Autumn 1991 (issue 20) saw Bialbero feature the Tipo Sedicivalvole for the first time (based on Fiat press releases).


The new Fiat Tipo 2 litre is the latest in a long line of highly regarded sporting Fiats for the road. Yet the concept of this latest chapter in Fiat's acclaimed sporting heritage goes further. It is concerned with much more than ensuring the 128mph five door hatch-back offers high standards of performance, handling and refinement in the highly influential hot hatch market sector.

The new Tipo 2.0 16v comes equipped as standard with a three way catalytic convertor & exhaust gas recirculation valve to dramatically reduce unmanted exhaust emissions. the 148bhp engine meets the demanding US 83 automotive polution legislation and confirms that, for Fiat, high levels of usable performance are now available with the minimum of environmental implications.


The two litre engine features contra-rotating balancer shafts for remarkable smoothness. A classic four valve cylinder layout - a design which Fiat first used in racing back in 1908 - was considered essential to provide the Tipo with a specific power output, but not at the expense of goo low and mid range torque figures.

Althought the peak torque of 130ft/lbs occurs at 5000rpm, 90% of this figure is available from 2500rpm, and more than 116ft/lbs at 2000rpm.

Other aids to this flexible a torque curve has been achieved in part by; optimising the intake manifold, an insulated four branch stainless steel exhaust manifold, and careful adjustment of the Weber-Marelli IAW engine management controlling the ignition, multi-point injection system, lambda sensor and 3 way catalytic convertor...

Proof of the effectiveness of the IAW system can be seen with a 0-62 time of 8.4 seconds, matched by fuel consumption of 37.7mpg at a constant 56mph, 30.3mpg at a constant 70mph and 24.5mpg in the urban cycle.

Fiat have also turned their attention to engine durability. Tri-metallic journal and con-rod bearings, high yield steel intake valves and temparature resistant steel & nickel exhaust valves have been used. Oil jet piston cooling, refined from Fiat's turbo'd engines, a large capacity radiator and and long life stainless steel exhaust system also form part of the impressive mechanical specification.

The close ratio 5 speed gearbox offers reduced gear lever travel, and new mounting design with bracing reduces vibration through the gear linkage.


Since its launch in January 1988 the Tipo, which is fully galvanised on all external surfaces, has been widely praised for its combination of subtle ride and crisp handling. Thus the long wheel base, wide tracked Tipo chassis required minimal alteration to imbue the 16-valve with impressive dynamic characteristics. Uprated springs and dampers, with anti rollbars front and rear, form the basis of changes to the Sedicivalvole.

Retained from the original Tipo is the overall suspension configuration:

a MacPherson strut front end with loer wishbones anchored to an auxilliary crossmember, telescopic arms and offset coil springs. A the rear MacPherson struts are again employed with trailing arms anchored to minimise body shell intrusions. The high torsional stiffness and overall rigidity of the Tipo bodyshell also plays a major role in acurately retaining the suspension alignment, ride and handling.

Braking is provided with 284mm ventilated front disc brakes and 240mm rear disc brakes. A Bosch electronic ABS is optional. The diagonally split brake circuit combines with the offset front springs ensures the Tipo retains high stability and controllability in problem conditions. The Sedicivalvole also has distinctive 15 inch alloy wheels and 185/55R15V low profile radial tyres to add the finishing touch to its ride/handling package.


To distinguish it from the rest of the TIpo range, there is a new body-colour raditator grill complete with two large air intakes, aerodynamci side skirts, body-colour heated electric door mirrors, and red tinted rear light lenses. In addition the side skirts and valences carry a red insert, and a Sedicivalvole on the tailgate.

Inside the combination of height-adjustable steering column and Momo leather wrapped steering wheel, comprhensive instrumentation, tachometer, oil pressure and temparature gauges act as a discreet reminder of the 16-valve's sporting purpose. An electronic check panel also monitors vital engine plus driver alert functions. Sports seats in grey cheque cloth come complete with discrete side bolsters for improved passenger location. Recaro seats and metallic paint are optional.

Other standard equipment comprises electrically operated sunroof, electric front windows, remote control locking, stereo radio/cassette with four speakers, and front and rear fog lights.