From the archive: on this day in 1988

From the archive: on this day in 1988

In replacing the badly ageing Strada, Fiat tried not to rewrite the family car formula but to exploit it to the maximum, creating the Tipo and the world’s most automated car plant to manufacture it, with European domination in sight.

Autocar therefore arrived at its much-hyped unveiling in Britain’s favourite such car, the Ford Escort, and Europe’s, the Volkswagen Golf.

Despite Fiat’s carburetted 1.6 being newer and more potent, the Tipo was slower to 60mph, partly as it was 45kg overweight. Still, the four-pot easily held its own.

Subscribe to the Autocar Archive today

Fully independent, long-travel suspension gave a loping, almost French ride to the Italian that was “significantly more comfortable” than its rivals’. However, handling was a flaw, with torque steer and lots of body roll in evidence. It was the lightest to drive, mind, “with easy steering at parking speeds, light pedals, the best gearshift and the least driveline shunt”.

“The Tipo makes outstanding use of space,” our tester continued. “In terms of head room, leg room and width, it’s another class on from both the Escort and Golf.” It was particularly spacious in the rear, in contrast to the Ford.

Up front, “the ghost of the Italian ape seems far away, but it’s remarkable that Fiat should persist with LED instruments when many other manufacturers are returning to analogue dials”.

Overall, the Tipo “outclassed the Escort in a number of crucial ways” and was set to undercut it. After winning Car of the Year, it proved a huge success globally but a damp squib here, as many had been made wary of Italian wares. 

FIve stars for new 5 Series

“The new 5 Series is exactly what one would expect from BMW,” we reported after meeting the E34 in Portugal. “It’s well engineered, beautifully put together and displays the logical but cautious evolution of technology which is the hallmark of the German auto industry.” It proved a resounding success, with 1.3 million cars sold by its 1996 retirement.