Introduced in 1983, the Fiat Uno set the course for what would become an entire generation of Fiat products. The car that arguably drew the most inspiration from the Uno was the larger Tipo hatchback, launched across Europe in 1988.
Fiat complemented the Car of the Year-winning Tipo lineup with a range-topping 1.8 i.e. model in November of 1989. Billed as an Italian-flavored Golf GTI, it flew under the radar of most buyers due to its underwhelming performance statistics.
The Italian automaker’s second shot at a GTI fighter came in 1991 when the 2.0 i.e. 16v model was presented at the Geneva Motor Show.
The Tipo 2.0 i.e. 16v’s exterior was an evolution of the lesser 1.8-powered model. It was fitted with specific five-spoke wheels, aggressive front and rear bumpers, aerodynamic side skirts and front fog lights. Fiat opted to stay discreet and avoided the miscellaneous stickers and wings that were found on other hot hatches of the era. Consequently, the only extra badging was a Sedicivalvole (“sixteen valves” in Italian) emblem found above the rear license plate.
The late 1970s and early 1980s were a tough time for the Fiat group: its Lancia division bombed out of the U.K. market because of rust issues and in the United States Fiat sometimes found itself buying cars out of junkyards that were still under covered by its ambitious corrosion warranty. The automaker drew its lessons from these – and many more – failures and galvanized over 70 percent of the Tipo’s body.
On the inside the Tipo 2.0 i.e. 16v was just as discreet as it was on the outside and the performance-oriented modifications that came standard largely consisted of extra gauges mounted on the center console. Buyers who wanted a sportier feel could opt for the same Recaro bucket seats that were found in the Alfa Romeo 75 3.0 V6/Milano Verde.
Though modern when launched, the Tipo’s dashboard quickly went out of style and became the object of constant criticism among period journalists.
As its name clearly implies the Tipo 2.0 i.e. 16v was powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that was fed by an electronic fuel injection system. Thanks in part to dual overhead cams that opened and closed sixteen valves the car made 142 horsepower at 6,000 rpms and 127 lb-ft. of torque at 5,000 rpms, a relatively respectable amount on both accounts. Power was sent to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.
Tipping the scale at over 2,600 pounds, the Tipo was a fairly heavy car which had a noticeable negative effect on its performance figures. The three-door version sprinted from zero to 62 mph took 9.5 seconds and maximum velocity was reached at an Autobahn-worthy 128 mph; the five-door version was a little quicker, reaching 62 mph from a stop in 8.3 seconds. Many period journalists noted that the car’s saving grace was its aerodynamic silhouette.
In 1993 the Tipo lineup received a shot of Botox which gave it a new grille, smaller headlights and a revamped dashboard. More importantly, 1993 marked the introduction of a three-door variant which gave the 2.0 i.e. 16v the sporty bodystyle that buyers had longed for since its introduction.
The facelift also brought standard ABS brakes, an optional airbag for the driver and a catalytic converter which robbed a couple of ponies from under the hood.
Fiat phased out the 2.0 i.e. 16v in early 1995, a few months before the regular Tipo was given the proverbial axe.