With the Volkswagen Group deciding to move Skoda up market, shopping for a no-frills car in Europe has gotten a lot easier as you can either go with a Dacia Sandero/Logan or a Fiat Tipo. The Romanian brand updated its honest small car about a month ago and now its rivals from Italy are doing the same with their family-oriented offering.

Duelling the Dacia Sandero Stepway is a new Fiat Tipo Cross that banks on the never-ending obsession many people have for SUVs. It’s still a front-wheel-drive-only affair, but the new member of the Tipo family rides nearly 4 centimetres (1.57 inches) higher after tweaking the suspension and installing new wheels with larger tyres borrowed from the 500X.

Gallery: 2021 Fiat Tipo facelift

The Tipo Cross is about 7 cm (2.8 inches) taller than the regular hatchback and tries to mimic the crossover look with front and rear skid plates and plastic body cladding around the wheel arches. It also gets beefier side skirts and adapts the roof rails from the Tipo estate. Speaking of which, the most practical version of the lot has been given a nip and tuck as well, along with the regular Tipo hatchback and the saloon.

The Tipo facelift debuts the updated corporate badge with the prominent FIAT lettering on the grille, a look you’ll also find on the new 500 city car. This mid-cycle update brings full-LED headlights and taillights, along with fresh alloy wheel designs in 16- and 17-inch sizes and Ocean Blue and Paprika Orange body paints to round off the changes on the outside.

The model sold in Turkey as a Fiat Egea and in some markets as the Dodge Neon has also been updated inside where the seats are covered in a new fabric upholstery depending on the trim level. Fiat has installed a digital seven-inch instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch touchscreen Uconnect 5 infotainment already seen on the new 500.

In regards to the oily bits, there’s a newly developed turbocharged three-cylinder engine part of the FireFly family. The 1.0-litre unit is good for 99 bhp or an extra five ponies over the old 1.4-litre naturally aspirated mill. In addition, the peak torque of 190 Nm (140 lb-ft) is not only higher than before (127 Nm / 94 lb-ft), but it also kicks in sooner, at only 1,500 rpm rather than at 4,500 rpm, thanks to forced induction.

On the diesel side, the MultiJet units can be had with either 94 bhp or 128 bhp, with the latter representing a 10-bhp bump over its predecessor. Fiat says performance and efficiency are enjoying a “considerable improvement” compared to the diesels powering the pre-facelift Tipo.

Following the 500 and Panda, the Tipo is the latest car from Fiat to get the D-Fence pack developed by Mopar. It features a filter, purifier, and a UV lamp to stop impurities from penetrating the cabin while blocking particulates and virtually all allergens. It also diminishes the risk of mould and bacteria by 98 percent and cleans the contact surfaces.

Launched in 2016, the Fiat Tipo has been a solid success for the brand, especially in export markets as 70 percent of all the 670,000 cars sold so far have reached customers outside Italy.