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Hunting for Big Benches with the
Fiat Tipo


A journey through the snow-capped hills of Piedmont in the new Fiat Tipo in search of the world-famous Big Benches

March 4, 2019 - The landscapes in the Langhe area of Piedmont are a thrill all year round, and that includes the winter months. The area’s vineyards and rolling hills, ancient castles overlooking the valleys and their villages, and its many churches and wine cellars make this one of Italy’s most attractive destinations for culture and tourism. And it was here on these winding, panoramic roads that the Tipo Street and Tipo Mirror (5-door hatchback versions) were able to show off their qualities in terms of comfort, safety, and reliability.
A World Heritage site since 2014, the Langhe region is one of the most popular retreat destinations for German, Swiss, and Dutch travelers. This is what happened to Chris Bangle, an American designer who decided to move to Clavesana, near Dogliani, with his wife, Catherine, and together they created the Big Bench Community to support local communities and promote tourism and local craftsmanship through the creation of their iconic Big Benches.
What are Big Benches, you ask? Nothing more than giant park benches that have the effect of taking you back to your childhood. Our two Fiat Tipo hatchbacks explored these hills far and wide on a hunt for the 59 benches that have been built since 2010 and have become tourist attractions in their own right.

About the Big Bench Community

Big Bench Langhe

A car designer for 11 years at Fiat’s Design Center and creator of models such as the Fiat Coupé and Alfa Romeo 145, Chris Bangle built the first Big Bench in 2010 at his home and studio in Clavesana, as an art installation overlooking the landscape and accessible to visitors. The idea of giant benches is not new, but the context here is. The change in perspective created by the Big Bench makes the viewer feel like a child again, inviting us to marvel at the surrounding landscape through new eyes. As a result, Chris’s Big Bench became an immediate hit among local visitors, and many asked if he could build more. This led to the creation online of the Big Bench Community, and over the ensuing nine years a total of 59 Big Benches have been built throughout the Langhe area and beyond the Piedmont region. Chris Bangle provides his designs and construction manuals for the benches free of charge, on the sole condition that the benches be built in a panoramic location, on land that is accessible to the public, and in a manner that respects the social spirit with which the first Big Bench was built, and i.e. “not a private installation, but rather part of a collective experience that anyone coming to the region can share end experience”. Each bench is a different color, and visitors can collect stamps for each in a special community passport.

Exploring the villages of Nebbiolo and Barbaresco wine country

Fiat Tipo Colline Langarole

The journey to discover the Big Benches on board the Tipo Street and Mirror hatchbacks began in Neive, one of the top ten most beautiful villages in Italy and located in the heart of the Langhe. The Big Bench here is at a vista point in Borgata Garello and has a view of the Nebbiolo vineyards and the Barbaresco tower, but it isn’t accessible by car during the winter due to snow and mud.
The second stop was in Monforte d’Alba, along the Strada del Barolo, where the Mirror’s 120hp, 1.4L T-Jet engine was able to show off its power, light weight, low fuel consumption, and quiet, comfortable ride. The car feels stable at the wheel, and the engine’s turbo gives it remarkable acceleration. It is a family car packed with technology, featuring the Uconnect system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The hunt for Big Benches continued along the Strada del Dolcetto towards Dogliani. Here, the Tipo Street, too, passed its road test with flying colors. Designed for young drivers, this model’s strengths are its responsiveness and practicality. Its 95hp, 1.4L engine has the right combination of power and elasticity for any situation, and the Langhe hills were the perfect place to prove it. On these roads, the Street had power when it was needed and was responsive in braking, which was of equal importance here on these rolling hills.
With excellent performance and fuel consumption, it is ideal for young people with limited spending capacity. This was a factor of great importance to Fiat’s designers, who sought to create a compact vehicle with high-end style, space and comfort at a price that everyone could afford.
The two Fiat Tipo hatchbacks passed their test with flying colors and did so in two different versions. The Tipo Street featured 16” glossy black, alloy rims, privacy windows, and contrasting dark details, such as in the side mirrors, grill and door handles, while the Tipo Mirror stood out for its new Venice Blue livery, elegant chrome detailing, and 16” diamond-cut alloy rims. At the end of our journey back to our childhood in search of the Big Benches, space and comfort are the features that stood out, making the Tipo family the cars of choice for a relaxing time spent behind the wheel.

A Tipo for everyone

Fiat Tipo Colline Langarole neve

The new Tipo range comes in three models - sedan, hatchback and station wagon - and four versions. In addition to the Mirror and Street versions used for the test, two other variations with a more dynamic look and exclusive accessories have also made their debut: S-Design, in 5-door and station wagon models (available in the new two-tone Passion Red/Black livery with Total Black interior), and Sport. Based on the new 5-door Tipo S-Design and developed in collaboration with Mopar, the Sport version features a particularly aggressive design in its front bumper, side skirts, roof spoiler, and back bumper with diffuser. In terms of engines, in addition to the currently available 120hp 1.4L T-Jet and 1.6L Multijet versions, the S-Design and Sport configurations can also be ordered with 95hp 1.4L gasoline and 1.3L MultiJet engines. All versions come with manual transmission, while the more powerful diesel engine comes with an automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

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