Road Test: Fiat 500L MPW 1.6 MultiJet Pop Star (7-seat)
Sector: Small MPV Price: £18,990 Fuel: 62.8mpg CO2: 117g/km
The Fiat 500L aims to answer that all-important dilemma of form versus function by mixing cute city car styling with the flexibility of an MPV. But, with the largest MPW (Multi-Purpose Wagon) body style, you’d have to ask whether it’s being stretched too far.
Forget the city car factor for a minute. Certainly over the latter half of the last ten years, drivers seeking more space than a C-segment hatchback can offer have tended to favour the emotional appeal of a crossover over a more rational estate, MPV or even a D-segment car. The 500L MPW is essentially an estate version of the 500L MPV, so perhaps it’s got a tough task on its hands here.
However, this is far from a style-over-substance MPV. Fiat has added an extra 210mm behind the rear wheels of the 500L, creating space for a third row of seats (priced at £700) and growing the luggage area 60% to 638 litres. Because the tumble-forward seating of the 500L’s two front rows has been retained, it’ll hold loads of up to 2.6 metres between the tailgate and dashboard, rested on the folded passenger seat.
That’s impressive for a car which is around 20mm shorter than most C-segment estate cars, and Fiat is keen to point out that this has the lowest footprint of any seven-seater on sale. The downside is that the rear two seats, which pop up out of the boot floor with a tug on a 500-branded strap, are really only suitable for short journeys and small children. As useful as they are, this isn’t a car to take five kids on holiday to the south of France.
Engine options are shared with the 500L, and fleets are best catered for with the 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel. This produces a motorway-friendly 103bhp, and returns fuel economy in the low to mid 50s to the gallon, but can be a little gruff around town. But ride quality is good and quick, light steering even without the City mode switched on means it’s easy to manoeuvre too.
Interior plastics are a little harder than some of the best in this class, but by no means unpleasant to look at and the infotainment system is fairly easy to use, despite hiding a few options in illogical parts of the menu.
The likely deciding point will be the car’s styling. Fiat has had mixed responses to the five-seat 500L, and the larger back end of the MPW is even frumpier than its sibling. Dark colours such as grey or green suit it best, but even then it’s a car which will delight and disgust in equal measure.
However, UK sales show it’s doing a good job of capturing sales from other segments and brands. Fiat grew by 10,200 units last year, and despite an incomplete range and three quarters of a calendar year from launch, 9,500 were the 500L family. While the 500L MPW is firmly tipped towards function over form, it has enough of the latter to find its own niche.
The 500L MPW may not be the last word in Italian design flair, but it’s a good MPV with enough of the 500’s styling to tempt design-conscious young families. Low running costs and high functionality are good qualities, but don’t expect to get adults in the back.