Fiat stretches its 500L to turn it into a bijou 5+2 seat 'Multi Purpose Wagon'; the result is a well-packaged, smooth riding addition to the 500 family

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The Fiat 500L MPW is quite possibly the longest Fiat can, quite literally, stretch the concept of the Fiat 500. The car, which is the smallest 5+2, ergo seven-seater, on the market is perhaps better thought of as a five-seater with a huge boot. It retains the same wheelbase as the Fiat 500L, but length grows by 205mm.

But those seeking the cutesy looks of the common-or-garden 500 will be slightly disappointed - the MPW, which standards for Multi Purpose Wagon - looks ungainly from most angles. Nevertheless, the high roofline and big glasshouse makes for a spacious cabin.

Unlike Mini which continually fields criticism over its brand stretch, the appeal of the 500 brand shows little sign of tarnishing

The model tested here is the largest of two engines. The 118bhp 1.6-litre Multijet, which by far develops the most torque, is joined by a 94bhp 1.3 Multijet, which is also available with Fiat's robotised manual 'box. On paper, the big diesel looks like the best all-round drive.

Headline economy figures are around the class norm: with the 1.6-litre Multijet capable of 112g/km and 67.3mpg, while the smaller 1.3-litre oilburner can manage 107g/km and 68.9mpg. While the purchase cost of this Pop Star variant (the lower of two trims) puts it in direct competition with the far larger seven-seat Ford Grand Tourneo Connect.

Moving on to trim levels, there are two to adorn your 500L MPW with - Pop Star and Lounge. The entry-level trim, as worn by our test car, comes with 16in alloy wheels, hill start assist, cruise control, rear parking sensors and front electric windows as standard, while inside there is air conditioning, a leather clad steering wheel and Fiat's Uconnect infotainment system complete with a 5in touchscreen display, DAB radio and Bluetooth.

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Upgrading to the range-topping Lounge models adds automatic wipers and lights, electric sunroof, rear picnic tables and dual-zone climate control to help complete the mini-MPW equipment list.

The Fiat 500L MPW lacks the innovative storage spaces of the class best, but there’s a stylish logic to the cabin. The middle row of seats fold and tumble in one movement and the jump seats in the boot fold out by pulling a simple strap. Once in place, the seats are really only suitable for kids; an adult could probably ride side-saddle for a short journey.

Better is headroom in the front and better still is legroom in the back. The cabin feels bigger than it really is, and its narrowness comes as a shock when looking across to the passenger side mirror – it is mounted far closer than you’d expect.

It's possible to specify seats with 500L logos, and on a second or third glance, the 500’s DNA is evident in the dashboard styling. Its chic pretensions are best illustrated by the options list which includes Beats audio upgrades and a Lavazza coffee maker in the centre console. Very zeitgeist.

The 1.6-litre diesel offers adequate performance, but there’s little joy in pushing past 3000rpm; gentle progress is best. Press on and the engine makes itself heard, but at a more sedate pace refinement is perfectly acceptable. Although we only tested the car two-up, it seems likely that with all seats occupied the engine may have its work cut out.

The six-speed manual is fairly slick, which is just as well as automatic transmissions are limited to 1.3-litre diesel variants only.

Fiat has revised the suspension set-up with, what it says to be, a focus on improving comfort for the third row of passengers. In the front and second row at least, the ride is smooth, although bigger bumps can intrude into the cabin and the 500L MPW can get caught off-guard by bumps mid-corner. The steering is as precise as you’d expect, and there’s a City mode which makes it easier to manoeuvre the car at low speeds.

Fiat doesn’t claim the 500L MPW is a seven seater, and given the lack of space for the third row of occupants, its 5+2 tag is pushing things slightly. Nevertheless, the fact that this many seats can be installed in such a small car will be a tantalising prospect for many. It becomes easier to justify by thinking of it as a pure five seater with a big boot.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Fiat 500L MPW 2013-2017 First drives