From £21,1107
The longest, largest 500 to date lets Fiat tap into new markets

What is it?

It's the furthest stretch of the Fiat 500 sub-brand to date - the 500L MPW (multi purpose wagon). And stretch is the operative word: at 205mm longer than the 500L, it has room for an optional pair of extra seats that increase the maximum passenger count from five to seven. 

At 4352mm long, however, it's much shorter even than most compact seven-seaters, clipping 168mm from the Ford Grand C-Max (from £19,945), 221mm from the Renault Grand Scenic (from £20,355), and 238mm from the Citroën C4 Grand Picasso (from £19,605), in an attempt to retain urban agility. The MPW’s closest seven-seat competitor dimensionally is the van-based Citroën Berlingo Multispace 1.6 HDi 90 VTR with the family pack, which starts at £15,575.

Although UK pricing and exact specification for the MPW is yet to be finalised, it's likely that the longer body will cost an additional £800 over the 500L, with £700 more for the extra seats. So the entry-level price should be around £18,000 for a seven-seater, when it goes on sale in September.



There will be just two trim levels - Pop Star and Lounge (eschewing the 500L's Easy spec) - while the 500L's cheapest engine (the naturally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol unit) won't be offered. Instead, launch engines will comprise the 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol (104bhp) plus 1.3 and 1.6-litre Multijet diesels (84bhp and 104bhp respectively), with 1.4-litre turbo petrol and 1.6 Multijet diesels, both giving 118bhp, to come towards the end of the year.

All will use a six-speed manual gearbox, apart from the 1.3 diesel that gets a five-speeder in either manual or automated manual Dualogic guise.

 Our test car for the international launch in Milan was a 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel in Lounge trim.

What's it like?

 

With all that extra metal tacked on the back, the MPW extends the already chunky-looking 500L's profile, and despite retaining some of the 500 hatch's cutesy styling, this is still very obviously a big car - big enough to dwarf our example's 17in alloys (the largest rim size available).

As in the 500L, the seating position is commanding and there's an excellent field of vision. The seats are soft but supportive with height adjustment for the driver, and although there is some hard plastic to be found (and some sharp edges in less-frequented areas like the boot cubbies), most surfaces - including the Lounge model's attractive ‘ecoleather’ dash inserts - are pleasantly tactile, nicely finished and accurately fitted.

As you'd expect there's plenty of interior flexibility - the second row of seats (splitting 60:40) can slide backwards and forwards, fold down and tip forwards, the front passenger seat folds down to help accommodate loads of up to 2600mm in length, and the rearmost two seat-backs fold flat to form a sturdy boot floor, flush with the boot lip. A big front central cubby is missing, but there are other thoughtful touches like picnic tables behind the front seats.

With the rearmost seats empty, there's plenty of headroom and legroom in the middle row, although any central passenger will struggle for shoulder space. Realistically, the sixth and seventh seats should be reserved for kids, and their employment forces a six-footer in the middle row to splay his knees. It also reduces load space to a measly 168 litres, but that’s still more than the Berlingo’s 100 litres. MPWs without the extra two seats offer up to 638 litres with the rear pews up and a maximum of 1708 litres when they’re folded.

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The 1.6-litre four-pot is reluctant to pull from below 2000rpm, and then there's a little lag followed by gentle progress to 4000rpm, when the twist peters out. Over the same stretch, the engine goes from grumble to rough growl to strained yelp, yet never delivers palpable harshness to the cabin and is hushed when cruising. With a full complement of passengers on board and weight nearing 1850kg, even this torquiest of launch engines would struggle to achieve sprightliness. The gearbox suits the engine nicely, though, with a smooth action that likes gentle changes.

Although front MacPherson struts and a rear torsion beam remain, the MPW's suspension has been revised for its workhorse remit with the help of frequency-dependent shock absorbers that are designed to contain roll and dive while remaining loose over rough surfaces. They work to an extent, in that body control is decent for an MPV and smaller imperfections are parried nicely, but bigger scars and ridges leave you in no doubt the ride is on the firm side, while the tyres can grumble over nuggety roads.

The electric steering is reasonably direct, and the super-light city mode will be welcomed by some urban users. It's an effective solution that shouldn't reasonably be expected to offer anything more.

 

Should I buy one?

Fiat is hoping the 500L MPW's aesthetics will attract style-conscious fans of the 500 hatch who need a healthy amount of space, and possibly room for seven. Aside from the diesel's grisly engine note and lukewarm output, the MPW offers the refinement, dynamism, finish and fit those buyers will expect, and nothing currently wearing a Mini badge is big enough to compete. While the considerably less expensive Berlingo’s refinement belies its humble roots — so, for many, the Fiat's brand appeal and added luxury is likely to overcome the pricing gulf with ease.

Fiat 500L MPW 1.6 Multijet Lounge

Price £19,690 (est); 0-62mph 12.2sec; Top speed 112mph; Fuel economy 62.8mpg; CO2 117g/km; Kerb weight 1500kg (est); Engine 4 cyls in-line, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 104bhp at 3700rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

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soldierboy001 4 August 2013

engine size

catnip thinks that none of the engines are fit for purpose, I had this thought when I was buying my Dacia Lodgy but surprise surprise my 1.5Dci 90bhp engine is more than capable of tugging my much larger and heavier car. Modern engines are much more capable. I not very long ago hired a Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 and that was rubbish.

Also Europeans seem to have a different attitude to style and will buy these as witnessed by the amount I have seen of the 500L.

n50pap 12 July 2013

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.......

The 500L seemed a bit strange when the original tv ad was aired.  I've seen a red one with quite large black alloys and it doesn't look too bad.  However, you'd have to really go to town with Fiat's configurator to get the proportions right with this one.  I also feel that to go from a standard 500 to this might suggest that the buyer has had quintuplets and the need for a bigger car is urgent.

The 500 model range do seem to be a guaranteed earner for Fiat.  Minimal discounting seems to be the norm.  If only that were the same for, dare I say it, the Chrysler Ypsilon. 

fadyady 11 July 2013

Richard Webber

While I'm not in the least fond of the car's styling - yet I'm glad that at last someone reviewed the car on its merit instead of lamenting the fact that its an overstretched Fiat 500.