Andy Goodwin jets off to Milan to road test and review the new Fiat 500L MPW, a 7-seater with plenty of Italian flair.
If you have a burgeoning family and can’t decide between a MINI Countryman and Fiat 500L, your decision may get easier this September. The 500L MPW is 200mm longer than the standard car, upping its boot size enough to accommodate two extra seats, which pull up from the boot floor.
Its high ride-height and flexible seven-seat interior makes the MPW a crossover in every sense and blurs the boundaries between a hatchback, MPV and SUV. The MPW costs around £800 more than the £15,435 500L, but you’ll need to add a further £800 to get the extra two seats as well.
MPW stands for ‘Multi Purpose Wagon’, but Fiat mused that ‘Magic Power Wagon’ and ‘More Playful Weekends’ are just as fittingOfficially, MPW stands for ‘Multi Purpose Wagon’, but Fiat mused that ‘Magic Power Wagon’ and ‘More Playful Weekends’ are just as fitting. What Fiat’s creative types would like us to believe, is that the MPW isn’t just a car, it’s a frame of mind. Its marketing campaign is designed to sell the passionate Italian way of life as much as it is the car, with bespoke ads to appeal to different national stereotypes.
This is a global car, selling in over 100 countries and forming a key part of Fiat’s re-entry into the USA after a long absence. To appeal to such wide tastes there are 282 colour and trim combinations, with names like Pop Star and Beat Box Green all presented to the customer via a new website which is a riot of colours and animations. The car is cutesy too, with the signature headlights of the much smaller 500, but on a grander scale. A two-tone paint job with a dark roof works best, making the MPW look less top-heavy.
The Fiat 500L MPW’s rearmost seats were just big enough for this writer’s 5ft11 frame to squeeze into, but only for a short trip across town.The Fiat 500L MPW’s rearmost seats were just big enough for this writer’s 5ft11 frame to squeeze into, but only for a short trip across town. They’re really designed for kids and young teenagers, and they offer decent safety, thanks to high backrests and three-point seatbelts. The middle row of seats can slide backwards and forwards, giving you the choice between more legroom or a boot between 560 and 658 litres in size. This completely dwarfs the 350-litre boot of the Countryman.
With all seven seats in use the boot is just 178 litres, accommodating just a few bags, but this issue is common with small MPV’s like the Mazda5 and Ford Grand C-MAX, which has 118 litres in seven-seat mode. Flip all rear seats forward (and even the front passenger seat for long items) and the boot is a massive 1,704 litres.
Performance & handling
The 500L MPW beats the Countryman for space, but it is far less sporty to drive than the MINI. The MPW is all about ease of use, and its light clutch and even lighter steering made driving around the hectic centre of Milan surprisingly relaxing. It also benefits from excellent visibility, so we could see just how many scooters we were surrounded by.
The 500L MPW beats the Countryman for space, but it is far less sporty to drive than the MINI.Engines in the UK will include a 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol with 105bhp, a 1.4-litre turbo with 120bhp, a 1.3-litre 85bhp diesel and the 1.6-litre diesel with 105bhp we tested. It’s a reasonably punchy engine, which doesn’t grumble at low revs, but can sound strained if you hold it in gear for too long. There’s enough grip in corners, but also an amusing amount of body roll which is likely to curb your enthusiasm. On the flipside, it has a softer ride than the fidgety MINI.
Economy & environment
The 105bhp diesel should be the most popular choice in the UK, and it averages 63mpg according to official figures, while its CO2 emissions of 117g/km make it free to tax for the first year and £30 annually from then on. It’s fitted with stop and start technology, which felt smooth and fast to respond during our test drive. The MPW is also impressively aerodynamic for a tall car, which not only saves fuel, but reduces wind noise when you’re cruising on the motorway.
Equipment & value
One of the more interesting options is a 520-watt Beats audio system, which sounded loud but a tad tinnyThe MPW is available in two trim levels, called Pop Star and Lounge. Pop Star has a reasonable level of kit, with air-con, leather steering wheel and a five-inch touchscreen radio with Bluetooth. Lounge adds a multi-function instrument display, rear parking sensors, front fog lights, alloy wheels and tinted windows. One of the more interesting options is a 520-watt Beats audio system, which sounded loud but a tad tinny, although we only had chance to test it by listening to an Italian radio station called KissKiss…
The 500L was crash tested by EuroNCAP and is almost certainly safer than houses. It scored five stars, with a noteworthy 94 per cent for adult occupant protection against the 84 per cent score of the Countryman. The MPW is fitted with six airbags, stability control and a hill-hold function.
For those who can think of nothing worse than a dull-as-dishwater MPV, and can’t fit in the MINI Countryman, the 500L MPW is their knight in shining armour. It’s a likeable car to spend time with, and you can customise it to suit – and show off – your individual tastes. Just don’t expect a sporting drive; it’s best to think of the MPW as an extension of your living room on four wheels. Is it a ‘Magic Power Wagon’? Not really. Will you have ‘More Playful Weekends’ after buying one? Sure, why not.
Model tested: Fiat 500L MPW
Engine: 1.6 Multijet II Lounge
Acceleration: 0-62 in 12.2 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Emissions: 117g/km CO2
Price: £16,945 (est)