Fiat Multipla review (2004-2011)
Success will rarely come to a car that not only scares children, but makes their parents wince too. The old Multipla had a certain designer-led charm, but most people simply thought the exterior design ugly, if ingenious elsewhere. To rectify this, Fiat has given it a literal facelift. New headlights, a repofiled bonnet, smoother bumpers and a generally more streamlined look. And it works; the Multipla is more anonymous, but far less controversial and less likely to embarrass. Inside things are just as before, with the innovative 'three by two' seating layout that was unique until the Honda FR-V came along. This makes the Multipla wider than other compact MPVs, but it's not unmanageable thanks to the deep, deep windows providing brilliant visibility, plus flat sides which make it easy to position.
There's plenty of space inside for six, though adults may find legroom a touch tight. The boot is big too but the untouched dash is looking dated now. Modern and swoopy when new, plastics are cheap and old-fashioned, and switchgear cluttered. The driving position is reasonable and the dash-mounted gearshift works smoothly. A small model range sees all variants apart from the base car well-equipped; the entry model lacks air con, essential in a vehicle with so much glass. Just two engines, either a 1.6-litre petrol or a 1.9-litre turbodiesel. The diesel is best, and well worth the extra outlay, proving punchy and smooth, if a touch noisy at motorway speeds due to the need for a sixth gear. The 1.6-litre needs working hard, where it becomes noisier still, and such use will see economy dive. But the Fiat's biggest problem is its rivals. It still drives as well, with nimble handling and a pleasing ride quality, but the dated interior and still-unusual styling means buyers will still probably turn to Renault Scenics and Honda FR-Vs, particularly as they're likely to be safer in a crash, too. It's still clever enough to deserve a look, but only if the price is right.