Give The Fiat Multipla A Bit More Respect

the original 66 multipla from middle 1950s

The first glimpse of the modern Fiat Multipla happened somewhere in late 1998 as the Italian powerhouse looked at delivering a family car that was as practical as possible. It gained much praise with its then innovative design ideas within. It assisted in the myth that the most popular cars are those that do the job the best. Even the most modest of us want a vehicle that looks good and unfortunately, this was probably its Achilles heel. But the 1998 Multipla was not the first Fiat to bear its name.

The Fiat 600 D Multipla

Multipla was used as Taxis right up until 1970s

In the late 1950’s Fiat manufactured of what could be deemed as one of the first Multi Purpose Vehicle as we know them now, called the Fiat 600 Multipla. They took the standard 600, made it a bit longer, gave it more height and then introduced an option of 2 rows of bench seats, giving a seating capacity of 6. Quite an achievement on a not that much bigger than a mini.

A not so massive rear mounted 600cc engine powered the Multipla mainly around Italian streets as family cars and many as taxis, some stayed in operation right up into the early 1970s. Extremely basic inside, with suicide doors at the front and normal ones for the rear passengers. they were manufactured from around 1956 up to 1969. Almost a quarter or a million were made in this time.

In The Late 90’s The Multipla Name Retuned

the mark 1 version of the Fiat Multipla in red

The re-introduction of the Multipla was on different terms, based on the “Bravo” it was different from other MPVs on that it wasn’t as long and retained the 2 rows of 3 seats, although this time the seats were individual and could be moved on even re-moved to give more luggage space. The practicality did win many people over, including Top Gear where it was their “Car Of The Year” for 1999 (one of the last programmes of the old format). It continued to win more top Gear magazine awards for 4 more years after this.

The wider than normal wheelbase made it drive more like a saloon than much of the competition, but its shorter length meant less luggage space than certain competition. A creative idea was when the middle seat of the front was not in use it could be folded down and you gained a large centre tray complete with cup holders. However, the comments of the worst looking car, clearly affected sales, comments such as a lame duck or frog eyes overshone the good bits. It was time to deliver something more attractive to the world.

The Fiat Multipla Mark 2 2004

mk2 version fo the Fiat Multipla in grey

The face lift was announced in 2004 and took care of the “Mark 1’s” main criticism, which was the front round headlights, that gave the frog like looks. It was all “squared off” with little change to the rear of the car, which has an arched type shape. One the great advantages of having 3 seats along the front was the ability to use the Multipla as a van, by removing the rear seats.

It got some of the praise it deserved, but other manufacturers had now copied some of the space saving ideas from within, so no longer could be seen as revolutionary.

Back In The Time

I have to admit I don’t normally get bothered about TV stuff, but just couldn’t understand the decision to make the Multipla the “Top Gear Car Of The Year”. Not ever driven one, I emailed the producers stating that the car looked ugly and surly a key point to rating a car, was how it made you feel, and could not understand their decision, especially from Jeremy Clarkson on the panel. I got a polite reply, complimenting Fiat for attempting something new and different. I still didn’t get it. Little did I know, many years later I would buy a 10 year old mark 2 version. Once I got used to a few issues, I got used to what the car could deliver and with the exception of poor fuel economy (petrol engine), I know I should have shown more respect to.