Tuesday, July 2, 2013
The Fiat 500 MPW is a stretch too far
The 500 MPW got my automotive gag reflex going when I first clocked eyes on it a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve seen it through increasingly squinty, curious eyes, trying to make sense of where it’s coming from. I’m a huge fan of the 500 and understand it’s been the biggest Italian success story since that chap finished painting the roof of the Sistine Chapel. I also understand that BMW put the MINI through the Supersize Me treatment and the bloated result, the Countryman, was a sales hit.
Naturally, the bosses in Turin have put two and two together… and ended up with seven. While I was already struggling with the recently inflated version of Fiat’s city slicker, the 500L, the new MPW really is a stretch too far. To my mind at least, it’s the ugliest automotive offering since Ford put the Scorpio out of its misery.
Which is a shame, because I’ve always had a soft spot for the 500 (and pretty much every other tiny Fiat, for that matter). In fact, a glorious hour at the helm of an Abarth 500C Essesse, enjoying the sunshine through its open roof, reveling in its handling and listening to its little four-pots sing as you headed up through the gears, is among my most treasured motoring memories. The 500 is a car whose sole reason for existence is to make being small into something fun. A seven-seater family bus it is not.
Chances are the 500L MPW will be keenly priced, comfortable, spacious and reliable, but then so is a Skoda Yeti, or a Nissan Qashqai, neither of which look like a smaller car that’s spent a month eating nothing but Melton Mowbrays. I’m also fairly confident that people, even ones with a vague sense of aesthetics, will buy it, just as they did with the MINI Countryman.
All of that I understand, but what I don’t is that someone, at the same company which gave you the beautiful Barchetta, the challenging Coupe and the chic, original reinvention of the 500 clearly looked at it and thought “Mmmm, that’s nice.”
Slightly bloated beauty, in this case, is definitely in the eye of the beholder.