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Fun, funky and family-friendly, the all-new fiat 500L has the fab factor

The last time Fiat delved into the MPV market, it produced the ultimate Marmite creation with the Multipla.

Love or loathe it, you can't deny it's uniqueness and stand-out-from-the-crowd appeal.

In fact, so divided was opinion that it was voted Ugliest Car of the Year by Top Gear while being crowned Family Car of the Year for four years running (2001-2004) by the very same judges.

Production finally ceased in 2010 as Italian designers looked to build on the phenomenal success of the reborn 500, launched three years before.

It was a no-brainer to consider a family version of the funky little city car, hence the 500L rolled off the production line to the mantra "Growing up is cool".

And cool it is, a true beauty in a sea of automotive blandness.

Although built on the Punto chassis, it retains the same retro-inspired styling as its namesake, along with groovy colours and hundreds of ways to accessorise.

But practicality, space and versatility is the name of the game in this segment, and the L is 59cm longer than the standard 500.

That results in a Tardis-like cabin that has enough room for five adults while still providing a class-leading 400 litres of luggage space in the boot.

Here you'll find one of the brilliant design features in what Fiat call "Cargo Magic Space"

It's basically a type of shelving unit with three separate sections to store groceries, prams, luggage and the like. Gone are the days of removing everything just to retrieve one item stuck at the bottom.

Couple that with the 60/40 split seats with "Fold and Tumble", a fold-flat front passenger seat and the L and 7-seat MPW can carry pretty much anything (up to eight feet long).

And it will do it in comfort too, with folding picnic trays in the rear for the kids and no fewer that 22 cubby holes and storage bins peppered around the cabin.



Standard kit (on the Lounge model tested) is quite generous, with 16-inch alloys, cruise control, five-inch touch-screen radio with Bluetooth, Hill Hold, dual-zone climate control, leather multi-function steering wheel and gear knob, cargo magic space platform, height adjustable driver's seat, automatic lights and rain sensors and full-length glass roof.

Powered by a 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine and generating 85bhp, it has enough grunt for city life and is perfect for the school run. It's easy on the juice, returning 67mpg (we got around 50) while costing €190 a year to tax.

The only real drawback is the drive. Punters trading up from a 500 will be disappointed by the handling and lack of nippiness that they were used to.

The gearbox is not notchy enough (perhaps it's the length of the stick?) as we got caught several times going from first into fourth, and steering is not as connected as we would like.

That said, Fiat has done a remarkable job with the 500L, which is without doubt the funkiest MPV out there.

Prices start from €21,750.