Motoring Trailblazers - Fiat 600 Multipla

Sun 3rd Nov 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Fiat 600 Multipla

While the real MPV revolution did not commence until the 1980s, there were still a number of individual classic cars which offered the luxury of transporting five or more passengers throughout motoring history.

One of those came in the unlikely form of the Fiat 600 Multipla, which at just 11’7” in length was only a couple of inches longer than a Mini! 

Not the most obvious choice perhaps for an MPV, but Fiat’s success with the four-seat 600 across Europe ensured that there was demand for the Italian company to provide an alternative for the larger families. 

Far be it for Fiat to create a larger car, they simply modified the original 600 design ever so slightly, moving the driver’s compartment forward over the front axle and putting a third row of seats where the boot might have been.

Launched in 1956, the Multipla, Italian for multiple, used the same 633cc engine from the 600 whilst also employing strengthened gear ratios and front brakes plus front suspension sourced from the 1100 saloon.

The 600 Multipla came in three different versions, a four/five seater which included front and rear benches, the six seater which had additional folding cricket seats and a Taxi version which came with a single front seat, a luggage platform and a division between the middle seats and the driver.

Though the four and six seaters were popular in Italy, it was the taxi version which gain the Multipla its fame, in Italian cities at least.

Launched at the Brussels Motor Show in 1956, the Multipla would enjoy a 10 year spell in production, during which time it was a best-seller in Italy and central Europe, but less so further afield due to exporting issues. Fiat relaunched the Multipla brand in the late 1990s with a short-lived compact minivan, but the prospect of squeezing six bodies into a smaller cramped space was no longer that appealing.

In reviewing a reconditioned Multipla in 2007, The Independent's Andrew Roberts said “There is the disquieting fact that even after you have levered yourself through the "suicide" door on to the front bench, there remains the slight challenge of a gearlever that is conveniently placed under your right kneecap. The pedals are not especially welcoming to any foot size under four, but at least the front passenger sits before the spare wheel that might just double as an airbag, whereas the driver has a left headlamp bowl mounted inches from his left kneecap.”