Fiat Multipla: Time to Belt Up

Richard’s recent examination of a brochure for a 1998 Fiat Multipla inevitably drew diverging opinions in the comments about the vehicle’s styling.

The contentious belt line.
The Multipla’s contentious belt line.

My own position has always been that, with their first attempt, Fiat’s chefs mixed together too many challenging ingredients to make the resultant dish palatable. The facelift, on the other hand, skewed too far the other way, removing much of the flavour by imposing a bland face on an otherwise interesting body.

It dawned on me that the ideal Multipla was somewhere in between the pre- and post-facelift models. The only successful part of the facelift, to my eyes at least, was the removal of the awkward belt line the windscreen and bonnet. What would a 1998 Multipla look like with the rising bonnet of the 2004 model?

Time to fire up Photoshop.

fiat-multipla-mashup
Alright mate, you lost some weight? (Image(s): netcarshow.com)

I post the result for the consideration of the great and good of the DTW readership. Let me know your thoughts below.

Author: chrisward1978

Professional pixel pugilist and word wrangler. Unprofessional pub snug raconteur.

20 thoughts on “Fiat Multipla: Time to Belt Up”

  1. Still prefer the original.

    I think if you go with that bonnet line, you’d need to get a lot more creative with the lighting. Maybe something stacked (a variant of the Picasso maybe), or something with multiple, smaller lights along the lines of the Alfa Brera / 159?

    1. Certainly, the headlights would require a different treatment to accommodate the driving lights hitherto situated on the dewlap.

  2. I feel you’re going in the wrong direction. What was needed was a touch more sportiness.

  3. I was thinking along the lines of a “Tributo Ferrari” Multipla.

    Colour, wheels, interior and price (ludicrous) would be easy, the engine less so. Would a 3.2 Bussone fit?

    1. Actually, why not a mid-engined Ferrari V8? Three seats are enough, surely?

  4. No. It still has to be able to carry six people, or a lot of freight with the back seats down.

  5. The sexiest drivetrain arrangement for any MPV was surely the original Toyota Previa, with the engine mounted behind the front axle and drive to the rear wheels.

    A similar arrangement for the Multipla would give a stubby, more aesthetically pleasing nose. You’d lose the middle front seat but I have misgivings about that anyhow (and if you were really clever, you could incorporate isofix mountings onto the central console, allowing a smaller child to travel there anyhow).

    1. Didn’t the Previa run a version of the MR2 engine? Fiat could reprise the idea with a Multipla powered by the engine from the Alfa 4C.

    1. Sorry Chris I’m late replying. Sorry too for my co-writers Philistinism. Personally, I would change nothing from the original – I really like the way the belt line differentiates the glasshouse from the base. It gives is this satisfying, if entirely bogus, modular effect.

      But, if you were given the brief to make the design less contentious, I’d judge your proposal as far more respectful to the original yet addressing the perceived ‘problem’.

      In the accessory brochure for the Multipla, I seem to remember that you could sort out body coloured bumpers, fancy alloys and some sort of side skirt to make quite a convincing hotshoe version (in Kermit green). I was greatly tempted but, alas, a company car so we couldn’t allow such indulgences.

    2. I much preferred the body coloured bumper treatment, although a body kit might be a bit much.

      At DTW we tend to lionise the outliers, those cars that shoulda-woulda-coulda. But there is no escaping that the Multipla was a dismal failure for Fiat. It is an example of hubristic product planning, its designers striding far too confidently over the edge of ready acceptability. There is little wrong with the car conceptually, and Fiat obviously sank a chunk of change into the project. But asking car buyers to swallow a new layout, a whacky exterior and an interior styled by Little Tykes was just too much for buyers to bear.

    3. Obviously you’re right, because history has proved you so, but why? I mean the Juke is massively successful, is viewed as just as ‘ugly’ (not a word I tend to use myself, except in the case of politicians) but it’s like that for no practical reason. Yes, maybe Multipla’s designers got carried away in their bubble convincing themselves they were onto a winner, but I’d contend that their principles were quite high. It would be unfair to accuse them of hubris.

    4. Principles are laudable and the Multipla came with a glove box stuffed full of them. But whether a product is saleable often comes down to matters of taste and expectation.

      Let us for a moment consider the DTW bête noire, the CUV. Nobody wants to rumble around in a bloody great big box on wheels, but having children (rightly or wrongly) necessitates owning one. At a time when parents find their lives beset with compromises, a CUV presents a palatable solution. They might be an MPV dressed in Berghaus, but they manage the neat trick of clothing necessity in desirability.

      Now let’s have a look at the Multipla. Its soft pillowy forms and primary colours are bright and friendly, but children don’t buy cars, and parents already see enough of those things in their day to day existence. Parents just want something with space, dignity and a hint of prestige, at a time when all three come at a premium elsewhere in their lives. The Multipla mustered plenty of space, but lacked any of the other attributes.

      Plus, that belt line under the windscreen really does look like a big, fleshy dewlap.

    5. I guess my self-esteem is either very high, or very low. In my time I’ve owned or had custody of a Citroen Dyane, Renault Espace, Fiat Multipla, a series of Kangoo-like thingies and a Nissan Cube. All these were acquired on my say-so, so I could never blame another party. And all of them have got funny looks and comments – even so far as someone who I generously offered to loan the Espace to subtly telling me that her husband wouldn’t be seen dead in it – bang went my plan for DIY funerals. Yet I’ve loved them in my way (except the last Kangoo). My experience is that dignity is overrated.

    6. My musings are based upon observing the behaviour of my peers, all of whom commenced breeding at roughly the same time. I have treated their subsequent car purchases as a kind of anthropological experiment. As for my own experiences, I would have been quite happy with an Insignia estate. My wife however chooses and pays for her own car, and thus my advice was more an exercise in containment. She was even unmoved by the prospect of an E-Class estate for roughly similar money to her CX5. The lure of the CUV is strong for womenfolk, I find.

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