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Small MPV has room for more.

Byline: By Val Jessop

Her view:

Unfortunately, i didn't have the versatility of Fiat's new all-singing, all-dancing mini MPV for a recent holiday drive. More's the pity.

Although the holiday vehicle was comfortable enough, with reclining front seats par excellence, they didn't allow you to fully stretch your vertebrae the way you can in the Fiat Idea, which offers full-blown couchettes for two, no less.

I would have happily swapped my more upmarket estate for the little Fiat with its accommodating double berth.

I had already had a brief introduction to the mini-MPV at launch and immediate reactions to the cute cube were favourable: its shape is endearing as well as being highly accommodating.

The first encounter provided an excellent chance to witness the 32-seat configurations in this compact runabout, while the Fiat press officer went on to rattle through the 27 storage compartments.

The Idea's flexibility is greatly assisted by the 40:20:40 rear backrest split as well as the 60:40 cushion split. Just working out the possible seating configurations should keep the kids occupied for hours, and the good thing is that you're unlikely to dislocate your thumb or snap a fingernail while establishing these different options.

Pronounced Ee-day-ah, although I have heard some interesting variations, Fiat's Idea has a spritely power unit to match its bright and breezy persona ( at least the 1.4-litre, 95bhp petrol version displayed plenty of verve.

It's not going to win anything in the sprint stakes, taking 11.5 seconds to do 0-62mph, nevertheless, the 16-valver felt perky enough and achieves a maximum speed of 109mph. It feels quite a torquey motor and the fuel return figures are highly impressive, boasting a combined 43mpg-plus.

The controls are neatly housed in a smart, modern central console, with the gear lever located just below, ideal for access and freeing up space between the front two seats.

The Idea zips along happily and is easy to drive. Suspension is surprisingly good, but the cubic body does have some tendencies to lean on twisty routes.

All models have anti-lock brakes and twin front air bags, with the test Dynamic car gaining side airbags.

Facts and figures

Make: Fiat

Model; Idea 1.4 Dynamic

Price: pounds 11,245

Mechanical: 95bhp, 1,368cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max speed: 109mph

0-62mph: 11.5 secs

Combined mpg: 42.8

Insurance group: 6

CO2 emissions: 157g/km

BiK rating: 17%

Warranty: 3 years/ 60,000 miles; 3 years paint; 8 years anti-rust
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 16, 2004
Words:420
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