SURELY those imaginative Italian designers at Fiat have invented the coolest car accessory of them all which enables the driver to invite a friend or colleague for a coffee in the car rather than back at home or in a cafe writes Bryan Longworth.
For Fiat is now providing as a £200 option a Lavazza espresso coffee machine that resembles a large thermos flask and fits into a slot in the centre console where it makes a superb coffee filling the car interior with that delightful aroma of fresh coffee just like in a chic Milan cafe bar.
The coffee maker which can only be used when the car is stationary with the engine running is quite an ingenious piece of kit and uses small plastic capsules filled with coffee in much the same way as larger coffee machines use filters but the car owner is wisely warned not to leave the coffee machine on its stand when the car is parked but to hide it from prying eyes.
I was able to sample the coffee maker in the Fiat 500L MPW test car which stands for Multi Purpose Wagon and is available as a five or seven seater with my car being the five seater that has an enormous rear seat and load area with Pop Star trim.
The 500L MPW is a giant compared to the cute 500 city car to which it is related and the test car that cost £18,290 on the road was powered by the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel engine with a top speed of 112mph a zero to 62mph time of 11.8 seconds and a combined fuel consumption of 62.8mpg.
In fact the 500L MPW is so much bigger than the original and hugely popular 500 many admirers may not realise the two cars are related but I liked the unusual rounded shape of the test car and in fact it is so different that Fiat could have given it a completely different stand alone name rather than link it with the iconic 500 but it is understandable why they wanted to retain the link.
The two optional third row seats are only suitable for children and in five seat mode the second row of seats slide to provide 560 litres of rear load space with them as far back as possible and a massive 638 litres with them in the maximum forward position.
In fact the load area is extremely versatile as well as being spacious for the Cargo Magic Space system as Fiat describe it allows the load platform to be adjusted on three levels to seperate what is being carried.
I suspect most potential owners will go for the versatile five seater with the rear seats being able to fold fully flat and the front passenger seat also folding flat so objects 2.6m long can be carried making it a real load carrier.
The test car had the six speed manual transmission and the 105 bhp diesel engine had an ample power output to easily haul the deceptively large car along even with a full load aboard.
I was impressed by the smooth ride and the excellent driving position which provided a commanding view of the road ahead and the switchgear and instruments were very user friendly although I had reservations about the shape of the parking handbrake and the wide front door pillar was a bit intrusive when looking right for a turn or at roundabouts.
The latest and largest member of the Fiat 500 family will be a tempting proposition both as a five or seven seater to the family motorist because of its interior space and versatility and the kids will love the coffee maker!
My verdict: Anyone for coffee.
Model: Fiat 500L MPW 5 seat Pop Star
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel
Output: 105bhp @ 3750 rpm
Transmission: Six speed manual
Top speed: 112mph
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 11.8 seconds
Fuel consumption: 62.8mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 117g/km.
Price: £18,245 on the road