It took your breath away -- for all the wrong reasons. The Multipla was on another level of ugliness. If designing such a weird thing wasn't bad enough, Fiat stuck with it for five long years from 1998 until 2003. Most manufacturers would have killed it with fire but not Fiat -- it saw potential in the MPV and its several sets of eyes.
Based on the Bravo, it was quite unlike any other vehicle around at the time. But packing two rows of three seats made it handy and in truth it fulfilled the MPV brief of being able to carry six passengers (including their luggage) in comfort rather well. That may have been its only saving grace -- if you could find six people who'd be willing to be seen in one.
Sales of the Fiat started at home in Italy in 1998 while other markets had to wait a year before getting their imports. The Italians loved it, but other markets found it less appealing; its two sets of headlights, those massive side windows and a ridiculously large front windshield did it no favours. It was as if two different designers penned the top and bottom halves.
This didn't stop it from being showcased at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for its "Different Roads -- Automobiles for the Next Century" exhibit. Modern art's rubbish so it made sense for it to be there.
Some of those sold in the UK had a sticker on the rear window that read, "Wait until you see the front!" Fiat was playing up to the controversial styling, and enjoying it too.
To be fair to the 1.6-litre petrol and 1.9-litre turbodiesel engines, they performed well. But it suffered from bad electronics. Many just put that down to standard fitment; this was Fiat after all.
In 2004 it underwent a major facelift. The resulting model was far more restrained and in a strange way, worse than the first generation. You wouldn't even stop and gawk at the newbie as it simply melted into the background. Now, that's one thing you definitely couldn't say about the Type 186. Sometimes, being an eyesore isn't all that bad.