Sometimes it's important to consider those less fortunate than ourselves. The residents of Walsall, for instance. Or the editor of this magazine. The poor bloke has his third child arriving in June, and as he'll no longer be able to lever the family into his crumbling turbo-charged Saab 9-3, he has reached that desper- ately sorry stage of life when he talks openly about 'buying an MPV'.
My first impulse was, of course, to mock and ridicule, but when I heard his 14-year-old son doing just that ('An MPV - that's sooo Addison Lee'), and learned that at nine years of age the Swedish hatchback wouldn't even qualify for a scrappage fee, I felt a rare pang of charitableness and suggested that I fix him up with a couple of motorised breadbins for testing. We went for the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and the Fiat Multipla.
I was about to say I had high hopes for the Picasso, but that would be going too far: this, after all, is the motoring equivalent of having to choose between a leg or arm amputation. But I prefer the Citroen, as it isn't as ugly as the Multipla, and my Picasso was a top-of-the-range model overloaded with bells, whistles, leather, satnav, headrest-mounted DVD screens, and a Formula One-style paddle gear-shift - although God knows what purpose such paddles serve on an MPV: it's like sticking a pair of stilettos onto Anne Widdecombe's feet.
In contrast, the Multipla came with about as many gadgets as your average farmyard chicken. The steering wheel-mounted sound controls were distinctly Fisher Price, it had hopeless air conditioning, and while not quite as ugly as it used to be - it has been face-lifted and is now more Silvio Berlusconi after a night on the grappa than Olive from On the Buses - I would rather travel around town in a pram. A vehicle for ferrying crying children that is so ugly that it makes children cry. God.
But - guess what? - the boss preferred it to the Citroen. The Picasso, he complained, 'rolled around on corners' and the 6-speed automatic gearbox was 'too jerky'. Moreover, he claimed to actually like the signature pattern of two rows of three seats in the Multipla, adding that the ride was so 'stable and surprisingly good' that he is considering scouring eBay for a bargain. Heartbreaking. Take it easy with the poor guy if he drops you a line.
I'm afraid most of this is true - Ed.
He'll take one...
Better than the Citroen Picasso.
The Fiat's apparently 'a well-designed oddity'.
Doesn't look like an Addison Lee minicab.
Thanks but no thanks...
Will depreciate faster than a gelato melts in July
Fiat Multipla 1.9 turbo diesel Eleganza £18,330
Engine: 1,910 cc
Combined power: 115 bhp @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 203 Nm @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Fuel: 44.1 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2: 173 g/km
0-60 mph: 12.2 secs
Top speed: 111 mph