Fiat 500L

3 Jul, 2012 8:30pm Luke Madden

The Fiat 500L is the newest addition to the 500 family, claiming to offer a mix of style and practicality

Verdict

3
The 500L will be perfect for people who’ve outgrown a 500 or decided not to buy one as it couldn’t accommodate their families. It combines the same retro-inspired styling and light, easy drive with a dose of practicality. But as these buyers will be on the open road more than 500 owners, the car really needs to be better to drive.

If you think a MINI should always be mini, then you’ll probably agree that a Fiat 500 should always be a tiny city car. But families wanting a MINI are catered for by the Countryman, and now the same families can opt for the Fiat 500L – a jacked- up MPV version of the 500.

It rides on a platform derived from the Punto and is 414cm long – that’s around 59cm longer than the standard 500. All that extra room means space for five tall adults inside, plus a 400-litre boot for lots of bags.

Despite the huge difference in size between the 500 and 500L, Fiat has tried to retain the 500’s cute looks. Twin round headlights are the most recognisable feature, mounted either side of the single-bar grille. But a few changes have been made for practicality’s sake, including the near-360-degree glass that improves visibility.

With the bigger footprint and more weighty construction comes a range of more powerful engines than in the 500. The line-up kicks off with a 93bhp 1.4-litre petrol and is topped by a new version of the two-cylinder TwinAir engine producing 104bhp, rather than 84bhp in the smaller 500.

We drove the sole diesel – a 1.3-litre Multijet with 84bhp – and while the 0-62mph time of 14.9 seconds sounds slow, this engine suits the 500L in town. But it struggles on faster roads and the TwinAir will have more character, is much quicker and almost as efficient, if you can afford it. Our diesel model is only slightly more frugal at 68.9mpg, versus the TwinAir’s 58.8mpg.

The appeal of the 500 is its ability to nip around town, thanks to its compact footprint and light controls. Pulling off the same trick in a larger, heavier car was always going to be difficult and Fiat hasn’t quite managed it.

The controls are just as light, but the 500L feels unwieldy and slow. Still, great all-round visibility makes finding gaps in traffic easy.

Along a twisting back road, the 500L can’t match up to the Countryman. The light steering that works so well in town is short on feel and a bit imprecise, while the soft ride that does such a fine job of smoothing out roads at low speeds gives the car a wallowy feel in high-speed bends.

But practicality is the 500L’s forte, and Fiat has worked hard to ensure the car is family friendly. The boot is adjustable on three levels, while the rear seats all slide back and forth, and split-fold 60:40, too. Owners will also be able to fold down the front passenger seat and there are 22 different storage spaces dotted throughout the car.

Plus, while the hard plastics covering the dashboard prove that material quality isn’t as high as in the Countryman, the fit and finish is particularly good and the chunky switchgear feels bulletproof. In a market normally dominated by cars like the Citroen C3 Picasso, the 500L stands out because it boasts the kind of style most small MPVs can only dream of. It’s also impressively comfortable and practical – and with an expected price tag of £15,000, it’s good value, too. However, it’s by no means the best driver’s car in this class.

Disqus - noscript

... so quite unusual-looking, but none the worse for it.

The profile is markedly like the Countryman even if the detailing is better, which is hardly difficult. The rear has a slight air of the DS3. In other words Fiat are not scoring high on originality.

Can't work out why it only got 3 stars.

Oh, yes, its not a Mini, unforgivable!

In 1990, Rover Re-introduced the Mini Cooper with a white roof and white door mirrors, things not seen before together. This carried on into the new Mini ten years later, although the new Mini added the blacked out window frames and windscreen pillars.
Why do Fiat (and Citroen) not come up with their own design ideas?

As far as I know the customer is not forced to have a contrasting colour roof on any of these vehicles. It's a paint idea rather than a design idea.

aelous and roblightbody, its a paint idea to support the design; no doubt these ideas were but actually started by FIAT in end 50's. They used to paint their 1100 with contrasting paints Pista green and white combination was very popular.

Yes you are right about FIAT having multi colours in that era, although it probably goes back much further. Of course old paints tended to suffer badly from fading.

I really wanted this to be a great car....sadly it has missed the mark...real shame

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The wheels are far too small, the dash looks cheap and there's no cuteness factor. Fail.

Given the fiat starting price of £9k and the Mini Countryman's start of £22k it's hardly surprising there's a difference in quality, ride etc but, given the massive price difference it's hardly a negative issue in respect of the fiat. Is there anything else, at a SIMILAR price to compare the fiat with, more constructively? And, yes, it does look like a Fabia, too!

More practical than a Countryman with proper back doors. Price will also make a difference. No doubt re-sale values will be lower than the Countryman. Painted dashes take some getting used to though. Very common many years ago. Lets hope reliability is good. As for looking like some other cars. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say!

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear....

I now know the Italians aren,t the best car designers in the world.
Ugly is an understatement.

I like the design of Mini Countryman so I like this, I think this 500L disguises it's mpv dimensions very well, I like the side profile best, the dashboard and seats look very impressive, excellent quality for the price! I think some of the above comments are just being jealous trolls, this car will look better in the flesh, photos don't always do justice.

Multipla anyone??

Haha you autoexpress readers like this but hate think the Countryman is ugly? Sorry but this 500L is hideous. I previously owned 2 ffiats - a grande punto and a 500 and they werw without doubt the worst brand new cars I ever owned. Love my Countryman - its beautiful. 500L is ugly.

Both are very ugly. Things are not good on the styling front at present. Most vehicles are either ugly or boring.

My 500C rarely does more than 35mpg. The official figures bear no resemblance to the real world.

It wouldn't do for all of us to like or not like, the same shaped cars ,would it?
One person likes one car, another likes something else.
I like my Toyota!

It's lost the 500's good looks, which is a pity.

I love my Fiat 500 Twin Air. It's a great car with a good engine - just don't expect great economy (I get 45-52mpg). Anyone who knows anything about these cars knows that the published economy figures unobtainable - I bought the car knowing this, and therefore am not disappointed at all. However, why do magazines continue to perpetuate the lie that the the Twin-Air economy can be favourably compared to the Diesel? This is simply not the case. If economy is your primary concern, go for the Diesel, if not, and you want some fun, go for the Twin-Air (just don't expect great economy!).

I've been driving a fiat 500l hire car for 3 days now and I can find absolutely no reason why anyone would waste their money on one.
Firstly, out of the 3 days of having one, I have called breakdown recovery twice due to an engine fault...not good.
Secondly the design is awful, the steering wheel blocks out the view to the speedo causing the driver to look underneath the steering wheel to monitor the current speed, which has prived to be inconvenient for the longer drives.
And then we wind down the windows, which creates an incredibly noisy sound, and if you try to cure it by opening another window (like you would on other cars) the noise only gets loader!
Also it gets very uncomfortable cornering, there is so much roll in the body and because there is no arm rest you are left being thrown around the cabin like a rag doll.
This is just a list of the worst things I have found so far, and I'm sure if you had one for a longer period of time then the list would be much longer.

Key specs

  • Price: £15,000
  • Engine: 1.3-litre 4cyl , 84bhp
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 14.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 102mph
  • Econ/CO2: 68.9mpg/110g/km
  • Equipment: Electric windows, 5-inch touchscreen, multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth
  • On sale: April 2013
AEX 1334
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