Fiat 500L review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Fiat 500L is a quirky and practical alternative to the Ford B-MAX. However, its divisive looks won't be to everyone's liking

For: 
Practical interior, frugal engines, customisable design
Against: 
Not as flexible or fun as the B-MAX, engines lack power

The Fiat 500L is a compact MPV that carries a competitive price. It rivals other supermini-based people carriers like the Ford B-MAX, Citroen C3 Picasso and the Hyundai ix20.

The 500L is based on the popular Fiat 500 supermini, meaning it gets the same retro influenced design, trendy interior and frugal engines as its smaller brother. However, the 500L's larger proportions mean its more practical, thanks to a roomy boot, and five-seats that can actually be used by adults. Buyers can also go for a larger 500L MPW, which comes with a seven-seat option.

The Fiat 500L is available in four trim levels. The entry-level Pop Star, mid-range Easy and Lounge models, plus a rugged looking flagship called Trekking. There is also a Beats Edition of the 500L Trekking, which gets black body add-ons and a thumping great stereo influenced by artist Dr. Dre and his BeatsAudio brand.

Buyers can choose from a choice of two petrol engines, a 1.4 or 0.9-litre, or two diesels, a 1.3 Multijet which can be specced with Fiat's semi-automatic Dualogic gearbox, or a 1.6-litre Multijet.

Our choice: 500L 1.6 Multijet Lounge

Styling

3.8

Despite carrying the 500 name, the Fiat 500L doesn't quite manage to pull off the retro look as convincingly as the supermini. Its looks, then, could be best described as divisive.

While it gets the same twin rounded headlights and single chrome bar grille as its little brother, the 500L is taller and wider than larger crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai and MINI Countryman. Fiat also offers buyers plenty of scope to customise their 500L, with 11 different colours, three different roof options and three wheel choices available.

The range-topping model in the 500L range, the Trekking, has its ride-height increased by 10mm, and black plastic body cladding along the lines of the Dacia Sandero Stepway. Despite its rugged looks, don't expect to be going anywhere far off-road as the Trekking is only available as a front-wheel-drive car.

The range-topping model in the 500L range, the Trekking, has its ride-height increased by 10mm, and black plastic body cladding along the lines of the Dacia Sandero Stepway. Despite its rugged looks, don't expect to be going anywhere far off-road as the Trekking is only available as a front-wheel-drive car.

Driving

3.4

It'd be unreasonable to expect the Fiat 500L to handle like a sports car, but there is more body roll than you get in say, a Ford B-MAX.

Fiat 500L 1.4 MultiAir 2014 interior

The steering is light, as are the pedals and gearshift. While it's easy to drive, none of the controls have much feel and it's pretty vague most of the time. The brakes are also overly sharp.

The 500L's ride is comfortable though, offering smooth and supple progress, even over poorly surfaced roads.

Reliability

4

The Fiat 500L is very safe, thanks a whole raft of safety features that come as standard. Fiat includes ABS and traction control across the 500L range, as well as driver, passenger, side and window airbags.

Buyers can also choose an automatic braking system that stops the car if it senses a collision. The engines and many of the other mechanicals in the 500L are widely used in other Fiat models (such as the standard 500, Panda and Punto), so should prove reliable.

The Fiat 500L didn't feature in our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but the regular 500 failed to finish in the in the top 100 of the survey's 150 cars.

Buyers can also choose an automatic braking system that stops the car if it senses a collision. The engines and many of the other mechanicals in the 500L are widely used in other Fiat models (such as the standard 500, Panda and Punto), so should prove reliable.

Practicality

3.8

As the 500L is 59cm longer than the standard Fiat 500, there's plenty of space in the cabin. This means there's more than enough room for five adults as well as 400 litres of boot space.

The Fiat 500L's increased ride height and almost 360-degree visibility make it very easy to drive around town, and what's more, the rear bench seat folds completely flat and slides easily. The boot also has a three-level floor and the front passenger seat also folds completely flat, meaning the 500L can take loads of up to 2.4 meters.

The Ford B-MAX has a sliding rear door and no B-pillar, which makes access to the cabin incredibly easy. Despite not having such a system, the 500L’s large, wide doors and flat floor make it very family friendly.

Running Costs

4

The Fiat 500L boasts a range of economical engines, the cleanest of which is the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel with the semi-automatic gearbox thanks to 70.6mpg and emissions of 102g/km of CO2. The regular 1.3-litre Multijet manages 67.3mpg with CO2 levels of 110g/km.

The 1.6-litre diesel is also pretty good, as it manages 62.8mpg, with CO2 emissions of 117g/km.

Of the two petrol engines available, the 0.9-litre Twinair is the better bet with an economy of 58.9mpg, plus 112g/km of CO2. The 1.4-litre petrol unit is the least efficient unit in the range, thanks to CO2 levels of 149g/km and 44.1mpg.

To further increase fuel economy, Fiat has fitted the 500L with an 'ECO' button which lowers torque and strangles the throttle response. All 500L models fall within a sensible insurance group but servicing and some expensive options make the Fiat look a little pricey compared to some of its rivals.

The Trekking costs about £700 more to buy than a 500L Lounge, but it does slot in to a lower insurance group because it comes with an auto-braking system as standard.

Disqus - noscript

Picked up my 500L last weekend - a Lounge 1.4 petrol. So far I'm impressed, with a couple of caveats.

First I think the 1.4 is marginal in terms of power - not a problem as I'm happy with a sedate drive, but this leads on to the second point, which is, I think this will also impact on the fuel economy, as I think you will need to use lower gears than ideal, to keep up momentum. Time will tell, and I will be delighted if I am proved wrong!

I would have gone for the twin-air (loved it in the 500 I owned previously), but the £1500 premium was just too much to swallow.

This reads as quite negative, but this is not the case. Space and flexibility are excellent, it feels solid too - they seem to have built on the improvements brought in with the 500, which is good to see. There is some really useful tech too:

Cruise control, Speed Limiter (should come on all cars), great media/phone integration and with the upgraded audio system, great sounds. 5 star safety rating along with advanced stability and traction control system is reassuring.

Finally, a couple of comments about its looks. Yes, it doesn't have the immediately cute look of the 500, but then it couldn't. But what it does have is loads of character - something lacking in just about every alternative in its sector.

FIAT seem to have been looking at the Countryman far too closely! However the detailing is a bit better than the latter which is not an enormous achievement but is something I suppose.
Yet these are both gopping, galumphing, gurning grotesque (insert adjective of choice) vehicles which do nothing for the visual joy of the world. Hopefully both makers are capable of better things than these tubbies.

Got one as a hire car for a few weeks and I wouldn't rate it more than 3 stars with the twin air engine is very sluggish off the mark it starts to come alive after 3000 rpm then runs out of puff at 5000 this really harms fuel consumption at 35mpg I don't exactly call that good and also you certainly feel the problems of being so tall when driving it has a bit of body roll and suspension can be a bit bouncy. Plus points are it's very spacious and a great stereo with blue tooth ect.

Last updated: 22 May, 2014
AEX 1,341
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