Fiat 500L TwinAir

22 Feb, 2013 3:00pm Jon Morgan

The Fiat 500L is stylish, practical and frugal - but is it good enough to beat the Ford B-MAX?


The 500L might not have its baby brother’s catwalk cool, but it’s not without charm. And the sparky TwinAir engine adds decent performance and economy to the retro styling and practicality. A Ford B-MAX is more fun to drive, but if you’re looking for a family car that offers more character than run-of-the-mill MPVs, the 500L is well worth a look.

The newest and largest member of the Fiat 500L has arrived – and it’s now available with the company’s minuscule 900cc two-cylinder TwinAir engine. So how does this engine cope with the chunky dimensions of the spacious new 500L?

The surprise is that the TwinAir is a great match for the 500L. It has an extra 20bhp over the same engine in the standard 500, so matches the 104bhp 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel’s output. And while it has less than half of that car’s 320Nm torque , the TwinAir provides plenty of low-down grunt.

An impressive 80 per cent of the full 145Nm is available from just 1,700rpm, endowing it with all the pull you’ll ever need, particularly around town.

It’s quiet and refined, too, and below 2,500rpm you’d be hard-pressed to notice it wasn’t a conventional four-cylinder. Above 2,500rpm it makes a nice muted yap, but it seems a little more grown-up and less characterful than in the standard 500, which is a slight disappointment.

But the engine delivers what it’s designed to do: diesel-like economy and emissions for those with an eye on running costs but who don’t do the mileage to justify a diesel. In the 500L, it returns 58.8mpg and emits just 112g/km.

The car is a little ungainly – the raised ride height, light steering and soft suspension means it wallows on faster roads, but it’s comfortable. The deep, all-round windows offer great visibility and ensure the cabin is light and airy. And the funky interior is well put together.

Practicality is the 500L’s forte, and Fiat has worked hard to ensure the car is family friendly. The 400-litre boot is adjustable on three levels, while the 60:40 split-fold rear seats slide back and forth.

Fiat may have lost a smidgen of the 500’s cool in stretching it out to MPV proportions, but the designers have done a good job of retaining the essential parts of the car’s character.

The fun and quirkiness are still here in spades thanks to its retro styling, tall stance, rounded twin headlights and single-bar grille. It’s more cartoonish than chic, but it’s unlikely to put off the young families that are this model’s target market.

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Fiat really can do no right with journalists! They quieten down a characterful engine for a family car - sensible I would have thought.

Yet the 500 (designed to be charasmatic and cheeky) often gets criticised for its characterful and cheeky TwinAir sound. They would of course criticised the 500L as unrefined if Fiat hadn't have toned it down. But they have, and apparently it's disappointing!

I feel genuinely sorry for Fiat!

Perhaps it'd be more appropriate to compare Fiat 500L with Mini Countryman. Both are quirky and are based on marmite cars. Either you like it or hate it.
Ford B-Max is a practical no-nonsense car based on the best selling inoffensive Fiesta. There is little quirky about B-Max other than its suicide doors.

Mini Countryman roof and Mini Paceman rear lights, but looks even worse than both. Saw one in the local Fiat garage the other week and it really is nasty.

I feel genuinely sorry for Fiats customers. have you seen the HUGE lists of dissatisfied 500 owners on the Facebook Fiat page? 8/10 posts are complaints about breakdowns, poor reliability, clutches going at 3200 miles etc etc.

he he ...

Find a Facebook page that doesn't feature mainly bad reviews from owners. It's usualy only disgruntled customers who have the drive to comment on Facebook or any other public forum for feedback.

I'm sure if every owner of a recent Fiat was to comment, the majority would be positive or neutral.

It's a shame but people often don't have an incentive or the time to praise a product or service. It's the same for everything.

I read the above comment too and thought exactly the same... Ridiculous, just waiting for a 'fix it again' comment

One thing is for sure, there just is no pleasing everyone and there is never a shortage of opinions. I love Fiats, they make me smile and the 500L looks like a good one. I think you either get them or you don't. The B Max is just not the same kind of cool.

I strangely like this car, I like it's looks inside and out. I have a soft spot for Fiat's having a 126 bis as my first car and yes they are prone to a fault or two but then so are VW and AUDI and even BMW.

Damn that's one ugly car right there!

Agreed 100%. Had a 500 twin air for 6 months, got nowhere near the mpg quoted, ride was jittery at best, and reliability was poor. Not a very good car at all.

look on other makes facebook pages and there is more praise than complaints - look on Fiats and its complaint, complaint, complaint, praise, complaint x8, praise, complaint x 5 etc. No wonder they were bottom in the reliability survey last year.

wtf as germans they don't ever breakdown?? please...

what do you drive?

finally someone objective

It's a much nicer car than the Ford B-Max, which feels really tinny and has one hideous dashboard. The B-Max feels cramped too and has totally generic styling.
Modern Fiats are solid cars, and the 500L has a beautiful interior. It will sell to those of us who are good and sick of boring looking pointy cars with zero character.

Nasty little car the 500. Drove two different new ones as courtesy cars. There's a really nice, clean low mileage Panda in a showroom near me, I'd rather buy that and pocket the £10,000 change.

Wow it never gets old, the amount of people who've never owned a Fiat yet are more than willing to slag it off!!!I've owned 5 Fiats are all have been bullet proof, never any issues at all. That aside, love the new 500L - no wonder its selling so well for Fiat. To those who don't like Fiat please don't feel the need to put negative comments on every Fiat test, get a life!

Lets hope this car and its 2 cylinders are better than the original 50s 60s car. Couldn't be much worse. Eurojunk.

Key specs

  • Price: £16,490
  • Engine: 900cc 2-cyl turbo
  • Power: 104bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 12.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 112mph
  • Economy: 58.8mpg
  • CO2: 112g/km
  • Equipment: Stop-start, eco mode, electric windows, five-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth
  • On sale: Now