Fiat 500L 1.4 MultiAir 2014 review

3 Jan, 2014 10:00am Luke Madden

We drive the most powerful and refined Fiat 500L yet, with a new 1.4-litre petrol

Verdict

3
We like the Fiat 500L 1.4 MultiAir as a family car because it’s practical, comfortable and quirky. We also really like this engine for its performance and refinement – but putting the two together isn’t the most practical choice. We’d recommend the diesel model, and we’d also say look at the MINI Countryman Cooper S first – it’s quicker and holds its value better.

In the UK you currently can’t buy a Fiat 500L with more than 104bhp. Come May, however, that’ll change with the introduction of this new 158bhp Fiat 500L 1.4 MultiAir petrol turbo.

• Fiat 500L review

As soon as you start it up, it feels more grown-up than the 875cc TwinAir petrol and 1.3 or 1.6-litre MultiJet diesels offered elsewhere in the range. Whereas they’re a little noisy and can feel a bit underpowered, the 1.4 turbo is quiet, smooth and punchy enough to never leave you wishing for more.

The added refinement and muscle are obviously welcome, but this is a class where running costs play an important part in the buying decision. Figures have yet to be confirmed for the UK, but we’re expecting just over 40mpg and a price to match that of the range-topping 62.8mpg 1.6 MultiJet diesel. We know which engine we’d love to pick, but for cost-driven families the diesel remains the better buy.

When it comes to residuals, MINI’s similarly sized Countryman is king. There’s also a Cooper S, which has even more power than this 500L. However, the Fiat is definitely more practical. There’s plenty of head and legroom all round, plus all three rear seats slide and fold individually.

At its largest the boot is 400 litres, but slide the seats back and it’s 343 litres. Fold them away and you’ll get 1,310. What’s more, fit and finish inside are good, and the huge windows – which seem to wrap around uninterrupted for 360 degrees – allow for great visibility.

Combined with light steering and an accurate gearbox, you’ll find that the 500L is really easy to drive around town. It’s not the most dynamic car – a MINI Countryman or Ford B-MAX will fare better – but it is very comfortable on the whole.

Disqus - noscript

Having seen these in the showroom and on the road I think they look a great deal better in the metal than in photographs and the cabin is a nice, cheery and airy place to be.

I don't know how it drives or what's the interior like but must say that this car looks monumentally better in metal, particularly in this black/white paint job.

Seeing them in the metal is almost as bad as seeing them in pictures. Another hideously ugly carthat people buy as fashion objects, not because they are any good, because they are not.

I do not beleive the would be 500L and the Mini Countryman buyers are fishing in the same pond.. Every review I have read about the Countryman raise its impractical aspects while the raison-d'etre of the 500L is its practicality. This comparison is straining belief.

I will take the FIAT not the MINI thank you.

It needs to look better in reality than in pictures! The detailing seems better than that gopping thing the Countryman but that is far from difficult alas.

I can only hope that nobody parks one outside my house. Fashion victim's choice.

Even though it takes some acclimation, the Fiat does, indeed, look better to my eyes than the Mini. They are both awkward from a few angles, but the Fiat comes off as friendlier. For the target market, it is also a much better choice to actually live with. More utility is a huge selling point and would give the owner much more back over time, even though those pesky residuals will eventually come into play. Better to pay a bit for much less frustration and much more practicality, than to count on getting more money back in the end. And, once out of warranty, I'm not so sure the balance sheet would be tipped in the Mini's favor, anyway.

I see lots of these in Italy where I live and, unfortunately, lots of Countrymans and the Fiat is a winner. The Mini must cost almost twice the Fiat! I've always thought a closer rival would be the Citroen C3 Picasso, another good car for the price.

Key specs

  • Price: £17,400 (est)
  • Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Power: 158bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 125mph (est)
  • Economy/CO2: 41mpg/150g/km (est)
  • Equipment: Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, five-inch colour touchscreen, 16-inch alloys
  • On sale: May
AEX 1334
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