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Fiat 500L TwinAir

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

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4.0 out of 5

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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.

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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.

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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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