Fiat 500L review
The retro-styled 500L is a spacious and distinctive alternative to the Ford B-Max, but its styling is divisive and the drive could be better
The Fiat 500L is a bit of a Marmite car - people either love its retro, stretched 500 looks, or loathe it. Minor changes for 2017 have done little to alter it, either. If you are a fan, it's good to know that there's appeal beyond the exterior design.
The 500L is a decent attempt at providing practical family transport for buyers who don't need a large MPV, but have outgrown a conventional supermini. The tall body shape means there's good head and legroom all-round, plus a sizeable boot, although other small MPVs such as the Ford B-Max offer even greater versatility.
Equipment levels are strong, too, and the interior is bright and airy, although quality is a mixed bag. The driving experience leaves a little to be desired, too, as it can't match the handling composure of the B-Max or many similarly-priced family hatchbacks.
The two diesels are responsive and efficient, and even the 1.3 offers adequate pace. The petrol aren't that refined and lack torque, however. Poor depreciation also lets the 500L down, meaning those who crave the funky styling will have to pay a financial penalty come selling time.
The 500L is based very obviously on the popular Fiat 500 city car, meaning it gets the same retro influenced design, trendy interior and frugal engines as its smaller sister. However, the 500L's larger proportions mean it is a lot more practical for family buyers, thanks to a roomy boot, and five-seats that can actually be used by adults. Buyers can also opt for the even larger 500L MPW, which comes with a seven-seat option.
The entry-level Pop Star, mid-range Easy and Lounge models, plus a rugged looking flagship called Trekking that features black bodywork additions around the wheel arches and sills, as well as silver skid plates at the front and rear – but don’t be fooled into thinking it has four-wheel drive. There is also a Beats Edition of the 500L Trekking, which gets a thumping great stereo influenced by artist Dr. Dre and his BeatsAudio brand.
The Pop edition of the 500L is pretty basic, with no air-conditioning even as an option although it does get ESC, central locking, electric front windows and a touchscreen operated radio with Bluetooth.
The Pop Star adds air-con and cruise control, plus body colour mirrors and alloy wheels. The Lounge ups the ante further with automatic lights, dual zone climate control, a fixed glass roof, electric rear windows, parking sensors and seat-back tables.
Across the 500L range buyers can choose from two petrol engines - a 1.4 or 0.9-litre - or two diesels. The latter options include the 1.3 Multijet which can be spec’d with Fiat's semi-automatic Dualogic gearbox, or the 1.6-litre Multijet which is manual only.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe retro-styled 500L is a spacious and distinctive alternative to the Ford B-Max, but its styling is divisive and the drive could be better
- 2Engines, performance and driveRoly-poly MPV handling means the 500L’s drive won’t put a smile on your face
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe 500L should be pleasingly cheap to run, but rapid depreciation is the fly in the ointment
- 4Interior, design and technology‘Marmite’ looks mean the 500L doesn’t share the universal appeal of Fiat’s 500 city car
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceExtra body volume makes the 500L vastly more practical than its city car sister
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe 500L gets five stars for safety, but our Driver Power reliability rating throws up warning lights