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Road Test Review: Fiat 500L

Road Test Review: Fiat 500L

By Swansway Motor Group 20-08-2018

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Fiat’s facelifted 500L has arrived in the UK. Motoring journalist, Tom Wiltshire, finds out what this versatile car has to offer.

Should I buy a Fiat 500L?

The super-stylish Fiat 500 has a big brother, the 500L; should you put it on your list for consideration?

  • Extremely versatile
  • Excellent value for money
  • Very spacious mini-MPV
  • Very well spec'd even in the base model
  • Comfortable for backseat pasengers

Explore the Fiat 500L


What is the Fiat 500L?

It’s the biggest member of Fiat’s 500 brand, the 500L is aimed at buyers who like the cutesy style and Italian flair of the 500 city car – but can’t cope with its tiny boot, three-door body and barely-there rear seat.

Despite the modern image, it’s a member of a class that’s diminishing in popularity – the mini-MPV. To combat this frumpy association, Fiat’s heavily pushing the connection with both the super-stylish 500 and the more rugged 500X – turning the 500L into a ‘crossover-crossover’ of sorts.

Orange FIAT 500L driving towards you in the middle of the woods


What’s new in the Fiat 500L?

Fiat has made many minor tweaks on the outside of the car, but fundamentally little has changed from the car’s previous iterations – in Urban trim, at least. Go for a more rugged Cross model though, and you’ll get new satin chrome scuff plates front and rear, a grille motif pinched from the 500X, and black plastic cladding on the wheelarches.

Inside, there’ve been bigger changes. There’s a new steering wheel inspired by the 124 Spider, updated dials with a larger colour screen in the middle and a larger 7-inch Uconnect touchscreen.

Responding to feedback about the previous model’s ergonomics, Fiat has raised the gearshift so it’s easier to reach and adjusted the climate control dials so they’re more visible. It’s also replaced the ‘computer-mouse’ handbrake of the old car with a conventional item.

Finally, the ‘MPW’ variant, which adds a bigger boot and two optional rear seats, has been renamed ‘Wagon’.


What’s under the bonnet on the Fiat 500L?

It used to be possible to spec the 500L with a two-cylinder TwinAir petrol engine, but Fiat’s simplified the range. Now, there’s a choice of just four – two 1.4-litre petrols and 1.3 or 1.6-litre diesels.

The lower-powered 1.4 petrol and 1.3 diesel make do with 95bhp – though if you plan on using the car’s capacious load capacity to its fullest, you’d be better off with the 1.6-diesel or higher-powered 1.4 petrol, both with 120bhp. None of the engines feel fast, though.

The diesel’s superior pulling power makes it the engine of choice for families. It’s also very efficient, with claimed economy of 67.8mpg even in its higher-powered tune. It’s noisy, though, and feels old-fashioned thanks to a lumpy power delivery and decidedly agricultural note.

For refinement, you’re better off with the petrol engine – though with economy of just 42.8mpg, you’ll pay the price at the pumps.

It’s also worth noting that if you want an automatic gearbox, you’re limited to just the 1.3-litre diesel, which is matched to either a five-speed manual or five-speed ‘Easytronic’ automatic. The rest of the cars get six-speed manuals as standard. Fiat’s raised the gearbox to bring the shifter closer to hand in a bid to improve ergonomics.

Orange Fiat 500L driving down a leafy road towards you


How does the Fiat 500L look?

Fiat has done its best to translate the 500’s quirky styling onto the 500L, and it’s succeeded. It’s very definitely a member of the 500 family, with the chromed ‘moustache’ and big, rounded headlights.

There are two ‘flavours’ of 500L – Urban and Cross. Each takes inspiration from different ends of the 500 range. The Urban matches up with the 500 hatch – featuring copious amounts of chrome and body-coloured mouldings.

The Cross joins the 500X at the rugged end. Shiny chrome has been given a dark satin finish and there are black plastic mouldings around the wheelarches, to give better protection against shopping trolleys in supermarket car parks.

Cross models also gain distinctive skid plates front and rear and a rectangular motif in the front grille.

Close up of orange FIAT 500L radiator grille

 


What’s it the Fiat 500L like inside?

The 500L’s interior could do with a little more colour, though when fitted with the panoramic glass roof it does lighten the interior considerably.

The facelift has improved the touch points – the steering wheel and gearshift both feel great and though the slightly boxy shape may look a little dumpy from the outside, it pays dividends when it comes to interior space.

The 500L offers far more passenger and luggage room than any similarly-sized ‘family’ crossover, along with a healthy chunk of versatility. The rear seats are capacious, and can be slid backwards and forwards to maximize boot space or leg room as you see fit. They can also fold flat or tumble forward, making the load space impressively versatile – aided by a big boot opening and square shape.

Passengers will also enjoy the view out. Visibility is excellent, with an enormous panoramic windscreen and massive front quarterlights. The windowline also stays low, rather than ‘kicking up’ at the rear of the vehicle – improving the view for kids and hopefully reducing car sickness.

Fiat 500L with rear seats down showing its very large boot


What’s the Fiat 500L spec like?

For the price, the 500L actually comes very well-equipped. Urban models are available in Pop Star or Lounge trims, and all come with air conditioning, cruise control, electric mirrors, USB, Bluetooth and aux-in for the stereo, LED running lights and 16-inch alloy wheels. Lounge adds dual-zone climate control, a panoramic glass roof, foglights, DAB, rear parking sensors and a height adjustable load floor.

Cross models get a couple of off-road-biased extras. Traction+ is no substitute for a full four-wheel-drive system, but should help on a muddy track or wet field. It shunts the power to whichever front wheel has the most grip. There’s also the brilliantly named Gravity Control, which is Fiat slang for hill descent control.

Even base-spec cars get a Uconnect touchscreen.

Value is a trump card, though, as the 500L’s price list doesn’t look too different to that of many superminis. A basic Pop Star with the 95bhp petrol engine comes in at £16,195, while even a top-spec diesel Lounge Wagon is only £22,320.

Fiat Uconnect touchscreen in a Fiat 500l


Verdict

The 500L remains a quirky and eye-catching way to move your family about, with a very practical interior that puts many a similarly-sized SUV to shame. The FIAT 500 is a hard act to follow and it does lack the charm of its smaller sibling; that said, young families after a stylish family bus will find the 500L an appealing, value for money choice over a crossover.


Fiat 500L – The Knowledge

Model: Fiat 500L

Price as tested: £20,820

Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

Power (bhp): 118

Torque (Nm): 320

Max speed (mph): 117

0-60mph: 10.5 seconds

MPG (combined): 67.3

Emissions (g/km): 112


 

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