Such has been the success of the Fiat 500
, that the Italian manufacturer has turned its attention to extending the brand. The aim is to extend the 500’s popularity into a new sector by offering more accommodation and more doors to make the car a more versatile option for the growing family.
It is hard not look at similarities with other European manufacturers who have produced highly fashionable retro versions of their heritage models. Volkswagen have stuck with just the one Beetle
(produced in hard top and convertible forms). But Mini
, have worked hard to extend their range to broaden the appeal.
A bit like the first developments of the Mini range, you do look at the Fiat 500L and puzzle how much of it really looks like a 500 and how much is just a quirky design with the Fiat 500 name and a few design cues.
We spent a weekend with the car in the company of some fellow motoring enthusiasts. Under their critical eye, the Fiat 500L was examined in minute detail. While none of the group was too negative, all seemed agreed that – unlike the Fiat 500 – this is not a beautiful car. Indeed, one of the group thought it reminded him of the Fiat Multipla, the car that even Fiat felt they had to joke about the looks. Multiplas came with a sticker on the back window which read “Wait until you see the front!”.
That comparison is not as unkind as it may sound. The Fiat Multipla had a strong following because it was eminently practical and had bags of character.
Perhaps that’s where the similarity with the Fiat 500L comes in.
It too is practical, with some neat MPV-style touches, including thoughtful and flexible storage options in the passenger compartment and the boot. It also has bags of character.
If you want space, the Fiat 500L offers it in a relatively compact package. Headroom, in particular is generous. If you don’t believe me, fit out some of your lofty six-foot friends with top hats and ask them to climb aboard!
The double front pillars seem quite intrusive for the first few yards of driving, but you soon realise that visibility is about as good as any modern car – now that strong A-pillars are required for safety. For a relatively small car, I found the room in the back quite satisfactory. Yes, sitting behind a long-legged driver a similarly lanky passenger will find knees up agains the seat squab – but in many cars, even getting in would be impossible. The official fuel economy figure of 62.8 mpg hints at the sort of figures you can achieve. My real-time average was 46 mpg in a mix of driving that was biased to twisty B-roads and 70 mph dual carriageways, rather than city queues.
The ride of the Fiat 500L seems quite good although, perhaps because it is a quite tall vehicle, there is bit of roll on the corners. This feels more of a problem than it should be as the seats lack lateral support. Combine that with the low gear drone and a lack of feel through the steering wheel and I have to conclude twisty side roads are not the Fiat 500L’s most natural habitat.
Where it excels, with its light, nimble steering, is in the city. Which is probably where the majority of its potential buyers will spend most of their time.
In a world with too much in the way of bland machinery, the Fiat 500L stands out. It combines practicality with bags of fun and character, and more than a nod to the chic style inherited from the Fiat 500 hatchback. From my experience, it will also provide your friends with quite an enduring talking point!Fiat 500L 1.6 Multijet 105hp Pop Star
Carbon dioxide emissions: 117 g/km
VED band C
Combined fuel economy 62.8 mpg
Top speed: 112 mph
0-62: 11.3 secs
Power 105 bhp
Engine size 1598cc
Boot capacity 343/1310 (seats up/down)