An MPV that is sensible and stylish

 
Ryan Borroff
The Fiat 500L is practical, good-looking, and perfect for small families. Just don’t expect a thrilling ride.

FIAT MUST have watched the astronomical success of the Mini with envious eyes. The Turin manufacturer believes its 500 model has the brand equity to replicate that success. It is creating an entire 500 range that will include an XL seven-seat MPV and a small SUV called 500X.

Enter the bigger and more practical 500L mini MPV. The 500L – L stands for Large – is aimed at urbanites who need a bit of extra room for their young families. It’s longer and taller than a 500 and offers something that Fiat argues has previously been unavailable in the segment – a stylish and customizable MPV that is also practical and roomy. The Italians argue that until now customers have only had the option of buying some pretty dull products in what 500L product manager Luca Ragusa referred to as “the most boring segment in the industry”.

So is the 500L the game changer Fiat thinks it is? We were driving the top of the range 1.6 Multijet 105hp diesel in top-spec Lounge trim. However, a 1.4-litre 95hp petrol, 0.9-litre 105hp two-cylinder Twinair turbo petrol, and 1.3-litre 85hp diesel version in three trim levels – Pop Star, Easy and Lounge – will also be sold.

Considering the 500L could have ended up looking like a Fiat 500 in a fat suit, it is a reasonably good looking car. Sure it’s chubbier and less handsome than its smaller brother, but clothed in the right colours the 500L can look stylish, grown up, settled down – a little bit sensible.

Inside, the first thing you notice is how spacious the car is. This is partly down to the full glass roof and the excellent view resulting from the 500L’s split A–pillar. Inside, it ought to feel a bit more luxurious than it does but the mix of hard plastic and suede are a good combination for sticky hands and the detritus of young children. The rear seats can slide forward and back to further improve rear legroom or to increase the boot space beyond 400-litres. This shape of car was never going to be particularly exciting but the 500L is sprightly enough. The ride is comfortable with acceptable handling – there’s little body roll – but the steering lacks feel so the driving experience is duller than it needs to be. Under hard acceleration it’s difficult to ignore the engine. Noise from the tyres is also noticeable on the motorway but it’s not too intrusive. Though the 500L is marketed at cool, young urban families, Fiat admits that empty nesters are just as likely to purchase this car. Maybe that’s why you will also be able to buy a Lavazza espresso coffee machine inset in the dash. Though the silver haired will no doubt save money by bringing a flask of tea instead.

THE FACTS: FIAT 500L

PRICE: £18,890
0-62MPH: 11.3 secs
TOP SPEED: 112mph
CO2 G/KM: 117g/km
MPG COMBINED: 62.8mpg

THE VERDICT:

DESIGN ****
PERFORMANCE ***
PRACTICALITY ****
VALUE FOR MONEY ***