The Fiat 500L apparently starts life as a cute little Fiat 500 and morphs into something bigger and family-sized.
The Fiat 500L apparently starts life as a cute little Fiat 500 and morphs into something bigger and family-sized. Or so the cars’ manufacturer would have us believe. You have probably seen the television commercial in which a baby Fiat transforms into a steroidal version of itself. Hey presto, a 500L! In reality it isn’t like that, and it is difficult to see much in common between the two cars other than the badges on their snub noses.
Whatever it says on those badges, the 500L is more like a bigger Panda than a stretched 500, and bears little resemblance to the cute and curvy baby Fiat. It’s not just the looks, their under-structure is completely different. Under the skin of the 500L is a new Fiat platform that will also be used for other spin-off models. This car is destined to be the first of a family of up-scaled models aiming to cash in, by association, on the popularity of the little 500. Others heading for production are a 500L Trekking with a beefier look to its body styling, a 500X with rugged four-wheel-drive capability, and a 500XL seven-seater.
As first in line of a growing family, the 500L pioneers love-or-hate Marmite looks. Remember the Fiat Multipla? This could be its offspring. Nearly 4.2 metres in length, boxy and tall, the 500L cannot be called a pretty car and it is quite gawky from most angles. We’re not fans of the styling, but it does have character and packages a very practical family car that is roomy for its overall size.
The 500L is Italian-designed but built in Serbia. There is just one body style, with five doors including a particularly large tailgate. The choice of engines includes two petrol units and two turbodiesels: 1.4-litre or 0.9 litre TwinAir petrol, and 1.3 or 1.6 litre MultiJet diesels. Trim levels are Pop Star, Easy and Lounge. Prices start at £14,990 for a 1.4 litre Pop Star petrol model and rise to £18,890 for the range-topping 1.6 MultiJet diesel in top-spec Lounge trim.
For many the pick of the 500L bunch will be the TwinAir petrol model, with its whizzy-sounding engine and zippy behaviour. Our test car is the longer-legged and more economical 1.6 litre diesel that delivers robust performance and better mpg. It has a 112 mph top speed and the 0-62 acceleration time is a relatively leisurely 11.3 seconds, but it is a willing workhorse and the engine is well up to the job of hauling a mid-size family car weighing around 1.4 tonnes.
The 1,598 cc four-cylinder, 16-valve engine comes with standard fuel-saving stop-start. The engine’s power output is 103 bhp at 3,750 rpm and the peak torque is 236 lb ft at 1,750 rpm. The CO2 emissions of 117 g/km put it in group C for road tax.