‘Growing up is cool’ says the ad. Presumably, the copywriters did their research and found that owners of Fiat’s successful 500 considered it to be a ‘cool’ car.
Tom Scanlan drives the rather family oriented Fiat 500L MPV
Therefore, as the family grows and increases, there’s nothing ‘un-cool’ about moving a size or two up into the Fiat 500L. Fiat has now launched it re-vamped 500L MPV. It says that it’s learnt a lot from owners and put the lessons into practice.
The 500L is available, in three types, Urban, Cross (25mm more ground clearance and bigger wheels) and the seven-seater Wagon, for which you can pay up to £22,320. Starting off the various trim levels is the Pop Star (yes, really!) at £16,195.
Fiat is keen enough to underline the idea that the 500L is simply an expanded 500 that we find a myriad of design cues that echo or remind us as such. For example, the headlamps and park-lamps on the Lounge resemble the zero in the 500 badging. However, the Cross, taking its styling cues from the Fiat 500X, has a different ‘face’ — a cross face, dare I say...or perhaps not. Various 500 motifs pop up (not literally) in the cabin.
Improvements made by Fiat include a raised gear-box, a new steering-wheel, an instrument cluster that’s easier to see, a 7-inch matt screen that does not reflect sunlight, better all-round visibility, and a flat floor for luggage, including the ‘Cargo Magic Space’ that’s Fiat’s name for the adjustable boot-floor. The rear seats spring easily forward to enlarge the capacity.
There’s now also the Mode Selector. A simple dial-switch lets you travel in Normal mode for everyday conditions, then Gravity for steep downhill off-roading, and Traction + that optimises torque transfer for other challenging surfaces.
The 500L also features autonomous city-Braking. The brakes are ventilated discs all round.
At the launch, my main drive was in a 1.4 T-Jet 120 bhp Urban Lounge model. It was easy to drive with good all-round visibility and an impressively-small turning circle. It was lively enough, 0-62 in 10.2 seconds. This engine is reasonably refined, too. Some wind-noise builds up when you get beyond fifty mph.
I found the car comfortable to sit in, as did my driving partner, who is a good deal taller and heavier than me. The electric rack-and-pinion steering is fine. The minor controls felt good, even if the plastics used around the car suggested that the very highest quality is not what this car is all about. If that seems unfair, then let’s qualify that by looking at the price — you do get quite a bit of car for the money.
Storage spaces are well up to scratch, including two glove boxes (does anyone ever keep gloves in glove-boxes?). The boot is versatile in that you can use three different-height floor-levels.
On the test run, this version returned an indicated 40.4 mpg, very acceptable, giving a range of around 440 miles, and comparing much more favourably than most with its official combined consumption figure of 42.2 mpg.
Including the £900 for the optional bi-colour roof, the car came out at £22,570.
A short run in urban districts in a diesel-powered Cross underlined how well the suspension coped with bumpy roads. This diesel, quite smooth and quiet, was also a 120 hp unit, but with more torque than the petrol, slower off the mark but quicker in mid-range. On busy roads, the mpg came out at an indicated 44.6, again a commendable figure.
The difficult bit now — should you buy a Fiat 500L?
Why not? If your research and comparisons with rivals work out, and if you like the looks, the overall package, including connectivity options, and the new colour options, and if your dealer will do you a good deal, Fiat’s new 500L MPV could be a very satisfactory family car.
Car reviewed: Fiat 500L 1.4 T-jet 120hp MPV - Base Price On the road £19,445 with options as tested £22,570 0-62mph 10.2 secs Top speed 117mph Fuel Economy combined 42.2mpg CO2 emissions 157g/km Engine 1368cc DOHC Petrol EU6 Max Power 120hp@5000 rpm Torque 215Nm@2500rpm Transmission 6-Speed manual
Love it, or hate it looks
A good overall package
Well thought out storage
A bit of wind noise at speed
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