Fiat 500L

Mini MPV is practical and economical

6.8
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 6 reviews
  • Practical
  • Economical engines
  • Customisable
  • Expensive
  • Interior not that stylish
  • Odd looks
 

£13,665 - £20,965 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

45 - 72 MPG

Review

As you might have gathered from the name and its appearance, Fiat’s 500L is a Fiat 500, but Large. 

The 500L is Fiat’s attempt at injecting a little style and character into the small multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) market, and it would certainly stand out parked between the equivalent Ford or Vauxhall

The 500L itself is actually based on the Fiat Punto, and is aimed at customers who find the idea of a 500 appealing, but need more space. 

It’s certainly a practical choice, but reviews are mixed when it comes to deciding whether it’s worth the money or not.

Cheapest to buy: 1.4-litre Pop petrol

Cheapest to run: 1.3-litre Pop Star diesel

Fastest model: 1.6-litre Lounge diesel

Most popular: 1.4-litre Pop petrol

The 500L scores brilliantly here, as you would hope, and has lots of cabin room and a 400 litre boot, which rockets up to over 1,300 litres with the rear seats folded.

A sliding rear bench means there is “vast rear legroom” in the words of one reviewer, with generous headroom that is only compromised slightly by a full-length sunroof called Skydome.

With a Skydome, however, the Fiat 500 has superb visibility, thanks to a big windscreen and glass panels in the A-pillars.

The cabin isn’t the most exciting though, with functionality becoming the 500L’s trump card. It may not have the ability to induce misty-eyed nostalgia for the 1950s like the normal 500 might have done, but the amazing number of storage bins (22!) available in the cabin may be impressive enough by itself.

Testers have mixed opinions on how the 500L rides and drives. 

As a fairly tall vehicle the suspension has been set up a little on the firm side, most testers found it hard to feel uncomfortable in one, although the driver’s seat does not offer much support.

Some critics state that the 500L feels more controlled than the regular 500 and others comment that it the body rolls a lot in the bends, so it is likely to fall to individual preference as to whether either of these things are good news or not.

One things testers have generally agreed on disliking is the steering. The 500L is certainly easy to navigate in most situations, but there have been reports of artificially weighted steering that generally feels too light, which snaps back to centre rather aggressively.

Saying that, the regular 500 isn’t perfect here either, so perhaps customers trading up won’t notice too much.

There are six engines available for the 500L, as two more joined the range in 2014, and Fiat have kept most of them small.

The turbo-charged 0.9-litre is the tiniest, and until recently, one of the more powerful options with 105hp. There is a more conventional 1.4-litre petrol available that has 95hp, although this struggles when it meets the motorway and becomes strained under pressure.

If you need a petrol engine it’s probably better to opt for the new 1.4-litre T-Jet, which is turbo-charged and produces a healthy 118hp.

The 1.6-litre Multijet II diesel available from 2014 is probably the soundest all-round choice, producing 118hp and achieving over 61mpg.

The 500L’s gearboxes do not get such good reviews, and critics note that both the six-speed and the five-speed manual are notchy and are not as good as the gearboxes in rivals.

The larger diesel engine in the 500L is potentially a better choice than the petrol TwinAir, were it not also quite expensive - most models tested reach well past the £18,000 mark.

Still, it's "a strong performer, with plenty of low-end torque providing ample performance" and has a Slick gearbox with well-judged ratios. It's also quieter than the TwinAir petrol around town, unusual for a diesel unit, and more refined on the motorway too.

Officially it'll manage 62.8 mpg on average (real-world 50 mpg numbers should be achievable) and does 62 mph in 11.3 seconds from rest. However, its power band is narrow - there's "no point revving it past 3,500rpm because acceleration tails off dramatically after that."

These are general, non-engine specific reviews of the Fiat 500L.
Fiat's TwinAir engine is unique in the current car market. It only has two cylinders, and displaces around 900cc. It's also turbocharged, and in this application produces 104 horsepower and 107 pounds-feet of torque. That's enough for some reasonable performance figures in the rotund 500L body, at 12.3 seconds to 62 mph.

Official combined mpg is 58.9, while 112 g/km of CO2 puts it lower than the diesel in this respect.

However, "real-world fuel efficiency is likely to disappoint" according to one expert - TwinAir-engined cars rarely meet their official figures. It's also "noisy around town" and the engine noise is "an acquired taste".

It's characterful though, punchy too, and as one reviewer notes "a perfect match for the 500L."

The 500L is a reassuringly safe car, which is good seeing as it’s family-orientated. 

There is electronic assistance to help prevent the car from crashing in the first place and a good safety record in case one does happen.

One of the electronic systems monitors the space in front of the car and can recognise obstacles, although if it fails to stop an accident from occurring, the “good” news is that the 500L scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.

If you opt for a Trekking model you get mud and snow tyres, providing extra reassurance during winter months.

At first glance, the 500L sits between its competition quite comfortably, but when you seek a better spec or engine the 500L comes up against major hurdles.

It has a good level of standard equipment, with a touch-screen, air-conditioning and Bluetooth as standard across the range, but reviewers generally concur that the car is not that cheap.

The 500L starts at just over £13,000, which is about the same as a Citroen C3 Picasso, but slightly more expensive than a Ford B-Max and a little cheaper than a Vauxhall Meriva

However, that starting price gets you the base “Pop” model married to the rather poor 1.4-litre petrol engine; should you want a diesel you will need to get a “Pop Star”, and the asking price jumps alarmingly to just over £16,500.

Suddenly, with a higher spec and the best diesel engine in the range, you’re paying to close to £20,000, which is more than its rivals by some margin, and is even pricier than some family hatchbacks.

Conclusion

The 500L is a highly practical and suitably characterful take on the mini-MPV theme, and seems well-judged for its intended market. 

Families should certainly find plenty to like with the flexible interior, although it’s a pity that its lost a lot of the character from its smaller sister in this department.

There’s no denying that it’s a bit more interesting than many similarly-sized rivals, but those rivals are also significantly cheaper, so it may take a hard-core Fiat 500 fan to happily pay the extra thousands for that quirkiness. 4

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