In 2008,when Fiat brought the old 500 back to life, and it proved to be a big hit, it was only a matter of time until they expanded the range. And expand it they did in every way -the 500Lis an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) model, and a car which has divided opinion ever since its 2013 launch.
If you’re a fan of the design of the 500L, you’ll agree that they’ve pulled off the clever trick of creating a car that has many of the features of the supermini, yet the size and the practicality of an MPV.
On the other hand, you could think that this is Fiat’s weirdest-looking car since the bug-eyed Multipla. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, the one thing is that this couldn’t be mistaken for any other car with its bulbous bodywork, big round headlights and a range of colours and design that have made the 500L stand out from the crowd.
What's it like to drive?
You can tell by the look of some cars exactly how they’re going to handle – you’d expect a Ferrari to cling to the road, for example. The same is true of the Fiat 500L. This is a car that looks like it’s going to roll when you go around corners with fairly imprecise steering – and that’s exactly what you’ll find.
Most of the engines - except the 1.6-litre diesel - also feel a little underpowered, especially when there are 5 people on board.
Given that no one would seriously expect the car to be anything but a quirky and well-equipped MPV, or ever want a sporty performance from it, it drives well enough for its purpose; which is lugging the family around.
It drives well enough for its purpose; which is lugging the family around.
The Fiat 500 might be full of stylish touches, but in the 500L, the focus is far more on practicality. You’ll find a simple dashboard layout with big, chunky buttons and steering wheel.
The driving position is high up with plenty of adjustment for the seat and the big windows mean that visibility is good all around. The top of the range models even have a panoramic sunroof called the Sky Dome that floods the cabin with natural light. The pay-off for this is less headroom in the back compared with models with no sunroof.
In the back, there’s plenty of room for 3, although the seats could be a bit comfier than they are – so long journeys might result in some complaints from backseat passengers and even more questions than usual about whether you’re nearly there yet.
On all except the most basic models, there’s a 5-inch touch screen with Bluetooth connectivity. The Fiat Uconnect system means that it can also be linked to your phone to make and receive calls safely, and legally, while you’re on the move.
Generally, the materials used in the cabin do feel a little plasticky and not very robust, but this is an issue that has always been there with many Fiat cars.
The L in 500L could well stand for “large” given the huge potential boot space of the car. With all seats in place there’s all the room that you could possibly need for the biggest of big shops and trips away.
The really great thing about the car is the flexibility it offers. For a start, you can slide the back seats forwards to create an even larger boot or fold them down for a huge one. There is a floating boot floor too that gives valuable storage space underneath and no boot-lip makes loading and unloading easy.
In the cabin itself, there are no less than 22 different cup holders, cubby holes and other handy compartments – that’s got to be some kind of a record!
Reliability and running costs
There’s a choice of petrol and diesel engines. As petrol models go, it’s the 0.9-litre version that’s the most economical with a fuel consumption figure of almost 59 mpg – the engine also seems a little underpowered for the car.
A better all-round choice is the 1.6-litre diesel that delivers almost 63 mpg and has a bit more punch to its performance.
Fiats have never had the best reputation for reliability with electrical problems being the most common issues. It’s worth checking all the electrics like lights and heating out on any used 500L to make sure that everything is working properly.
The good news is that the recommended service interval is 18,000 miles which should help to keep maintenance costs low. For everything else, consider signing up for cinchCare.
What cinch loves
Why buy an MPV which looks like every other one on the road when you could have a 500L? It also brings you one of the most practical cars of its class as well as one of the most spacious and flexible you can buy.
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It might not float everyone’s boat, but the 500L is a car that stands out and has acres of space in the cabin as well in the boot. So if this appeals and you dare to be a little bit different, it could well be the MPV for you.
This review was