Expert Reviews

First Drive: Fiat 500L

Friday 02 June 2017

First Drive: Fiat 500L

The Fiat 500L uses a recipe that we’re pretty well accustomed to now. Take a standard hatch – in this case a 500 – increase its overall size and you’re left with the 500L.

Not much has changed with this updated version. The exterior has been revised slightly, while the interior has been de-cluttered but filled with additional technology. The most notable addition here is a new seven-inch touchscreen, as well as a range of improved driver assistance systems.

The 500L remains largely the same as the car it replaces. There are no added engines, but the updated exterior does keep the car looking fresh – though its looks still divide opinion.

Looks & Image

When the standard 500 was released, its cutesy looks won it praise across the world. The 500L, however, has struggled with its own image somewhat, and its inflated appearance doesn’t look the best in our eyes.

There is the option of specifying contrasting roof colours if you want to brighten up the car’s exterior, though in truth it still remains rather ungainly looking.

Inside, there’s a more minimal dashboard but this is dominated by the new touchscreen infotainment system. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scratchy plastics used throughout the cabin, which drag down the car’s premium feel.

Space & Practicality

The 500L was launched to appeal to the family market, and in most ways it succeeds in this endeavour. Small children are well catered for in terms of room in the back, even when sat three abreast.

That said, adults may not be quite so happy. The rear seats are fitted higher than those in the front, which does mean that even average-height passengers could see their heads touching the roof. This design was, of course, made to give children in the rear a better view of the area ahead, but it’s worth considering if you’re planning on having a lot of adult passengers.

Boot space is pretty good at 455 litres with the seats folded up, and this rises to 1,480 litres with them folded down. There’s more than enough room here for a few cases of luggage, but the wide sill does make loading heavy items into the boot quite tricky.

Behind the Wheel

As you’d imagine, the 500L offers a relatively predictable driving experience, though one that lacks any kind of drama. Our test car came fitted with a 1.4-litre T-Jet petrol engine, and though under heavy acceleration it felt smooth, it was accompanied by a fair amount of engine noise. The six-speed manual gearbox has a good action to it, and is suited well to around-town driving where the 500L thrives.

The 500L’s ride is also very impressive. Our test route featured some heavily rutted surfaces, and not once did it translate any road imperfections through to the cabin. This is a characteristic which is bound to appeal to UK drivers.

Value for Money

Fiat hasn’t announced prices for the new 500L yet, but the Italian car maker told us that the pricing structure would be the same as that of the old car. This puts our test car, in Lounge spec, at around the £20,000 mark. This trim level brings with it a panoramic sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels and rear parking sensors as well as that all-important seven-inch touchscreen.

Who would buy one ?

Though the standard 500 is aimed at young urban drivers, the 500L is also angled at young families who still want a car with plenty of personality. It offers greater levels of practicality too, which will certainly appeal to that market. 

Facts at a Glance

Model: Fiat 500L Urban 1.4 T-Jet 120HP Lounge
Price as tested: TBA
Engine tested: 1.4-litre four-cylinder T-Jet petrol
Power: 118bhp
Torque: 215Nm
Max speed: 117mph
0-60mph: 10 seconds
MPG: 42.2mpg
Emissions: 155g/km

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