PUMP IT UP: THE FIAT 500 ON STEROIDS MEAN SOME SE­RI­OUS FAM­ILY FUN

Fiat’s 500L – the big brother to the iconic Fiat 500 – has had a re­vamp, with some neat new styling touches and re­vised tech­nol­ogy

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - BY SI­MON DAVIS

FIAT 500L WHAT’S NEW?

The Fiat 500L is a car we’re pretty fa­mil­iar with by now. Take one reg­u­lar 500, pump it full of growth hor­mones and what you’re left with is the 500L – a far more prac­ti­cal take on the hugely pop­u­lar lit­tle su­per­mini.

With the lat­est 500L, not a whole lot has changed. There’s a slightly re­vised ex­te­rior, a more min­i­mal­is­tic in­te­rior and a greater fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy – the new seven-inch touchscreen in­fo­tain­ment and im­proved driver as­sis­tance sys­tems grab head­lines here.

On the whole, though, the lat­est Fiat 500L is much the same as its pre­de­ces- sor. The en­gine line-up is the same, as is the car’s over­all im­age.

How­ever, those slight al­ter­ations to the ex­te­rior, as well as the re­designed in­te­rior help to keep the 500L look­ing rel­a­tively fresh – if a lit­tle awk­wardly pro­por­tioned.

LOOKS AND IM­AGE

Where the reg­u­lar 500 is a car that is well-loved for its cute, retro-in­spired im­age, tak­ing that same aes­thetic and blow­ing it up to a larger scale doesn’t re­ally work for the 500L – at least in our eyes.

What you’re left with is a rather un­gainly-look­ing thing. Con­trast­ing colours on the roof do go some way to spic­ing up the 500L’s ex­te­rior, but for the most part it suf­fers the same fate as the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple-movers do.

In­side, the up­dates are sim­i­larly mi­nor. There’s a new dash lay­out, which is more min­i­mal in its de­sign, and pro­ceed­ings are dom­i­nated by the new seven-inch touchscreen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem.

There is a fair amount of scratchy plas­tics used in the cabin, which may not look great, but should be ca­pa­ble of tak­ing the beat­ings that young chil­dren can of­ten send their way.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

The Fiat 500L is a car that has been de­signed with fam­ily use in mind, and for the most part it will be in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful in this depart­ment.

Small chil­dren will find they have plenty of room in the back, even when sat three abreast. How­ever, adult-sized pas­sen­gers may not be as happy about sit­ting there.

The rear seats sit higher than those in the front, mean­ing that those who are of an av­er­age height will find their heads touch the roof.

Boot space is a re­spectable 455 litres with the rear seats in their for­ward po­si­tion, and can be in­creased to a cav­ernous 1,480 litres when they are folded down.

While the boot does of­fer a de­cent amount of lug­gage space, the sill is quite wide, with a sig­nif­i­cant amount of body work ex­posed.

Bear this in mind when load­ing heavy items into the 500L, as you wouldn’t want to scratch any paint­work.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

To drive, the 500L is in­of­fen­sive and pre­dictable, but far from ex­cit­ing. The 1.4-litre T-jet petrol that was fit­ted to our test car was rel­a­tively smooth un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, but did make quite a racket to­wards the top end of the rev range.

It also didn’t of­fer up much puff lower down, and strug­gled with the of­ten steep hills on the out­skirts of Turin.

Around town, how­ever, it was more than ca­pa­ble of get­ting the 500L mov­ing. The six-speed man­ual gear­box was also sur­pris­ingly slick to use.

Be­ing a mini-mpv, driv­ing dy­nam­ics were never go­ing to be mind-blow­ing. While there was a good deal of lean through the cor­ners, the nicely-weighted steer­ing was com­mu­nica­tive enough that you knew where the car’s lim­its were at all times.

Where the 500L im­pressed was on the rut­ted roads around Turin. Up front, you didn’t re­ally no­tice and shud­der­ing or crash­ing as the Fiat drove over the fre­quent bumps and craters that pop­u­lated the road sur­faces wher­ever we went – which will cer­tainly be a wel­come char­ac­ter­is­tic when it hits the road here in Bri­tain.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The en­try-level trim is Pop, which gets you Elec­tric front win­dows, 15in steel wheels, re­mote lock­ing, six airbags, CD player, ra­dio and a tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor. Next up is Pop Star, which has a more im- pres­sive range of good­ies.

The Lounge spec­i­fi­ca­tion is the flag­ship trim for the stan­dard 500L in the UK. Equip­ment lev­els are gen­er­ous enough, with a panoramic sun­roof, 16-inch al­loys, rear park­ing sen­sors, cruise con­trol and that seven-inch touchscreen with Live ser­vices all in­cluded as stan­dard.

While the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is a wel­come fea­ture, it does man­age to feel a less mod­ern com­pared with the so­lu­tions of­fered by ri­val man­u­fac­tur­ers.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE?

Where the Fiat 500 is aimed at young city dwellers, the 500L is aimed at young fam­i­lies who still want the flair and per­son­al­ity of the 500, but in a more prac­ti­cal pack­age. More load space, big­ger cabin, bet­ter tech. There’s also a more rugged 500L Cross ver­sion and a es­tate ver­sion called the 500L Wagon.

VER­DICT

At the end of the day, the Fiat 500L isn’t re­ally that dif­fer­ent from the old one ex­cept for the mod­ernising touches.

It still has those looks that some will love and oth­ers won’t, and it doesn’t drive any bet­ter than its pre­de­ces­sor, which is to be ex­pected as this is a re­fresh not an-all new model.

That said, it of­fers a de­cent amount of prac­ti­cal­ity, and young fam­i­lies in the mar­ket for a more left-field wagon could find the 500L an ap­peal­ing propo­si­tion.

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