For a growing family
THE ‘L’ in the Fiat 500L’s moniker stands for large with the compact MPV living up to its name by adding space and practicality to the fun offered by its supermini sibling.
One of the more amazing stats linked to the car is the alleged 1,500 possible seat combinations.
Now it could be that Fiat are just having a bit of fun with motoring journalists as who in their right mind is going to test a claim like that out?
Suffice to say, I did check out the option of folding the front passenger seat down as well as sliding the rear seats back and forth, plus a number of other permutations just to show willing.
And the conclusion is the 500L is ideal for families who have outgrown the supermini sector but don’t want the full monty SUV experience.
It is a tall motor with wide rear doors – a boon for those having to fight with baby seats or for six-footers contemplating a long journey. The comfortable back seats, easily accommodating three adults, also allay any claustrophobia fears.
It is also a good bit longer than the 500 supermini it is inspired by so the cabin is spacious and airy with more than 20 cubby holes available to squirrel away the many odds and sods families accumulate. These include spacious door bins, two cupholders and a big glovebox.
The ‘cargo magic space’ height adjustable load platform – featuring a movable floor panel and a sliding rear seat – makes the boot adaptable to your needs with space ranging from 455 to 1,480 litres.
A decent driving position is easy to attain thanks to an adjustable steering wheel and seat while a pleasant atmosphere is ensured by dual-zone climate control and windows that let in plenty of light.
Fiat use the retro exterior of the 500 supermini as its starting point for the bigger sibling so if you like rounded headlights, a single bar grille and a unique silhouette then this is for you. The 500L can also be personalised with a variety of colours for the roof.
It is up against other superminibased MPVs like the Ford B-MAX, Citroen C3 Picasso and the Hyundai ix20 – but with prices starting from £16,200 for a 1.4-litre petrol Urban model in Pop Star trim, topping out at £21,365 for a 1.6 diesel in Cross specification, Fiat ensure it is extremely competitive. There’s also a seven-seater Wagon model with prices ranging from £18,960 to £22,365.
The £19,455 Cross model tested here is the most adventurous member of the 500L family and offers rugged good looks. There are side mouldings, front skid plate and new bumper as well as 17-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights. It is also raised an inch higher which takes ground clearance up to almost six inches and gives the driver a lofty position.
Traction can be optimised electronically by changing driving modes via the turn of a dial, or by engaging hill descent control giving the Cross another string to its bow in poor conditions.
But when all is said and done you won’t be going too far off-road as there is no 4x4 option.
There is a raft of modern technology fitted which is accessed through a seven-inch colour touchscreen offering DAB radio with Bluetooth, USB and Aux-in. If you want sat nav though it is a £250 option. There is also a natty instrument panel which comes with a central information display.
The 1.4-litre petrol engine is a reasonably punchy performer with the 118bhp on tap allowing 62mph reached from a standing start in 10.2 seconds on its way to a top speed of 117mph.
The power is allied to decent handling characteristics and a smooth ride which make the 500L a comfortable, undemanding drive.
It all adds up to a package that will be enticing for many families so continuing the Fiat 500 success story.
TEST DRIVE FIAT 500L 1.4 T-JET CROSS
MODEL: Fiat 500L 1.4 T-Jet 120hp Cross PRICE: £19,455 MECHANICAL: 118bhp, 1,398cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox MAX SPEED: 117mph 0-62MPH: 10.2 seconds COMBINED MPG: 42.2 INSURANCE GROUP: 14 CO2 EMISSIONS: 157g/km BIK RATING: 32% WARRANTY: 3 years / unlimited miles