For a grow­ing fam­ily

Coventry Telegraph - - MOTORS - By Peter Keenan

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

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