Motoring review: Fiat 500L 1.6 Multijet Pop Star

Can Fiat's classic 500 retain its charm as an MPV?

Price: £17,490 (range spans £14,990-£18,890)
Engine: Electric, 87bhp
Transmission: 1,598cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbodiesel, 105bhp
Performance: 112mph, 0-62 in 11.3 seconds, 62.8mpg official average, CO2 117g/km

A wave of ennui passes over me every time I see a Mini Countryman. This galumphing mutant is demonstrably a charlatan and a travesty of everything a Mini – by definition a small car – should stand for. That, however, does not stop hordes of people buying them.

These buyers are not automotive purists with a sense of history. They simply want a reasonably roomy car with a high driving position and a bit of fun in its image.

So you can see why Fiat now wants to pull the same trick with the new 500L. The regular 500 is far and away Fiat's most successful car in decades, reinterpreting a landmark original every bit as skilful as the 2001 Mini remake. The 500 has a very recognisable shape and equally recognisable detailing, outside and in. But it lends itself even less well than the Mini to significant upsizing. Hence this confused creature.

Fiat is desperate to capitalise on the 500's success, and to keep owners loyal to the brand when they decide they need a bigger car to accommodate expanding families. There is a TV ad showing a 500 morphing into a 500L as it "goes large". But, with visual common ground nowhere except the badge on the nose, linking the small Fiat with this larger one is an imaginative stretch too far. Not even the 500's round wheel arches have been reprised here.

Fiat tells us that the 500L is longer than a Punto and as wide as a Bravo. It boasts of largeness in a car nominally rooted in smallness; let's not forget that the original 500s of the last century had engines of just 500cc or thereabouts. So the name is a nonsense. What about the car itself?

Well, it's a compact MPV, a rival for the similarly priced Ford B-Max or the cheaper Citroën C3 Picasso. The rear seats can slide, fold down or flip forward out of the way in best MPV fashion, and the front passenger seat can also be folded flat to complete an extra-long load bay. The false boot floor can be set at various levels, while the dashboard contains a Uconnect "infotainment" system. Options include a Beats Audio stereo system developed by a music producer called Dr Dre, and – yes – a built-in Lavazza coffee machine. Depending on the model, the dashboard can be painted in the main body colour, given a soft-touch surface or finished in suede.

As for engines, you can have a 105bhp version of the 875cc, two-cylinder, turbocharged unit found in the 500, a 95bhp four-cylinder engine, or 1.3- or 1.6-litre turbodiesels. The last of these, with 105bhp, powered the 500L I tried. Thus propelled, the 500L feels lively enough if not particularly quiet, and the six-speed gearbox is light and easy to use. It rides over bumps with an underlying firmness which never proves uncomfortable, and which helps keep this quite lofty car level when taking fast bends.

This is all very satisfactory, if some way removed from a proper 500's small-car nimbleness, but it offers no credible feel of the road through its electric power steering, just a springy resistance. As for the view of the road, the forward pillars are distracting.

So that's the Fiat 500L. Acceptable compact MPV? Yes. Desirable style object like its smaller sibling? No.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SEN Learning Support Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: LSA's required! West Midlands

    MLD Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: MLD teachers required West Midlands...

    Media Studies Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are recruiting for a M...

    History Teacher

    £90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices