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.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
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

    C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

    £45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone