Motoring review: Fiat 500L MultiJet

'Family planning has never been Fiat’s strong suit'

Price: from £16,490
Engine capacity: 1.6-litre diesel
Power output (bhp @ rpm): 105 @ 3,750
Top speed (mph): 112
0-62 mph (seconds): 11.3
Fuel economy (mpg): 62.8
CO2 emissions (g/km): 117

Little but quirky cars are big these days. There's the stylish Fiat 500, the ever-popular Mini and new on the scene is the Vauxhall Adam. That's not forgetting the VW Up! and the Citroen C1 Connection, which was designed by requests from the French firm's Facebook fans. These cars are sold on the basis not of their performance or even practicality, but on their retro looks, the "lifestyle" they offer and the endless number of personal-customisation options available.

That's why, when Fiat launched a new advertising campaign for its 500 model this spring, it called it the "Fiat 500 Spring/Summer Collection" and the Italian super-mini was described not as a great little runaround but as "this season's latest fashion accessory".

This is all fine as a method for shifting cars but does it hold true when these cars get that little bit larger? The Mini Countryman hardly relates to its tiny heritage, does it? And now there's the new Fiat 500L. The "L" is an engorged version of the standard car that has headed back to the factory for a dose of steroids and come out as a family car, not a sleek runaround.

The idea is that there's enough of the old chic styling of the original model to keep us interested. And to make sure we know the "L" is as cool as the standard 500, the Italian firm has released a 2013 must for aspiring car companies – a viral ad. It's of an attractive mother next door rapping about the joys of parenthood next to her new Fiat 500L (you know the one – your friend with a new baby probably sent you the link on Facebook). With lines such as she's "a school-run taker, fairy cake baker, deal maker… rattle shaker, cheese grater, night-time waker and organism faker", it's pretty funny and quickly went viral. That doesn't mean the new "L" is any good though.

Don't get me wrong; there's nothing spectacularly wrong with the new car. It's based on the Punto platform and is part of Fiat's plan to extend its brand around the very popular "500 family". The hope is that those of you who have bought the standard car will get down to it with your partner, create some kids and rush to upgrade to the larger model. And the family-planning unit at Fiat's HQ in Turin must be hoping for a baby boom as there's even a 500L MPV with seven seats on the horizon.

Inside it's full of tough plastics that give a robust and durable feel (otherwise known as toddler-proof), but they are quirky and colourful so the 500L avoids feeling cheap and nasty. From the outside, though, it's a different matter. Over the course of a week I canvassed opinion with a dozen friends in their late-twenties and early-thirties – all within the soon-to-have children demographic, whether they like it or not – and none of them thought the car had retained the charm of the original, or even the recent brand reboot. It's just too ungainly and, well, rather ugly. There's none of the charm of its inspiring super-mini grandfather. It doesn't drive or handle as well as many of its rivals either.

Should that matter though? It's an affordable, robust and practical family car with plenty of clever little storage spaces and a vast boot. The diesel engine is a peach too, offering just enough grunt on the motorway but eminently respectable economy and emissions standard (important for wallet-watching parents).

Voices
voices
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
newsBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
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

    SAP Finance Systems Analyst

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a PE...

    Credit Controller - Enfield

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Credit Controller - Enfield (North London / Hertfor...

    year 5 teacher

    £21000 - £32000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

    Supply Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried