500 goes large

Road test: Fiat 500L Lounge

It has been an interesting challenge for Fiat, VW and MINI, all of whom have created cheeky retro-looking models. Quite simply: where do they go next?

MINI has produced a third model which looks very similar to the last two, in addition to some reasonably successful variants, the largest of which isn’t particularly easy on the eye. The new, new Beetle (yes, that’s what the PR people call it) has a slightly different take, moving to more of a street look and this works well. Fiat has added something larger in parallel to the fabulous 500, the new 500L, which is designed to capture 500 fans who require a larger vehicle.

Making the inevitable comparisons with the pretty 500, the 500L won’t steal people’s hearts and souls with its looks. That said, this week, we have put a considerable number of miles on the 500L and found that it is not without its merits.

Worthy cruiser

Having done a couple of long, late night motorway drives, the 500L has proved a worthy cruiser. The 1.6 diesel engine fitted is capable and gobbles-up miles well. In sixth, 70mph has the engine turning-over at just 2,000 rpm and the car is happy keeping-up with everything in the outside lane. There is a little wind noise but it’s quite civilised and even with high wind warnings on bridges, the 500L felt very stable, despite its height.

The view out is somewhat cluttered, what with twin windscreen pillars (giving a bay window effect) and over-sized door mirrors, all reducing forward visibility. Look up and the large panoramic roof (standard on the Lounge model tested) is pleasing; drop your eyes to the dashboard and there is nothing particularly remarkable. There are white dials with floating needle effects and red text in the central information box which isn’t the easiest to read. Functionally, this Lounge model has the essentials: Bluetooth and USB connectivity, auto wipers and lights plus dual zone climate control. All the main controls are easy to use.

Good access

Height and location of the seating is fine but the seat backs curve away and therefore lack upper body support. Boot access and capacity is good; there were no issues with a generous weekly shop in addition to a few pairs of wellies left in from a previous trip.

Where the 500L does score points is with its ride. Not only did it cope with speed humps admirably, a couple of trips to a friend’s farm along ¾ mile of unmade track proved to be a doddle (whereas my Series Land Rover almost shook my fillings out). In terms of handling, it is all very neutral and safe. It turns-in reasonably well but I didn’t feel comfortable pushing it particularly hard on bends.

So, the 500L is a fair work horse. Whether it will appeal to those style-concious 500 owners who have outgrown their cars, only Fiat’s sales figures will tell.

Fiat 500L Lounge 1.6 MultiJet diesel, £19,740 (incl. £850 paint/white roof option). Range starts at £14,995.

Power: 105 bhp (@ 3,750 rpm), torque: 320 Nm (@ 1,750 rpm), emissions: 117 g/km CO2 (band C), 0-62 mph: 11.3 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●○○○

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