THESE are exciting times for Italian car manufacturer Fiat which is enjoying a welcome renaissance with its 500 range now selling more cars than the Mini and the larger 500L is set to provide a further boost to the company’s soaring sales figures writes Bryan Longworth.
The 500L is basically a stretched version of the popular 500 and is ideal for 500 owners and those of other small cars who feel it is time for something bigger and different for their family motoring needs.
With the five door 500L whose profile resembles the Mini Countryman Fiat has provided a car that has retained much of the personality style and image of the 500 but with added practicality, flexibility and size.
In fact one passenger thought the car was a Countryman which I suppose is quite a compliment and was extremely impressed when I pointed out she was in fact travelling in the the new Fiat500L - I am sure quite a few other people will make the same mistake.
I liked the look of the 500L when trying it on the Press launch and now I have had a longer look at it I like it even more and am sure it will prove to be a popular addition to the expanding 500 family with Fiat having found the successful formula for a trend setting car in much the same way as BMW has developed the Mini and when Nissan invented the Qashqai and started a new market sector.
For the 500L has has got impact styling with plenty of showroom appeal and a roomy interior with ample and comfortable seating although the light grey colour of the fabric on the test car would not be very practicable for owners with young children whose drinks and ice cream and sticky fingers could soon pose a stain threat!
On test was the 500L 1.6 Multijet Easy which costs £17,490 and is powered by a 1.6-litre 105bhp four cylinder diesel engine that produces a top speed of 112mph, a zero to 62mph time of 11.3 seconds and a fuel consumption of 62.8mpg.
The 500L - L stands for Large - is an enjoyable car for the driver with a nice feel about the steering and handling with quite a high driving position and the six speed manual gearbox provides smooth and precise changes although the unusual handbrake handle is quite a handful to operate.
There is a good sized load area at the rear with a smaller section under the floor and then there is a space saver spare wheel which is quite unusual these days and is another plus for the 500L - there is also a puncture repair kit.
I was also very impressed by the infotainment centre especially the touch screen radio which was extremely easy to tune unlike some systems and it also provided very good quality reception through six speakers.
My overall impression of the 500L was its size especially the height of the vehicle because it is much larger than the 500 and it is in fact quite a large car in this sector.
In the past Fiat has not had a great deal of success with larger cars but this will not be a problem with the 500L and other members of the extended 500 family for Fiat stylists have got this one just right as sales no doubt will reflect.
My Verdict: 500’s big brother cracks the size barrier.
Model: Fiat 500L 1.6 Multijet Easy.
Engine: 1.6-litre four cylinder diesel.
Output: 105bhp @ 3750rpm.
Transmission: Six speed manual.
Top speed: 112mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 11.3 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 62.8mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 117g/km.