The original Fiat 500 was first launched in 1957, with its successor more recently in 1997. Just five years on and with sales in excess of 800,000 units Fiat has just introduced this all-new 500L, a larger relation to the 500. It’s instantly recognisable as a Fiat 500 derivative, although its looks bear some resemblance to the Mini Countryman, especially when finished with a contrasting white roof and door mirrors. The 500L is 8cm longer than a Fiat Punto and can quite easily accommodate five passengers and their luggage. It’s the best in its class in terms of size and load capacity. The rear seats can slide forward and backwards to increase boot space or legroom. The boot itself offers 400 litres of load space with a three-level floor. With the rear seats folded flat the 500L can accommodate items up to 2.4m in length, perfect for a trip to your local Swedish furniture store. The front passenger seat also folds to provide a table-top space for the driver. There’s a great sense of space inside the car, both in the front and rear, with 22 storage compartments available, there’s ample room for storing your items. Standard fitment across all variants is a 5-inch touchscreen multimedia system, with optional satellite navigation. Fiat’s latest ecoDrive Live software tracks your driving in terms of efficiency and has its own app available for your smartphone. The 500L is also available with a premium sound system which has been developed in collaboration with Beats Audio, which was co-founded by Dr. Dre. A quirky piece of equipment on the options list is the Lavazza espresso machine, perfect for the Italians but probably won’t be such a hit amongst Irish motorists.
When the 500L arrives in Ireland in early 2013 customers can choose from the 1.3-litre MultiJet 2 turbo-diesel and the 900cc 105hp TwinAir two-cylinder petrol model. The former will no doubt account for the majority of sales in Ireland. It offers 85hp and 200Nm of torque. With emissions of 110g/km of CO2 it’s seated in tax band A, with €160 annual road tax. It’s fuel-efficient too, offering a combined average fuel consumption of just 4.2l/100km (67.2mpg). Both models come with ESC with traction control, hill holder, rollover mitigation and DST as standard. Fiat’s City Brake Control will be available shortly after the car’s launch, it’s an automatic collision avoidance system, to help prevent an accident in slow-moving traffic. Earlier this week, I test drove the 1.3-litre MultiJet 2 turbo-diesel model around the frenzied streets of Turin. It’s a comfortable car on the move, with adequate power available for darting through the traffic. On a short stretch of open road the 500L cruises at motorway speeds effortlessly, with an ultra-quiet ambience inside. Fiat’s engineers have spent in excess of 10,000 hours in a sound room whilst developing to car, to ensure the interior noise was kept to a minimum, their work has paid off. Its handling is satisfactory for a car of this size, Fiat have developed a new torsion bar design for the rear suspension, while there’s a traditional McPherson strut front suspension. The interior is bright and airy, the main controls are neatly placed close to the driver, for ease of operation.
There are four trim specifications available for the 500L, Pop, Pop Star, Easy and Lounge. There’s an extensive 11 exterior colours with optional contrasting black or white roofs and mirrors to choose from. The interior has seven varying configurations, with a choice of three alloy wheel designs on offer. Customers can personalise their individual car from a choice of over 140 accessories.
The Fiat 500L offers style, space and practicality in a compact but spacious form. Its customer base will more than likely come from both existing Fiat 500 owners looking to upsize, as well as new customers. Interestingly, Fiat has plans to expand the range and introduce a ‘Trekking’ version and a seven-seat variant in the future. Irish prices and full specification will be announced closer to the car’s launch early next year.