ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: Fiat 500L 1.6 MultiJet 105hp Pop Star. Motoring writer Keith Ward tries a taste of la dolce vita with Fiat’s supermini
FIAT’s little retro-styled 500 has been a huge success, so you can’t blame them for trying to cash in with a few variants – firstly a hot Abarth, then a convertible, a stretched 500L MP with five doors, tried here, and that even stretched further into a seven-seater MPW.
Prices have risen, too, starting now just above £10,000 for the original 500 model and topping out at over £20,000 for the ultimate seven-seater.
While the 500 is cute, the 500L is bulked into a chunky mini-MPV, almost two feet longer and seven inches taller. It’s longer than a Punto and as wide as a Bravo. Some will remember and compare it with the much uglier Multipla.
With average-sized adults aboard, the rear pair (three at a squeeze) can enjoy around seven inches of kneeroom – nigh on L for limo comfort – and headroom is relatively generous, too.
There are some eye-candy hues among the claimed 300 colour combinations available. Ours looked very smart in “Pasadoble” red with a white roof (£800 extra) and upsized 17-inch alloys with a white diamond finish (£350).
Not just a pretty face, the 500L has practical qualities. The deep boot floor can be slotted to two higher positions, flush with the rear sill for sliding in your luggage or up again to merge with the tumbled-down rear seats into an extended deck, well over a metre long. At 400 litres’ capacity it holds 50 litres more than a VW Golf, boast Fiat. For longer, narrow items up to 2.4 metres the front passenger seat can be folded down. The rear seats divide, slide and recline.
Among a quoted 22 storage compartments, a generous double-decked glovebox has a handy non-slip ledge between. There are also scooped-out ledges on the back of the front seats. For kiddies’ items, perhaps? But our basic (of three) Pop Star trim did not stretch to fold-out tables and nets.
The rather heavy tailgate does lift high but the hard edge of the suspended parcel shelf can catch your forehead as you lean into the boot – a shortcoming shared by many another hatchback.
A five-inch touchscreen audio system is standard, but navigation comes only with a £500 optional pack, to include DAB radio. Another range-wide option is a £600, 10-speaker upgrade called Beats Audio, pioneered by Fiat in the 500L.
And get this all who feel naked stalking a city street without a cardboard cup of coffee grasped sternly in the hand: The 500L is reckoned to the first standard production car in the world to sport its own espresso coffee-making machine. As a £200 option, it is built into the body-coloured dashboard. (Spoon, sugar and Lavazza capsules extra). Presumably it will be made clear you don’t brew up while driving.
At £17,490 the test car came as standard with air con (upgraded to climate for £250), cruise control, electric front windows and mirrors, height-adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel, Bluetooth hands-free and six airbags.
The “largest glass roof in this class” is standard with top Lounge trim, otherwise a £550 option,or total £950 with electric opening.
Of the four engines available, ours was the top 1.6 MultiJet 105hp diesel, mated to a fairly clunky six-speed manual gearbox for an average sort of performance, pulling a relaxed 2,000 rpm at 70 mph in top and recording easily over 50 mpg. Intrusive noise came not from below bonnet but the broad 225/45 Continentals on those optional 17-inch alloys. The steering could be lightened in town at the press of a button.
In a bright and comfortable cabin, visibility for the driver is improved by the strength-giving A-pillars at the side of the windscreen being split into two-pronged affairs. You look through them.
The 500L is built in Serbia, 70 miles south of Belgrade at what was the old Zastava plant, given a radical three-year, billion-plus euros refit.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Fiat 500L 1.6 MultiJet 105hp Pop Star.
BODY STYLE: Five-door; five-seat mini-MPV.
ENGINE: Diesel, 1,598cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged, six-speed manual, stop-start.
POWER: 105bhp @3,750rpm; max torque 320Nm @ 1,750 rpm.
PERFORMANCE: 112mph; 0-62 in 11.3 seconds.
ECONOMY: On test 51.6; official combined 62.8; tank 50 litres.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 117g/km; band C; Nil then £30 annual VED disc.
INSURANCE: Group 17.
PRICE: £17,490; as tested incl options £19,650.