After the success of the Fiat 500, Fiat pursued a Mini-esque brand extension with vigour, developing what it calls a ‘500 family’, which expands to the 500L, Fiat 500L MPW, 500L Trekking and the Fiat 500X.
That’s why this 500L model - a much bigger car than the 500, and based on an adapted Fiat Punto platform, still retains the marketable ‘500’ badge.
The hope is to retain current 500 buyers as their needs evolve, with inspiration from the space efficient 600 Multipla of 1956. With the Fiat’s endless customisation options and yesteryear appeal, the Mini Countryman comes to mind, but in reality the two cars are quite different, the 500L is a small MPV with added retro-influenced charm – an alternative to a Citroen C3 Picasso or Mini Clubman.
There’s a choice of three engines: a 1.4-litre 94bhp four-cylinder petrol powered unit and a 94bhp 1.3-litre turbo-diesel and a 118bhp 1.6-litre Mulitjet II diesel.
Inside, you sit high and upright on seats with a short squab, your eye seduced by the clever A-pillar/quarterlight design that gives the impression of a curved windscreen like that of the original 50s Multipla. In fact, the quarterlights allow for decent visibility at junctions, unlike many modern cars, and this, added to the painted sections of the dashboard, lift the interior despite some distinctly average plastics in places.
Perhaps the car’s biggest asset is its flexible interior. There’s up to 400 litres of storage in the boot with the rear seats pushed forward – with them slid back the rear legroom is very generous. A clever mechanism means that with one pull of the handle the rear seats flip up and forward in one automatic movement, although the backrests can simply be folded flat too if desired.