From £19,6707
The facelifted Fiat 500L gets a redesigned front end and a new interior, but no mechanical changes means it's still only average to drive

What is it?

No matter how divisive its looks are, the Fiat 500L has been a sales success for Fiat, shifting more than 430,000 units since launching in 2012. However, here in the UK sales have been more stunted than those on the continent. There was great interest in the immediate aftermath of its launch, but the arrival of the 500X crossover slowed sales as customers preferred the more traditional 500-look of the Fiat 500X, as opposed to the bloated 500L.

The 500L has now been facelifted, and although nothing mechanical has changed, Fiat says more than 40% of this model’s components are new. These new bits are mainly styling tweaks, with the car having a redesigned front end – so it bears more resemblance to the 500 city car – and a new interior.

It’s available in three different forms: the 500L Urban is the standard car that will take the biggest chunk of sales, but there’s also a seven-seat 500L Wagon as well as a lightly off-road-styled Fiat 500L Cross, which replaces the old Trekking model. The Urban and Wagon are available in Popstar and Lounge trims, while the Cross comes in one trim only.

We’re driving the 500L Urban with a 1.6-litre diesel engine - the combination that's expected to be the biggest seller in the UK – in range-topping Lounge trim. Official pricing is yet to be confirmed, but it’s expected to stick closely to the outgoing model, which is priced from £15,000 to £22,000.

What's it like?

With no mechanical changes it’s a familiar story to the previous Fiat 500L in terms of how it drives.

That means it’s inoffensive around town, handling predictably with urban-friendly light steering and firm damping that isn’t uncomfortable but is unsettled by imperfections.

While the engine is powerful enough around town, get to faster roads and you’ll be wishing for more oomph. The throttle response is laggy, so pace is slow to build, and there’s very little action from low revs until a surge of power kicks in around 2500rpm.

When fully loaded with the family and their luggage, the 500L will feel gutless on long journeys. When pushed hard the engine predictably groans, but at idle and on gentle urban journeys it's pretty hushed, and refinement is generally good, with little wind or road noise entering the interior.

Although it’s a tall car, body roll in corners is well controlled. However, it doesn’t feel very agile and struggles to shift its weight quickly, with grabby brakes and light steering that doesn’t make cornering particularly confidence-inspiring. The gearbox is at least accurate and slick, even if the gearlever is made from cheap-feeling plastic.

But for buyers looking at this kind of car, it will be town manners and interior quality that are likely to matter more than its dynamics. The interior is a considerable step up from the old 500L, with a new 7.0in touchscreen with the latest Uconnect infotainment system available on top-spec Lounge models, and switchgear that mostly seems good quality, if still a little plasticky.

There’s decent space up front and the driving position is very upright; while that may not suit everyone, it does offer good visibility all round. In the back seats, there’s plenty of leg room – and the bench can be handily moved forwards or back – but the panoramic sunroof, which comes as standard on Lounge trim, severely impedes on head room in the back, so much so that tall adults will struggle to sit upright.

Back to top

As for the rivals, the 500L straddles the line between MPV and SUV. It’s not quite big enough to be an out-and-out people-carrier, but nor does it offer the off-road bias of an SUV. In that respect, it's similar to the new Vauxhall Crossland X. That car's boot is marginally bigger than the 500L's, but the Fiat is better to drive and has a lot more character to it.

Should I buy one?

Even with its styling updates, the Fiat 500L still has a face that only a mother could love, but fashion-conscious family-types could well fall for its sized-up-500 allure.

For outright practicality though, bigger MPVs such as the Renault Scénic wipe the floor with the 500L (the Scénic has a 572-litre boot, while the 500L's is 400 litres). The Scénic will be much more expensive, though. So, in the 500L's price bracket, the Citroën C3 Picasso offers more practicality and is likely to be cheaper, while the Vauxhall Crossland X is also fair competition.

The 500L's facelift hasn't addressed its dynamic shortcomings, but the interior is a big step forwards and it still has that retro-influenced charm, so if it gets an attractive price this 500L could make more of an impact in the UK.

Fiat 500L 1.6 Multijet 120 Lounge

Location Turin, Italy On sale September Price £21,000 (est) Engine 4 cyls in line, 1598cc, turbocharged diesel Power 118bhp at 3750rpm Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerbweight 1380kg (est) 0-62mph 10.7sec Top speed 117mph Economy 67.3mpg CO2/tax band 112g/km, 24% Rivals Vauxhall Crossland X, Citroen C3 Picasso

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Add a comment…
Chazndave 8 June 2017

Gutless when fully loaded on Long journeys?? Utter rubbish

I've had my 500 L trekking 120 multijet for nearly 3 years and I absolutely love it. A brilliant car for the money. Have taken it to Italy and back (1,700 mile round trip) fully ladened with the family and loads of luggage that is just eaten up by the boot and it is a joy to drive on the motorway. Pulls away easily and swiftly at 80mph+ if needed but is especially impressive on the steep inclines on the motorway approaching Mont Blanc. Have no idea what possessed Doug Revolta to suggest it was sluggish and gutless on long journeys? I have experienced the complete opposite! Better car and more value for money than a Golf!
Padraic 6 June 2017

We have a number of these

We have a number of these Fiat 500 Ls on our fleet and I can say over 3 years and an average of 145,000 kilometres they have proved robust and reliable. Not one break down/recovery and other than usual servicing only issue has been replacement of front shock mounts. Very impressed with running costs of the diesel also. Only issues our drivers report is the styling and silly headrests!

I note somebody suggests they sell well in Italy. I read recently they are poor sellers there. Its largest market is I understand France followed by Belgium, Germany and then Italy!

Supererogation 2 June 2017

Metallic Manure

Perhaps the 'Metallic Manure' hue is a Freudian slip from the FCA demo team?
Spanner 3 June 2017


Supererogation wrote:

Perhaps the 'Metallic Manure' hue is a Freudian slip from the FCA demo team?


bhakes 3 June 2017


Best dealer in the country !!
Spanner 3 June 2017

bhakes wrote:

bhakes wrote:

Best dealer in the country !!