With no mechanical changes it’s a familiar story to the previous 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.
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.