From £13,6857
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

Our Verdict

Fiat 500L

Bigger take on 500 recipe forsakes some style for much more practicality, but loses some charm in the process

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 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 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 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.

Should I buy one?

Even with its styling updates, the 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 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

Join the debate

Comments
28

1 June 2017
Really? I don't see much that's particularly retro-influenced about an amorphous blob on wheels.

1 June 2017
but only photos of the outside. Thanks.

1 June 2017
Shrub wrote:

but only photos of the outside. Thanks.

the internet's a wonderful thing ;
https://www.netcarshow.com/fiat/2018-500l/1600x1200/wallpaper_0c.htm

1 June 2017
The cut girl's fat sister!

1 June 2017
But I actually really like this and always have. Would I buy one though? Probably not. There's your problem.

1 June 2017
"the Fiat 500L has been a sales success for Fiat, shifting more than 430,000 units since launching in 2012" -

A sales success? But I hardly see any. Most likely it's mainly for domestic consumption. Italians tend to buy Italian cars. So Fiat doesn't have to try too hard. But the more Fiat relies on the domestic market the less it's able to compete internationally.

1 June 2017
abkq wrote:

"the Fiat 500L has been a sales success for Fiat, shifting more than 430,000 units since launching in 2012" -

A sales success? But I hardly see any. Most likely it's mainly for domestic consumption. Italians tend to buy Italian cars. So Fiat doesn't have to try too hard. But the more Fiat relies on the domestic market the less it's able to compete internationally.

I'd say 430,000 units sold over a five-year period was successful. Simply because you yourself "hardly see any" doesn't alter the fact.

I admire Italians for patronising their motor industry. They build interesting cars which are fun to drive. The reason the British motor industry disappeared is because the British were simply ambivalent about it.

1 June 2017
Well the styling is no worse than the car Homer Simpson designed...

Citroëniste.

1 June 2017
its funny that people slate these cars even though they have never been in one or driven if you point out that some times fiat are offering massive discounts that make them as cheap as a normal 500 they are worth it even more so this doesn't make it a bad car other brands offer big discounts as well but because it says fiat and not VW or Ford people jump on the band wagon I think you should all nip down to your local dealer and have a drive you will be surprised not just buy this but all the other cars FCA do

1 June 2017
Not often I'd call a Mini Countryman good looking, but that's what it is compared to the 500L IMO.

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