Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Fiat 500L: Spacious and comfortable - an all new take on the car the world has come to love

The Fiat 500L
The Fiat 500L

Fiat’s design team had their corporate finger right on the button when they came up with the modern interpretation of the company's iconic little 500 – capturing the retro mood of the market to win immediate massive sales’ success.

Given that people have grown noticeably taller and, let’s say it, fatter too, over the past half century it was no surprise that the new kid on he block was somewhat bigger than its now vintage predecessor, both inside and out.

It proved an instant winner. Since launch in 2007 more than a million 500s have been sold in a total 110 countries around the world.

Now along comes the 500L, but it is not, as we all expected, merely a stretched version, but an altogether bigger and different looking car. Indeed the width is pretty close to that of the X-Type Jaguar that I usually drive.

For once, that clichéd motor industry phrase ‘all new’ has real meaning: the 500L is longer, wider and taller than not only the 500 but the competition in its market sector. And, unlike its little sister, it has four doors.

More closely resembling the modern, bloated Mini than it does the car the world has come to love, the £17,590 base price 500L 1.6 litre Multijet Pop Star version I drove is a spacious family vehicle, with outstanding space in the rear – indeed, the highly enthusiastic delivery driver told me there’s even a seven-seat option.

Driver comfort is exceptional and the large, wrap-around windscreen proved a boon, though I did find my rather large feet tended to snag against the underside of the steering column.

On the plus side, a clear, perfectly sited fascia and ergonomically placed controls and switchgear, added to well sorted suspension and crisp steering to ensure this is a car that not only does the job but adds a healthy quotient of real pleasure to the driving experience.

My test vehicle came in a fashionable two-tone finish – particularly bright and cheerful red, with a white roof.

The cabin was cheery too, with an eye-catching red metal dash echoed in the bright red trim to the hip-hugging black seats.

An innovative 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo petrol-engined alternative to my diesel pumps out 160 brake horsepower and 184 lb-ft, producing low emissions and a 34 mpg combined cycle fuel consumption figure.

Very comprehensively equipped, the Serbian-produced 500L is a worthy addition to the Fiat group’s rapidly improving model line-up.

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