2013 Fiat 500L 1.3 Multijet (P)

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You have to go all the way back to 1936 for the first time the 500 name was used. Half a million of the little ‘Topolino’ models were made before the ‘Nuova’ (new) 500 was introduced in July 1957.  There was a demand for small, economical cars in post-war Europe and Fiat managed to sell close to four million of of the diminutive, sub four metre cars over nearly a 20 year period. Now during this time there were evolutions from the basic design and chassis, these included the ‘D'(with a bigger engine), the ‘Giardiniera’ (estate version), the ‘R’ (with an Abarth designed engine), the ‘F’, the ‘L’, the ‘Jolly’ and so many spin offs such as the Autobianchi Bianchina, Steyr Puch 500 and Vignale Gamine.

So where is this going, you might be thinking? Well, for the purpose of this road test, we’ll barely glance over the 1991-1998 (Type 170) Cinquecento and skip straight to the Type 312 Fiat 500 that was launched in 2007.  Initially shown as the ‘Trepiùno’ concept in 2004, the production car looked very similar to the concept and also had very retro looks to link it with the 1957 version of the 500.  And it’s this that connection Fiat is building on, with its intentions to broaden the 500 range as much as possible. The current 500 has sold over a million already and Fiat is determined to capitalise on this success.  We’ve already seen the Abarth versions, the convertible versions and now it’s time for the bigger versions.

To compete with cars such as Mini’s Countryman and to bring back links with the variants of the original 500, Fiat has launched the 500L.  Soon to come will be a seven seat 500L ‘Living’ and even a mini SUV called the 500X.

It’s the first of these variants that I’ve had the chance to spend a week with.  I was actually quite excited with the prospect of discovering what this car could do.  I had already seen various photographs of the car, and it’s no big secret that’s it’s no looker!  But it’s brand new to the market, a little unusual and really does sit in a little niche all by itself.

The 500L is a funny looking thing, it’s clearly closely linked with the 500 with its cute face and bug eye headlights, but it does look like someone has given a balloon a few too many blasts with a bicycle pump.  There’s no denying, it’s a bit on the bloated side and the wheels look too small, but having said that it really does have some charm, it’s inoffensive, friendly and clearly family orientated.

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The test version was the 1.3 litre 85bhp Multijet diesel in ‘Pop Star’ trim level, which retails in the UK for £16,500. The only option that it had was the Bossa Nova white paint (£290), which did look good in the Portuguese sun.  I was very impressed with the amount of interior room, for a car that is barely over four metres long. There is no doubt that four adults could travel in comfort.  This is obviously helped by the near 1.70 metre high roof which allows the very comfortable front seats to be fairly upright and for you to sit quite naturally, only the oddly hard and not quite high enough rear head restraints spoilt the rear seat comfort as I found that they dug uncomfortably into my back.

The buttons and controls are all the usual Fiat fair. In other words they press and rotate, but not with anywhere near the same standards of quality you get in a VW product, or even in say a Skoda Yeti.  The biggest issue with the interior was the instrument binnacle, it just wasn’t quite deep enough to prevent glare, another inch or even less would have been enough

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The equipment level was very good: electric windows, electric mirrors (though they don’t fold electrically which was a shame while driving through very narrow town streets), a full complement of electronic safety functions to keep the car on the road, cruise control, four airbags, and a leather steering wheel with lots of functions.  Also included is a 5 inch full colour screen which is loaded with functions.  It starts out life as the car’s radio, but transforms itself into a comprehensive menu system for various functions within the car as well as a very comprehensive trip computer and fuel economy system.  There are two trips on there, a range calculator, real-time fuel economy and an economy meter that scores you as well as giving you traffic light style ratings on speed, gear changing, steadiness of accelerating and braking, I was chuffed to be able to manage a full complement and a score of 90!  The car was also fitted with stop-start. It was very unobtrusive and I found it to work extremely well, once neutral was engaged the engine would swiftly turn itself off and a dip of the clutch would fire up the engine very swiftly.  In fact I only caught it out once and that was only really due to my own indecisiveness when approaching a traffic lights.

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The boot was a great size, far far better than the Nissan Juke I had recently.  It has something called Cargo Magic Space: height adjustable load platform.  Basically a movable wooden floor that you slide in or out depending on how high you want it, to hide items below or take out to make the boot huge.  The rear seats slide back and forwards too to make the boot even bigger, although, as you can imagine, it does affect rear leg room a lot.  The seats fold in a 60:40 way, but I could only get the backs to fold down, I was sure that they would tip forwards, but couldn’t manage it.  Maybe I was doing something wrong, because if they do then the space in the rear would be truly vast, I’ll have to check it out again!  The seats were also covered in rather fetching and coloured ‘500L’ logos, which brightened up the interior, as did the white dashboard.

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On the subject of space, the two cupholders in the front were just that little bit too small for the large water bottles that I was having to drink from to keep hydrated in the hot Portuguese sun, but the one in the rear was bigger, so that’s where the bottle stayed.  I did find out that the gloveboxes, yes there is an upper and lower one, appeared to be air conditioned, so smaller bottles could at least stay cool in there.

Acceleration can best be described as leisurely, the accelerator pedal had a lot of travel and you needed to use a lot of it to get the car moving either from off the line or just to gain speed once on the move.  I did manage a couple of overtakes, but you needed to use three of its five gears at times and plan well ahead!  Once on the motorway and with cruise control on, it settled quite nicely and was actually quite relaxing.  The ride was a little roly-poly on minor roads, but less so than I initially imagined it would be. Bumps and rough roads were soaked up easily and with little intrusion into the cabin.  What wasn’t good was the steering. It was totally lifeless without any feel what so ever. There was weight, but it was very artificial, and there was even a lighter setting which frankly felt so weird that I couldn’t use it.  All of which was a real shame because the steering wheel was a lovely shape and size and felt really good to hold.  The brakes were strong, though I didn’t do any high speed stops!  And the pedal feel was good.

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Less performance usually means greater fuel economy, and in this case it does.  Although I was driving it fairly casually, though I dare say that this type of car will be, it was through lots of little villages, some stop-start stuff and with a mixture of motorways thrown in, I recorded 52.8mpg with an average speed of 36mph, which I was quite impressed with.

So what’s the verdict?  Well I guess it depends on which niche you place this car in.  It’s roomier than a Juke and cheaper than  a Mini Countryman. The Skoda Yeti is probably on a par and new cars like the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 are going to be close rivals, but even up against these, the 500L is a little expensive considering the little engines.  Though if space is your thing then not a lot will beat this car.  It will also be cheap to run, especially considering the CO2 of 110 g/km.  I liked it, it had a charm, I wanted to talk about it, I wanted to explore it, find new things, it could easily be a member of the family.

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Home Forums Fiat 500L 1.3 Multijet (June 2013)

This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Piers 4 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #6159

    Dan
    Member

    You have to go all the way back to 1936 for the first time the 500 name was used.  Half a million of the little ‘Topolino’ models were made before the
    [See the full post at: Fiat 500L 1.3 Multijet (June 2013)]

    #6164

    Colin
    Member

    A very thorough write up.

    I fear that over-assisted steering is another of those things which manufacturers think we all want, along with electronic handbrakes and no spare wheels.

    Despite Autocar’s rather luke warm response to the 500L, and its slightly odd looks, everyone else seems to be saying that it is quite a decent car, and your report would seem to corroborate this view. I look forward to trying one myself.

    #6171

    Dan
    Member

    It’s not even featured on the Autocar website! I had to go to Whatcar get get some details!
    I actually quite enjoyed it!

    #6172

    Dan
    Member

    Oh, and it had a manual handbrake, but as you will see from a photo it’s a very odd shape! It had a space saver tyre in the boot, but that’s better than one of those cans of yogurt!

    #6173

    Nick
    Member

    “Pop Star” trim level? Good grief …

    #6185

    Piers
    Member

    Good review, Dan.

    The few of these that I’ve seen now haven’t convinced me it’s anything other than very ugly. The Fiat 500 shape doesn’t appear to lend itself to giantising. Still, with the sheer number of MINI Countrymen and Nissan Jukes on the road you can’t blame Fiat for fancying a slice of the action. The trouble is that its larger cars never seem to make as convincing a case for themselves as its smaller ones do.

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