Fiat 500L

The Essentials

  • Price from £15,280
  • What Car? says: 3 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 67.0mpg
  • What is it? The Fiat 500L is a mini MPV based on the current 500 supermini, combining retro styling with more space and practicality

Great

  • It's a compact car but it's also spacious and practical
  • It's stylish and desirable, which should give it strong resale values
  • It has some good safety aids and a five-star Euro NCAP rating

Gripes

  • It's not especially good to drive
  • The petrol engines can feel a bit weedy
  • Fiat doesn't exactly have a brilliant reliability record
  • Drive

    It's okay but far from class-leading

  • Inside

    Chic, solid interior and great view out

  • Safety

    Good safety features and maximum star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests

  • Reliability

    Cabin feels solid but Fiats have a dubious reputation in general

  • Space

    Lots of room and some neat practical touches

  • Standard and extras

    All models come pretty well equipped

  • What's it like to drive?

    The Fiat 500L is easy to drive round town. The light steering is ideal for parking and negotiating busy streets, and although the suspension is a bit firm (and firmer still on Trekking models, due to their low-profile all-weather tyres), it's forgiving enough and keeps the car's tall body well controlled on bends. It's a pity, though, that the steering wheel has such an annoyingly strong self-centring action; it also feels rather vague at higher speeds. Neither of the petrol engines is very quick, but the turbocharged 0.9-litre feels the pluckier. The 1.6-litre diesel is much faster but it's a bit grumbly when it's worked hard, and drones too much on the motorway. The 0.9-litre engine is noisy, too, and the 500L kicks up quite a lot of road and wind noise.

  • What's it like inside?

    The 500L's cabin has plenty of retro chic but some of the materials are a bit low-rent, although they feel solid enough. Still, the large windows make the cabin light and airy, and the high driving position gives a brilliant view out. The dashboard is well organised and the touch-screen infotainment system is easy to use too. There's plenty of space for all but the tallest occupants, even with the rear seats slid all the way forward to increase the luggage space. The boot is a useful square shape and includes a three-position floor and handy stowage areas. You can also tumble the rear seats forward and fold the front passenger seat flat to accommodate long loads. All 500Ls come with air-con, Bluetooth and cruise control, and you can choose Pop Star for alloys or Easy for parking sensors and electric rear windows. Lounge spec is fully kitted including a panoramic roof, and all cars have a huge options list that even includes a built-in espresso machine. For a premium of around 800, the chunkier-looking Trekking models have slightly more ground clearance and a more sophisticated traction control system which make them slightly better at venturing off-road, though they're still only two-wheel-drive. Trekking models also get a low-speed collision avoidance system as standard.

  • How reliable is it?

    It's too soon to report on the 500L specifically but Fiat doesn't do that well in our surveys. That said, the cabin feels solid and durable. There are plenty of safety aids to help prevent a crash, including a system that brakes the car if it sense an impending collision, and curtain airbags that cover the rear windows, too; all of which will have helped the 500L to achieve the full five stars from Euro NCAP, including 94% for adult protection and 78% for children.

  • Should I buy one?

    The 500L is stylish, comfortable and practical; on the flip side, it's not especially good to drive, it's quite noisy and the petrol engines are a bit weedy. Still, if the downsides don't bother you then it's not a bad place to put your money. The 500L looks a bit pricey compared to other mini MPVs but you should be able to haggle the price down a fair bit, and the 500L should be worth a good percentage of its original price when you come to sell it on. It should be fairly reasonable to run, too, including relatively sparse service intervals of two years/20,000 miles.