FIAT 500L


Debut: 2012
Maker: FIAT
Predecessor: Idea



 Published on 11 Jul 2012 All rights reserved. 



Fiat's nameplates are mostly misleading. Bravo is not so bravo; Panda is not as cute as it sounds; Idea is not exactly a new idea. The latest addition to the list is 500L, a car that sounds like a large version of 500 but is actually a derivative of the Punto platform. It is just styled to give a limited degree of relevance to the little 500.

The 500L succeeds Idea to be Fiat's B-segment compact MPV. It no longer wants to sell on high practicality and value for money alone. Seeing the success of BMW's Mini Countryman, the Italian thought maybe it could inject a strong sense of style and fashion into the small MPV to create a new icon. This should return a higher profit margin while keep it save from the throat-cutting competition with Citroen C3 Picasso, Opel Meriva, Toyota Verso-S (Ractis), Kia Venga and Skoda Roomster. However, to create a new icon from clean sheet has never been easy. It may take a lot of expensive marketing yet there is no guarantee of positive reception. An easier way is to take advantage of an established iconic nameplate, style it like an extension of that car and people will get the idea immediately. Here comes the 500 nameplate.



The 500L has some resemblance to the 500 in its headlights and front fascia, but their similarity stops there. The MPV is not only much larger – a massive 600 mm longer, 160 mm wider, 180 mm taller and 312 mm longer in wheelbase – but it is shaped much squarer, contrasting to the egg shape of the smaller car. Part of the squareness is due to the need to maximize interior space. Less understandable is why it also mixes the "squicle" theme of new Panda (see the wheel arches, front and front bumpers and side stripes). The blackened pillars and wrap-around glasshouse are also clear departure from the 500. Nevertheless, you can still tell its common genes with the 500, not necessarily from its limited shared features but probably from its strong emphasis on style, in particular at the chroming on small details. Such a strong attention to details is absent on other Fiat products bar the 500.

In the cabin, there is even less resemblance to the 500. The squicle steering wheel comes from Panda despite of a classier finishing. The instrument gets glowing backlit but otherwise it looks conventional – no match with the 500's concentric dial for visual appeal. The dashboard and center console are equally conventional. Hard plastics are used everywhere, although you can customize the cabin with color panels as in the 500, Mini or DS3. What this cabin really stands out is practicality. Visibility is excellent all round thanks to the massive glass area. A large panoramic glass roof adds further to the airiness. The high and upright seating arrangement in combination with 2612 mm wheelbase (that's 72 mm longer than C3 Picasso's) result in a spacious interior for 4 adults. Rear legroom is limousine-like if you slide the adjustable rear seat all the way backward. Moreover, the wide cabin and a minimal central tunnel allow the fifth passenger to sit with decent comfort.



To qualify as a 5-seat MPV, the car offers countless of storage cubbies and a flexible cargo space. The 40/60-split rear seats can fold flat, tumble forward, or slide back and forth to alter the distribution between passenger and cargo space. At its foremost position, there is a commanding 400 liters of luggage space. The front passenger seat can fold to accommodate surf boards. The boot has a partition floor adjustable to 3 different heights. On the equipment side, the funky MPV offers classier options like a touch-screen multimedia system and even a coffee maker!

Like many Fiat small cars preceding it, the 500L is far stronger at packaging than driving dynamics. A cap on R&D spending means it has to source most critical components from Punto, itself an old car already. The platform is not particularly stiff or well insulated from NVH by modern standards. Neither does its electrical power steering deliver the best feedback and consistent weighting for its kind. More problematic is the additional weight the MPV carries – about 100 kg more than an equivalent Punto – and the high center of gravity it has to bear, i.e. much beyond the level of the Punto component set can withstand. The result is a driving dynamics that feels most at home in town, where its light steering and soft suspension shine. Try to up the pace on highway and you will find its performance is marginal, no matter with which of the 3 engines. High-speed cruising is accompanied with a floating ride and intrusive wind noise. Take a high-speed bend and the car rolls alarmingly, while the steering feels wooden and imprecise. What feels so nimble in town becomes unwieldy when you up the pace.


Three engines are offered at launch. The 1.4-liter 16V FIRE used to work brilliantly on the old Panda 100HP, but given 200 more kilograms of load and a reduction of 5 horsepower to 95, this engine obviously lacks bottom-end torque to cope with the car, even though it still plays a sporty sound. Not a bad engine, but it just doesn't suit this car. On the contrary, the 85 hp 1.3 Multijet turbo diesel is satisfyingly torquey, offering more useable performance and lower fuel consumption, but it takes 14 long seconds to go from 0-60 mph. Theoretically, the range-topping 875cc TwinAir turbo is the best of both worlds. Its output is lifted by 20 hp to 105 hp compare with the existing unit on 500, Panda and Punto. This sounds more than enough to compensate for the extra weight. In reality, the TwinAir is again hampered by the lack of refinement – noisier and more vibration than the four-cylinders – and a real-world economy falling a long way behind its claim. It does offer the strongest mid-range punch from 2000 rpm upward, but it does not suit the frequent start-stop pattern of town driving.

Judging from its cute looks, roomy cabin and versatile packaging, I would like to love the 500L. Unfortunately, it has serious shortcomings in performance, handling and even driving refinement. This mean it still fails to match Citroen C3 Picasso in the sea of affordable compact MPVs.
Verdict: 
 Published on 18 Jul 2013 All rights reserved. 
500L Living


Nearly 60 years ago Fiat pioneered the concept of mini-MPV with 600 Multipla. It magically packed 3 rows of seats in a body measuring only 3.4 meters long. Today's 500L Living isn't quite as compact. It is 920 mm longer than the old car, 330 mm wider and runs a wheelbase 600 mm longer. Despite that, it is the smallest 7-seater available today.

While all rivals ride on C-segment or larger platforms, the Fiat employs a smaller B-segment platform. This should give it some advantages in costs but there are also many compromises. One of which is the 2612 mm wheelbase, i.e. identical to the standard 500L's because it is already the maximum limit of the platform. The Living has to extend the rear overhang to accommodate a pair of extra seats, yet the latter are only large enough to seat children. In fact, the third row is optional. Without them, you get a huge luggage space of 638 liters with 5 seats in place. With them fitted, you can still fold them flat onto the floor to place larger cargos. Unfortunately, the extension of length does hurt the looks, which has lost the funky style of the standard car.



Carrying an extra 50 kilos, the standard car's mediocre performance is even more marginal. Not even the most powerful & torquey 1.6 Multijet turbo diesel with 105 hp and 236 lbft can provide brisk performance. It accelerates from rest to 60 mph at over 11 seconds and flat out at 112 mph. To many family drivers, that might be more than adequate, but smaller engines will struggle to keep them happy on motorway when overtaking is required. There is decent body control for such a tall car – actually better than the standard car – while ride quality is firm but not uncomfortable, thanks to the Koni frequency selective dampers which switch to hard damping for low frequency excitation (i.e. cornering) or soft damping for higher frequency ones (e.g. running over undulations). However, it doesn't change the fact that the car is dull to drive. The steering is numb and imprecise, and the powertrain lacks sparkle. It seems that the further the car is expanded, the less magic of the Fiat 500 remains.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
500L 1.3 Multijet
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4147 / 1784 / 1665 mm
2612 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1248 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
85 hp
147 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55R16
1315 kg
102 mph (c)
14 (est)
-
500L 1.4 16V
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4147 / 1784 / 1665 mm
2612 mm
Inline-4
1368 cc
DOHC 16 valves
-
-
95 hp
94 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55R16
1245 kg
106 mph (c)
12 (est)
-
500L TwinAir
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4147 / 1784 / 1665 mm
2612 mm
Inline-2
875 cc
DOHC 8 valves, VVT+VVL
Turbo
-
105 hp
107 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55R16
1260 kg
112 mph (c)
11.5 (est)
-




Performance tested by: -





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission

Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)

0-100 mph (sec)

500L 1.4 Turbo (US)
2013 (2016)
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4147 / 1784 / 1665 mm
2612 mm
Inline-4
1368 cc
SOHC 16 valves, VVT+VVL
-
-
160 hp
184 lbft
6-speed manual or 6-speed twin-clutch (6-speed auto)
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55R16
1453 kg
124 mph (c)
6M: 8.7*; 6DCT: 9.1*
(6A: 8.0*)
6M: 25.2*; 6DCT: 25.1*
(6A: 23.9*)
500L Living 1.6 Multijet
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4352 / 1784 / 1667 mm
2612 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1598 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
105 hp
236 lbft
6-speed manual

F: strut
R: torsion-beam
Mechanical adaptive
205/55R16
1410 kg (est)
112 mph (c)
11.5 (est)

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Performance tested by: *C&D





AutoZine Rating

500L


500L Living



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