Fiat 500L MPV review
“The Fiat 500L is a spacious and distinctive family car but it feels a little outdated now"
- Noisy at speed
- Rivals are better to drive
- One available engine is slow
The Fiat 500L shares many styling cues with the Fiat 500 and is aimed at buyers who like the looks of the popular hatchback but need more room. In the past it was a rival for cars like the Ford B-Max and Vauxhall Meriva but these have now been replaced by trendy small SUVs, so the Fiat ploughs a fairly lonely furrow if you want a small, cheap MPV.
The seven-seat 500L Wagon is no longer available but the standard 500L does at least offer a good selection of different trim levels. There’s the entry-level Pop, the tech-focused Connect and the Sport, plus a Hey Google special edition that’s a tie-in with the tech giant. The last remaining trim level is called the 500L Cross, and it features 4x4 styling cues and a light dose of off-road ability – although don’t confuse this with the Fiat 500X SUV, which is an entirely separate model that we've reviewed here.
Since launch, the 500L received criticism that it stretched Fiat 500 design cues beyond breaking point and ended up looking rather contrived. However, a facelift in late 2017 claimed to "reinforce the family feeling of the model". This update was also boasted to have replaced some 40% of the car's components, although many of them presumably look very similar to the previous ones.
Visually, the biggest changes are to the car's front end, but you could be excused for not noticing the chrome headlamp surrounds and modified lower front bumper, while the tiny front 'grille' has a different insert than before. The interior received similarly subtle changes, too, with a updated instrument cluster that gained a more informative centre display and a gearlever raised to be easier to reach.
So, aside from its association with the ever-fashionable Fiat 500 hatchback, what else does this bigger model have to offer? Well, it’s definitely a comfortable car thanks to its soft suspension, while the one petrol engine on offer makes it a fairly affordable car to buy.
The flipside to those qualities is that rival cars are more engaging to drive and quicker than the 500L. The 94bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine keeps the cost of the 500L down but it takes almost 14 seconds to haul the car from 0-62mph. Fiat has since fitted a mild-hybrid petrol engine to the 500 but it’s likely the 500L will soldier on with its existing engine.
It's not quick, but the 500L isn't particularly cheap to run either. Claimed economy is 38mpg so it's not ideal for higher-mileage drivers, although insurance premiums should be low. It’s also a practical car thanks to its folding front passenger seat, sliding rear seats and roomy boot - although bear in mind that the basic Pop model is a strict four-seater.
Too few Fiat 500L owners responded for the car to be ranked in our 2021 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey and Fiat came 26th out of 29 manufacturers in our brand rankings, a decidedly disappointing result. Questions remain about how safe the 500L will be because its five-star rating was recorded way back in 2012 and the Euro NCAP crash tests are far more strict now.