You get the Fiat 500L of course!
Price: From £14,990
Available: March 2013
When MyCarCoach founder Nick Johnson approached me to write a blog post at the launch of Fiat’s new 500L, I was a little hesitant at first but, as he rightly pointed out, being an existing Fiat 500 owner (‘Betty’ to me) it marked me out to be the best person for the job!
So, if you are sitting down and comfortable, I shall begin:
The Fiat 500L (“500L”) is the new, grown up model in the Fiat 500 family rounding out the model range (the “L” standing for “Large”). Based upon the idea of the original Fiat 600 of the mid 50’s/60’s, the 500L is considered mid-size and offers the looks of a chunky off roader without actually offering four wheel drive – a Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) if you will.
This is a car that has been designed primarily for existing 500 owners to trade up into as their life becomes more grown up. So rather than have customers leave the Fiat brand in search of something equally cute but crucially bigger, the 500L fills that previous void in Fiat’s model range.
Your first impression as you approach the 500L is one of shock, and awe, but in a good way! Standing in at just over 1.5 metres in height (that’s just under 5 and a half feet in old money) and 4 metres in length, the 500L is certainly “Large” being half a metre longer than the diminutive 500.
The 500L comes in three models: the Pop Star, the Easy and the Lounge.
All three models come in petrol or diesel with a manual gearbox as standard although a semi-automatic (Dualogic) transmission is also available and should be your transmission of choice if you do a lot of town driving. Entry price is £14,990 for either the Pop Star or Easy models.
All models also come with the new 5” touchscreen radio (DAB radio upgrade available for £100) with Bluetooth, USB and AUX-IN connection points but can be upgraded to a very hip “Beats by Dre” Hi-Fi system for £500.
Standard on the Lounge (and available as a £500 upgrade on the Pop Star and Easy models) is the glass roof (with a 1.5m2 surface) which covers the entire seating area – a lovely, and needed, touch. I would imagine it could be a little cave like inside without it, so if you like the feeling of openness (and who doesn’t to be fair), then tick this box on the spec sheet.
Some of the colour choices of the 500 have made it through to the 500L (it’s all in the family remember) with the standard color being Pasadoble Red (the crisp Bossa Nova White that came as standard on the 500 is now available on the 500L albeit as a cheeky £290 upgrade). You can also have the choice of a black and two shades of grey for an upgrade (£290 for the Darkwave Black and £450 for Heavy Metal Grey or Minimal Grey) on the Pop Star and Easy models or, a new feature on the 500L, a two tone paint job for an upgrade of £800 where the roof is painted a different colour to the body a la MINI (see website for specific colors).
The 500L is a four door hatchback with over 40% more interior space than the 500 and seats 5 adults (compared to 4 of the 500). Leg room, both in the front and rear, is no longer a luxury but a standard comfort.
The fact that this is a five-door model is a boon for families now too, no more struggling and head scratching in trying to fit your baby seat into your 500!
With large windows all around combined with the optional massive glass roof feature, the 500L gives a feeling of openness throughout and around the car.
The back seats offer a fold down option in what Fiat are calling the Fold&Tumble System to create an almost Volvo like ability in being able to transport luggage – great for those Saturday trips to Ikea and then the tip to dump all the bits that you couldn’t quite assemble!
The steering wheel is deemed a squircle, that’s a mix of a square/circle for those who are not practised in the world of 2012 automotive marketing!
As mentioned above, there are three models of the 500L – the Pop Star, the Easy and the Lounge. The differences between them are whether you prefer exterior style (the Pop Star), interior glamour (the Easy) or the best of both (the Lounge).
Coming standard in both the Pop Star and the Easy is air conditioning, cruise control and 16” wheels, however, the Pop Star comes with alloys and the Easy with steel (i.e. hubcaps/wheel covers). Both also come with Cargo Magic Space which Fiat describes as an extra storage shelf in the boot. An adjustable shelf can be altered in height (up to about 3inches) and the “magic” bit comes when the shelf is put to the ground creating a secret compartment underneath!
The Pop Star comes with specific side mouldings which give a nice exterior touch whereas the Easy comes with rear parking sensors and electronic rear windows (both models come with electronic front windows as standard so be sure your rear passengers have plenty of elbow grease to roll their windows if you go for the Pop Star model!).
The Lounge is the 500L “upgraded” model including both exterior and interior upgrades and coming standard with 16” alloy wheels, 2-zone auto climate control, fog lights, rear parking sensors, rear electronic windows, glass roof and automatic light with rain sensors. For an upgrade, you can specify an electronic sun roof and dark tinted windows.
The dashboard of all three models still offers the charm from the original 500 but this time offers retro albeit with a modern twist as given by the centrally mounted large touchscreen.
The one area where the interior disappoints is the seats. Comfortable to sit on yes, but not so easy on the eyes. The fabric seats in the Pop Star and Easy come in two tone (Red/Black or Black/Grey) with either a black, red, dark grey or light grey dashboard (for specific color choices, please see Fiat website). The 500 logo with an added “L” is stitched into the seats in white, red and grey thread.
The interior seats and dashboard of the Lounge are nicer with both coming standard in suede and a fancier “500 logo” stitching (see website for pictures and available colours).
If diesel is your fuel of choice, then you can specify either a 1.3 or 1.6 litre derivatives. Should you want your 500L to change the gears for you, all three models are available with the semi-automatic (Dualogic) gearbox starting at £17,390 for the Pop Star and Easy range and £18,790 for the Lounge (an “automatic” increase in price of £2,400).
Fiat’s petrol revolutionary TwinAir motor (the tiny but very charismatic two cylinder engine) is also available on all three models for an upgrade of £1,500 (see the MyCarCoach article on the Fiat 500 TwinAir for more TwinAir details: https://www.mycarcoach.co.uk/news/category/car-reviews/fiat/.
If none of those grab your attention, then you can always pick the steadfast 1.4 cylinder petrol engine.
The 500L boasts a 5* category for safety featuring ABS (anti-lock braking system), ESC (electronic stability control) and Hill Holder (holding your position steady in the moment of change from brake pedal to accelerator). An assortment of air bags also come as standard.
The list of items that can be added for an upgrade is long. Floor mats (£50), smoking kit (£50), driver’s seat with arm rest (£100), height adjustable passenger seat (£100), heated front seats (£150) are but to name a few (for a full list with prices per model, see website).
The 500L is a nice large car, but for the starting (and upgraded) price, has many comparative rivals. The initial impression of “wow” is a welcome surprise (after seeing early press releases) and the need to upgrade will be automatic for some but when you start to upgrade, that “wanting” passes and reality quickly steps in, my ideal spec came to £20,280 – ouch. The “I just want to pick it up and go vroom, vroom” feeling you get with the 500 is lost here and, instead, you feel like the car is likely to “vroom vroom” you all the way to the bank– it is a 500 that has spent a lot of time in the gym, on steroids!
At the time of writing this article, a convertible model had not yet been announced although Johnson’s Alfa Romeo Fiat dealership in Solihull advised one is most likely to be announced in a year’s time from launch. Leather seats were also not available at time of publishing, disappointment considering that these items help to give the standard 500 a very exclusive stylish feel.
So to the $64,000 question, would I replace my ‘Betty’ with one and the answer is………….not at this stage. Personally, I do not need the family like space you get with the 500L and I can’t fall in love with it, in the same way that I did when I first laid eyes on a 500 in Bossa Nova white! But, if I had an expanding family then yes it would be high on my list and it will be a natural progression for many existing 500 owners!
At the time of writing this article, most show rooms in the UK were only displaying a demonstration model of the Pop Star range. First delivery dates are expected to be March 2013 but, as mentioned above, Fiat are now taking pre-orders for specifications to be confirmed later.
To arrange a test drive or for further information, MyCarCoach should be your first point of call. They secured me the car of my dreams 3 years ago and have been a great support ever since!
© Mandy Kaur Guest writer and experienced Fiat 500 owner for MyCarCoach.
Mini – Countryman from £16,450
Pros – Retains a lot of the MINI charm but in a more family friendly package
Cons – Not exactly a looker.