The Fiat 500L is now already for 5 years the undisputed leader in the European compact MPV segment, and its superb design, with its timeless proportions is more contemporary than ever. Its unique personality is now further enhanced with a Cross version, which lets you enjoy driving pleasures off the beaten path. We drove the rejuvenated 500L with a quite lively 120 HP state of the art MultiJet diesel, and this makes this MPV one with a very sporting heart…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The 500 L stole our heart right from its introduction, and we drove the first miles in it on the French riviera, before we were seduced by further versions we tested. The 500 L has now been extensively revised and about 40 % of the parts are new. Big strides have been made in technology and connectivity, and whilst retaining the timeless iconic overall shapes and curves, detailing has been altered mostly fore and aft. The interior also got a makeover, remaining however typically “cinquecento”. The result is an even more attractive 500 L, which now comes in three distinct personalities: the so-called Urban, Cross and Wagon.
We tested the Cross version, which externally distinguishes itself with a satin chrome finish instead of the chrome of the Urban version, and a bumper design which now resembles the 500X.
But it is not only the more rugged look for you, there is also a raised ground clearance of 25 mm, and an advanced Traction+ control system with hill descent control, or, as Fiat calls it, Gravity Control. We took this 500L through its paces on some very muddy tracks which we normally reserve for AWD and Pickups, and this 500 L Cross behaved remarkably well, although it must be said that you cannot tackle enormous potholes and should keep in mind that this is not a 4WD, so it is not built for heavy terrain. But it will get you and your family with ease through this muddy forest road to your vacation log cabin…
Pleasant cabin with state of the art connectivity…
The 500L cabin invades you with a brightness and joyous atmosphere of a cute MPV, which this 500 L truly is. The instruments are now bigger and more readable, and the multi-functional steering wheel is now also updated and fun to hold and use.
Fiat’s UConnect HD Live system is now available on this 500L, and this means also integrated Apple Play and Android Auto. A 7 inch touchscreen lets you use all the functions intuitively. It lets you connect to the numerous apps on the in-car system, such as eco:Drive, which helps you to achieve impressive fuel economy. The my:car app lets you monitor the condition of your car, and via smartphone you can check were your car is parked. It also includes facebook check-in and Twitter.
Of course you can choose between over 43 million tracks on Deezer, and over a 100 million on TuneIn. You can get traffic info and camera locations and weather forecasts on TomTom Live, for instance… We also appreciated the truly excellent Dab+ radio, letting us listen to beautifully crisp classical music and jazz… Of course there is a USB slot, and we played our stick loaded with Ludovico Einaudi, his album “Islands”, and listened with joy to tracks like “I Giorni”, or “Passagio”, or “Nuvole Bianche”, and we felt really in the white clouds…and in the Italian mood!
Fiat has launched also special “Mirror” series in the 500 and 500L range, which have the 7 inch UConnect HD Live system. These Fiats can be equipped for the first time with the innovative Mopar® Connect, and this means that you can connect to your car via your smartphone. You can locate the car in the case of theft, have remote lock/unlocking possibilities, monitor whether the driver (your child…) exceeds a set speed limit or leaves a set zone. The app has two new services, my:Assistant, my:Remote Control. My:Assistant will for instance detect emergency situations/accidents and will inform the operator, who will inform help services for instance.
Lively performance with the 120 HP Diesel
We tested the most powerful diesel version, and this makes this 500 L one of the faster compact MPV’s indeed. On paper, the acceleration performance already looks quite good, with 0 to 100 kmh reached in 11,5 seconds, but it is the generous 320 Nm of torque being available at 1750 rpm which makes accelerations in lower gears quite vigorous indeed, provided you keep the engine “on song” however, say above 1500 rpm. The powerful 120 HP engine gives you also ample power even under full load, and motorway hills are taken with a breeze. Top speed is 115 mph or 185 km, so this leaves you smiling too.
Broad smiles can also be had at the fuel pump, as of course a lot depends on your driving style. Reaching averages around 6 liters/100 km and lower proved no trouble at all, with the manufacturer quoting 4,3 liters as average consumption.
Enough bins and spaces to leave your sundry items, and the interior is roomy and versatile as it is fitting for an MPV. Last but not least there is a 455 liter luggage space with both rear seat backrests up. These rear backrests can be split, and when both are flattened, it leaves you 1480 liters, which lets you transport the goodies from the antique or Ikea store…
Comfortable and nippy
The 500L has with this 120 HP a lot of good punch, as we said, with on top of that quite a comfortable suspension. It does not invite you to throw it around corners, but it will very well hold its own with predictable and stable handling, and is certainly not afraid of rain soaked and slippery roads.
The 500L is quite endearing in this Cross version, adding versatility to its already practical MPV layout. We loved the infotainment, the connectivity, the joyous and bold styling of the Cross version. It proves again how well the FCA Group understands the art of making compact cars, with iconic flair and timelessly charming curves and proportions. They drive and handle well, and last but not least are quite frugal. This 500L should definitely be on your list when you are looking for a compact MPV which will provide you pleasure for years to come…
Hans Knol ten Bensel