“Growing up is cool,” according to Fiat. With quotes such as, “Youth is a state of mind,” Fiat is presenting the 500L as a “grown up” version of the Fiat 500.
This is evident just by looking at it. It still maintains the classic 500 look but with bigger dimensions. As subjective as styling is, I quite like the odd look, but this may be due to the fact that there’s an example of the similar-sized Mini Countryma round every corner in Cape Town. The 500L offers a new, fresh look. It comes in seven different colour options, four pastel and three metallic. Two spec levels are offered, Easy or Lounge. The Lounge comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels but 17-inch alloys are optional.
The local launch took us along the winding coast of Cape Town through to the picturesque Winelands and with the 500L’s large windows and panoramic sunroof this model was well suited to the drive. It is one of the first things I noticed when climbing in to the cabin, the flood of light and visibility. The glass roof is 1, 5 m2 and is available in two versions: electric or fixed. You feel as if you are sitting as high up as you would in an MPV or SUV. The driver and passenger seats offer six positions and the steering wheel is rake and reach adjustable making it really easy to find a comfortable driving position. Unfortunately for me, this meant my view of the instrument cluster was obstructed, but admittedly I might sit higher than most people.
The cabin is notably spacious. The boot boasts a capacity of 400 litres. The rear seats have a 60:40 split. The Lounge model impresses with a look and feel of suede on parts of the dashboard and a two-tone cloth and suede trim. Standard features on the Easy and Lounge models include electric front windows, electric power steering with City function, leather multifunction steering wheel, UConnect touchscreen radio with Bluetooth and a 12 V power socket. The Lounge adds rear electric windows, Skydome sunroof, automatic dual-zone climate control and electrically adjustable side mirrors. The cabin was my favourite part of the car, it was funky yet stylish and where space is important to me, this car ticked that box and some.
The 1,6 16-valve turbodiesel engine produces 77 kW and 320 N.m of torque. It has a top speed of 181 km/h and gets from 0-100 km/h in 11,3 seconds. Around the city, this engine is sufficient, but loaded with family and luggage and hit the open road I fear it may struggle. The 1,4 petrol engine will create even more of a problem. After only driving it briefly I was left frustrated not being able to overtake on a hill or even attempt to keep up with the 1,6 version in front of me I needed to follow in order to get home. It produces 70 kW and 127 N.m of torque. However, performance is not the aim of the 500L, efficiency is. The fuel consumption on the 1,6L is claimed at 4,5 L/100 km and 6,2 L/100 km on the 1,4L. CO2 emissions are at 117 g/100 km and 145 g/100 km respectively.
The steering was light and if you press the City function it becomes even lighter, which felt a bit uneasy. As was also noted as immediately noticeable by my colleague was the large gear lever with its long throw action. As was some unsettling body roll. The ride, however, is smooth and road noise is minimal.
When it comes to safety, the 500L come standard with six airbags (front side, driver, passenger and head protection side airbags),ABS, EBD, ESC, and hill hold assist. Cruise control is also standard on all models.
This vehicle is following in the footsteps of the likes of the Mini Countryman, Kia Soul and Citroen C3, but if you look at the success of the 500 it is suffice to say the 500L will be a crowd pleaser. Even Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa CEO and Managing Director Trent Barcroft says that he won’t predict the 500L sales forecast as the market will speak for itself. We should see the 500L Trekking arrive on our shores in 2014 and there has been talk of the 500X coming in 2015 as well.
All Fiat vehicles come standard with a three-year/100 000 maintenance plan.
Model: Fiat 500L 1,6 MultiJet diesel
Engine: inline, four
Fuel supply: turbocharged
Capacity: 1 598 cm3
Power: 77 kW
Torque: 320 N.m
0-100 km/h: 11,3 secs
Fuel consumption: 4,5 L/100 km
Top speed: 181 km/h
CO2 emissions: 117 g/km
Price: R278 990
Model: Fiat 500L 1,4 Fire petrol
Engine: inline, four
Fuel supply: petrol
Capacity: 1 368 cm3
Power: 70 kW
Torque: 127 N.m
0-100 km/h: 12,8 secs
Fuel consumption: 6,2 L/100 km
Top speed: 170 km/h
CO2 emissions: 145 g/km
Price: Easy – R232 990
Lounge – R247 990