Take a look at Fiat’s sales figures and you’d be forgiven for thinking the hugely successful 500 is the only car the company sells, at least in the UK.
The small-but-practical Panda was revised last year and it’s too soon in its life to make much on an impression in volume. Fiat no longer sells a large car or a people carrier in the UK. The Punto is nearing the end of its life
But the 500 has been an immense success, which is why Fiat must have been nervous of choosing a name for its latest new model.
The 500L is being marketed as a larger version of the 500. It is, of course, no such thing. It is longer than the Punto and uses a new small car platform. It would make a good rival in terms of size to cars like the Kia Venga, Nissan Note and Ford B-Max.
However, by giving the car the 500 name and drawing on some of the smaller car’s appeal (and perhaps heritage given it has been on sale for six years) it can aim to attract style-conscious drivers for whom the normal size 500 is too small.
It means Fiat is also aiming to steal sales from Mini – for drivers of the Clubman or Countryman – and the Kia Soul.
The 500L is an attractive car, and looks part of the 500 family. It comes with a range of mostly fuel-efficient engines, including the two-cylinder turbocharged TwinAir engine (developing 105bhp in the 500L) and a choice of 1.3-litre and 1.6-litre diesels.
We tried the 1.6 diesel which offers a lively 105bhp and in the high-specification Lounge equipment grade. It delivers 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 117g/km. The 500L does have a more upmarket feel than a typical small car, helped by the option of colour co-ordinated interior and low noise intrusion.
Like the small 500 there’s a wide range of customization and options, and the 500L is the first cat to offer an on-board Lavazza coffee maker as a factory option. A gimmick? Maybe.
But the 500L is a well-rounded product and gives Fiat another small car weapon with which to go into battle in the fleet sector, but leaves you wondering why it seemingly can’t apply this knack for decent small cars to anything larger.