If you produce a car that’s so popular it becomes a best seller but isn’t really large enough to appeal to the family market the obvious thing to do is make a larger version.
MINI did by producing the MINI Countryman and now Fiat has done the same thing by producing a larger version of its best selling 500, with the 500L.
But whereas the Countryman looks like a MINI on steroids the new Fiat has a distinctive design all its own.
Unlike the 500 it offers an abundance of space thanks to a high roof and clever interior design.
It’s described as – but doesn’t look like – a mini MPV, which means it’s ideal for the family but still has the same flair and trendy styling that has made its little brother so popular in the UK – the biggest market for the Fiat 500 outside Italy.
If MPVs can be cool the 500L is solid ice, appealing to buyers looking for a practical car but with a young image. A car that dares to be different thanks to a wide selection of colour schemes – you can even opt for a different coloured roof to the body – and a generous choice of accessories.
In fact it’s so cool you can have a proper espresso coffee machine fully integrated into the dashboard to give you genuine Lavazza coffee. Now that really is a first.
The 500L comes with a choice of three different trim levels, my test car being Pop Star, which meant the interior had a vibrant, youthful feel to it. You get a body coloured painted dashboard, a bright seat design, chromed side mouldings and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Under the bonnet is a lively 1.6-litre, 105bhp diesel engine, the largest of the two diesel engines available with this model.
Mated to a six-speed gearbox it ensures that the car is relatively quick off the mark and has generous mid-range pulling power. There is a little roll on corners but in general the 500L is nicely planted on the road and offers a comfortable and quiet ride.
The height of the 500L means there is good all round vision aided by the two corner windows which slot between the front side windows and the windscreen – reducing any possible blind spot.
Despite being a relatively small car, rear seat passengers will find they have far more legroom than is obvious from the outside, with space being more generous than in many larger hatchbacks.
The luggage area too is large for a car of this size with 400 litres of luggage space.
To put it into perspective, that’s some 13 per cent more than a Volkswagen Golf.
Useful features include start/stop to help save fuel consumption, a hill holder clutch so you don’t roll back on inclines and cruise control.
The car also comes with Fiat’s Dualdrive power steering, which means that at the touch of a button the power steering becomes exceptionally light to allow the driver to park easily in tight parking bays.
Add to that the fact that the 500L has been awarded a prestigious Euro NCAP five-star crash safety rating and it’s easy to see why this car – which is built in Serbia, about 70 miles south of Belgrade – is finding appeal with a wide cross section of motorists looking for something different.
Fiat 500L MultiJet Pop Star
Mechanical: 1598cc, 4 cyl, 105bhp diesel engine driving front wheels via 6spd manual gearbox.
Max speed: 112 mph
0-62 mph: 11.3 secs
Combined mpg: 62.8
CO2 emissions: 117 g/km
Insurance group: 17
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited mileage