Skip to main content

You are here

The Top Gear car review: Fiat 500L

£13,190£22,135
7/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Usefully more spacious than the regular 500, impressive interior

Against: 

Doesn't drive amazingly well, styling will be an acquired taste
It’s certainly different. It’s also very practical, with enough charm to appeal.

Find new & used cars

Our choice

Fiat

0.9 TwinAir Pop Star 5dr

£16,635
N/A
59mpg
12.30s
105bhp
112g/km

What we say: 

The big-brother to the regular Fiat 500 is roomier and more family-friendly. Nice work, Fiat

What is it?

The original Fiat 500 was tiny. The reborn retro-look one is a lot larger, and now there’s this: the grown-up sibling that’s more mini-MPV than city-focused minicar. To put it into context: it’s 500mm longer, more than 200mm wider and 120mm taller than a Fiat Panda. This is the Fiat 500 that dwarfs a Honda Jazz, and that’s one of the biggest superminis on sale. Huh?

Well, there is a plan. This is the car 500 owners will grow into: a Fiat for young mums now encumbered with marauding off spring. Hey, if Mini can get away with the Countryman, a much larger car still, then why shouldn’t Fiat be able to pull this off?

Driving

It’s very good in town, that’s for sure. The steering is calm and easy, perfect for city schlepping. There’s even a dead patch around the straight ahead, so you don’t have to keep making tiny corrections. This, of course, means it’s also a bit woolly and unresponsive during keener driving, and this is where the Fiat 500L falls down.

Not literally: despite being a tall thing, Fiat’s kept body roll reasonably well contained, so it doesn’t wallow about so much as, er, change direction slowly and steadily. It’s derived from a version of the Fiat Punto platform, so feels similar to that. Just a bit less enthusiastic. Pity.

The engines are good. Diesels are very good but in this class, petrol is just as important: the MultiAir engines are pleasingly superb too. Not everyone is charmed by the oddball two-cylinder TwinAir but we love it, while the 1.4-litre turbo is sprightlier than most.

On the inside

It’s anything but 500-squashed inside, with enough headroom to ensure even the baseball players Fiat showed us sitting in the back would be comfortable. The panoramic roof adds to the effect, as do the glassy side windows, although you’ll watch the mpg plummet when it’s sunny,because the air con will have to work hard.

Fiat’s got the fundamentals right, including decent seats, a big boot and a welter of cubbyholes. But it’s also added on some Mini-like personalisation, with 333 options including a sound system engineered by Dr Dre. Oh, and a built-in coffee machine. We kid you not. Is this THE single best new car option of 2013?

Owning

Fiat is up against some tough competition in this sector, including the Ford B-Max, the Hyundai ix20 and Kia Venga, even the Vauxhall Meriva and Citroen C3 Picasso. It’s good, and different enough to stand out, but doesn’t quite have the talent to beat the best. Even so, the £13k price tag should give it a chance – with the added intrigue of an SUV-look Trekking now, too.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
1.6 Multijet 120 Lounge 5dr
10.7s 112g/km 67.3 120 £19,935
The cheapest
1.4 Pop 5dr
12.8s 145g/km 45.6 95 £13,190
The greenest
1.3 Multijet 95 Lounge 5dr Dualogic
14.8s 104g/km 72.4 95 £19,835

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

7/10

Fiat 500

£10,635£21,520
Dare we suggest the Fiat 500? It's cuter, cheaper and nippier. Turns out we do dare