Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If it has to be petrol, the Twinair is your best bet. It produces enough grunt at low revs to feel decently punchy in town, although it runs out of puff at around 5000rpm. Still, it’s far stronger than the entry-level naturally aspirated 1.4, which has to be pushed very hard if you want to make progress. The turbocharged 1.4 petrol is the strongest and most relaxing to drive, but it costs more to buy and run.
The diesels are a better choice. The 1.3 has just enough get up and go to feel capable on fast country roads and company car drivers will love its low CO2 emissions. The 1.6 diesels, however, are better suited to lugging a family and luggage thanks to the decent amount of low-end torque available,. However, they still don't feel outright quick.
It’s over the sort of broken surfaces you’re likely to find on UK high streets that the 500L reveals this, sending small jolts through to the interior and lots of unwanted vibration up the steering column. Overall, though, the car's body stays pretty nicely composed, so it never gets too uncomfortable.
At higher speeds, the 500L glides over smaller obstructions with greater compliance, although bigger ruts and expansion joints still make a thunk.
The 500L’s shape doesn’t look likely to allow it sharp handling, and indeed it doesn’t. That said, in tight bends there isn’t quite as much body lean as you might expect, with the car staying quite upright.
The trouble is, the steering is quite vague when you’re traveling in a straight line and beyond that offers very little in the way of communication as to what the front wheels are doing. There’s an annoyingly aggressive self-centering action to contend with, too.