What's the used Fiat 500L hatchback like?
In 2008, Fiat released its reincarnated 500 to the world. As you’ll probably be aware due to the number you’ll see milling around these days, it went down a storm, becoming the perfect transport for urban fashionistas everywhere. For Fiat, though, the question was how to capitalise on its success, and translate it into a larger, more family-friendly car that’d carry the same appeal. The answer was this: the Fiat 500L.
It won’t have escaped your attention that the 500L’s styling unashamedly mimics the cues of its smaller stablemate. Whether it does so successfully, mind you, rather depends on who you ask. Either way, the 500L was offered with a similarly bright palette of colours and a range of personalisation options, so if nothing else, it stands out from the crowd.
Engines range from a 0.9-litre two-cylinder turbo petrol up to a 1.6-litre diesel with 104bhp – although its power was upped in early 2014 to 118bhp. The most popular engines, however, are a naturally-aspirated 1.4-litre petrol with 94bhp, and an 84bhp 1.3-litre diesel.
Those engines are matched to a model range which starts with both Pop Star and Easy, available for the same price when new; the former is geared toward style and gets body-coloured dashboard panels and alloy wheels, while the latter targets comfort and so gets rear parking sensors and electric rear windows. Both versions, however, get cruise control, a five-inch touchscreen, and Bluetooth connectivity as standard. The Lounge is the next rung up, with climate control, a panoramic glass roof and automatic lights and wipers all coming as standard. And in 2013, the Trekking joined the range, adding bulkier, SUV-inspired styling to the Lounge model.
A 2017 facelift saw mild revisions to specification and styling, and included the renaming of the Trekking version to Cross, to tie in with other Fiat models.
Looking at the 500L, you’d be hard-pushed to imagine it’s a particularly sporty thing to drive, and you’d be right. Slow, remote steering makes it feel ponderous, and while the body doesn’t lean over as badly when cornering quickly as other MPVs, it still feels rather stodgy to drive.
And while the 500L doesn’t ride badly, neither does it do so particularly well. Poor road surfaces don’t trouble it too much, but larger potholes and ruts cause jarring thumps to be sent through the cockpit.
What’s more, while the 1.6-litre diesels are punchy enough, most of the smaller engines feel a little weedy when tasked with hauling the 500L’s weight, especially the naturally-aspirated 1.4. All of the engines, bar the rare 1.4-litre petrol turbo, make too much noise and vibration, and there’s a lot of road and wind noise into the bargain which make long trips wearing. Automatic 500Ls, meanwhile, which are badged Dualogic, are jerky and slow to respond in traffic.
Inside, the 500L’s dash is rather plasticky, though better quality materials were used after the facelift. Even these versions, though, suffer from flimsy-feeling indicator stalks and switchgear that feels cheap and nasty to the touch. The touchscreen is fast and responsive, but a little complex in its menu system, meanwhile.
Occupants in the front seats will marvel at the amount of leg and head room there is on offer, and so will those in the back – as long as the 500L they’re in isn’t fitted with the panoramic roof, which severely restricts head room back there. Rear seat passengers will also lament how flat and unyielding their perches are, and won’t want to sit in them for anything more than a short trip. But at least the boot is big and practical.