Fiat 500L MPV due in 2013

* All-new Fiat 500L MPV due in 2013 * Standard five-seater model * Longer seven-seat version, too...

Fiat 500L MPV due in 2013

The Fiat 500L MPV will be available in five- and seven-seat versions, Fiat designers revealed to What Car? at an exclusive preview of the new model in Turin.

The 'standard' five-seat 500L will go on sale in the UK in February 2013, closely followed by a seven-seat version with a longer rear overhang.

Although it made its debut at the 2012 Geneva motor show in March, this was our first chance to have a look at the 500L's interior, and first impressions are positive. Fiat says the car has been designed 'from the inside out', to focus on making the cabin as practical and stylish as possible.

The interior design has more in common with the latest Fiat Panda than the 500, with a look that's less focused on retro details. There's a neat touch-screen system, too, while the steering wheel has an unusual 'squircle' theme the wheel itself is round, but the inner trim has a slightly squared-off design.

Although the 500L we sat in was a pre-production model, it suggests that the quality of materials will be good. There'll be a wide range of different colours and finishes to choose from and three styling themes, depending on trim.

There's plenty of space up front, and access to the rear is excellent thanks to large door openings legroom is also good. An almost-flat floor and soft centre cushion mean that the 500L is unusually comfortable in the middle seat, too.

The Turin car had a full-length fixed glass roof that flooded the cabin with light; combined with light-coloured trim it gives a very airy feel. A solid metal roof is expected to be standard for cheaper versions, however, but there'll be the option of a sliding glass roof.

A large tailgate opening gives good access to a boot that's large and well shaped. A movable floor boosts flexibility and the rear seats fold and tumble to provide more space. The seven-seat 500L will have two extra rear seats that fold up from the floor when needed.

Despite its name, the 500L is more closely related to the Punto than the 500, which explains why it's significantly bigger, with an overall length of 414cm. The seven-seat version is around 20cm longer, with all of the extra length behind the rear wheels.

Fiat's designers have hinted that an SUV-style version (probably of the five-seater) is likely to join the range. It won't have four-wheel drive, but extra body cladding and possibly a raised ride height will give a more rough-and-ready look.

Leo Wilkinson