FIAT’S taken a leaf out of the fashion world’s book when it came to labelling an upscaled version of its retro-styled 500.
Regulars at Topshop, Primark et all will be more than familiar with the thinking behind this new version’s name – it is, quite simply, the 500L, L being for Large. Think MINI Countryman, then, but inspired by Italian chic rather than British bravado.
Behind the plus-sized outfit there’s a blend of familiar Fiat technology – including the award-winning, eco-friendly TwinAir engine which has already proven a bit of a hit in the smaller 500 – and an interior which pitches the new arrival straight into mini MPV, with a higher roofline than a Vauxhall Meriva and more interior space than Volkswagen’s new Golf. It’s also being priced aggressively to undercut the Countryman, with £14,990 getting you either into a Pop Star or an Easy version, which are identically priced but kitted out to appeal to two very different kinds of customer.
It’s got all the sensible boxes ticked and – if the smaller Panda and 500 are anything to go by – be grin-inducingly pleasant from the driver’s perspective, but this sector of the market is as much about style as substance and to truly be in with a chance of stealing the march on MINI it’ll have to look the part too.
That’s where I worry for the 500L’s chances, because to my eyes at least the new arrival looks like a 500 that’s spent a few weeks gorging itself on the Melton Mowbrays. That’s a criticism I’d level at the MINI Countryman too, but then a revisit to the cute lines of Italy’s original people carrier, the 600 Multipla, the new Fiat is not.
This 500’s extra girth means there’s more to love, but the attraction, if you fell for its smaller sister, probably won’t be as instant.