Review: Fiat 500L (2013)
Unique looks. Some fun cabin flourishes. Tall and spacious. Cheap to run with the right engine. Good safety
Lower-priced engines are uneconomical and slow, suspect cabin quality. Expensive further up the range.
Fiat 500L (2013): At A Glance
- New prices start from £16,710, brokers can source from £12,542
- Contract hire deals from £159.84 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 7–18
- On average it achieves 76% of the official MPG figure
The 500L is an MPV bearing the name of a genuinely iconic small Italian car born in the 1950s. There were in fact bigger versions of the original 500 but never anything remotely this big. Big is relative, of course, and by today’s standards the 500L is a small MPV in the vein of the Citroen C3 Picasso and Ford B-MAX.
That means it seats five with a design whose purpose is maximising interior space. There’s an MPW version that’s even longer and seats seven, too. It’s a Fiat 500 by way of design details only.
They’re details like the gawky front end, two-tone paint job and vaguely minimalistic interior. And options including a flask-sized Lavazza espresso machine that plugs into the centre console and pumps out tar-like hits of warm caffeine, just the way the Italians like it.
Design flourishes aside, this is fairly standard small MPV stuff - where standard means 'nothing special'. The cabin comprises mainly hard and cheap-feeling plastics and where a Golf Plus or Ford B-MAX have big car ambience, the 500L tends to feel like a bulked-up cut price runabout.
That’s because it suffers from an uncomfortable driving position - especially for taller folk because the seat is set too high and the pedals too close - while refinement is average at best.
There’s a wide choice of versions though, with three trim levels, five engines and three body styles (technically) - the crossover-style Trekking counts as separate model, so says Fiat, alongside the standard version and the seven-seater.
The trim range begins at Pop and goes through Pop Star and Lounge, while Trekking versions get extra kit including plastic body cladding, extra ground clearance and winter tyres. Plus there’s the marketing tie-up that brings you the Beats Edition, based on the Trekking - because Dr. Dre definitely drives a Fiat 500L. It gets an upgraded stereo.
Standard kit is as you’d expect, with plastic wheel trims and warm air for base models, meaning you’ll need Pop Star spec for alloys and air conditioning. That said, all cars come with a five-inch (and fiddly) touchscreen media system, a cabin-enhancing body coloured gloss panel for the dashboard and the very useful ‘Cargo Magic Space’ system that allows all the seats bar the driver’s to be folded completely flat.
In addition every car gets six airbags, which contribute to the 500L’s five-star Euro NCAP safety rating - a reassuring fact for family buyers. If you buy a 1.3-litre MultiJet 85PS diesel with an automatic gearbox you’re looking at 70.6mpg average fuel economy. That said, buy a base model 95PS 1.4-litre petrol and economy tanks to 45.6mpg, which is quantifiably poor.
The FIAT 500L range is built at the former Zastava factory at Kragujevac in Serbia.
What does a Fiat 500L (2013) cost?
Fiat 500L (2013): What's It Like Inside?
The one thing the 500L has in its favour is pure space. It’s a full five-seater with loads of headroom, plenty of knee room for back row passengers and a fairly generous, square boot. The 400-litre capacity swells to 1310 litres with the back seats folded, which is in fact beaten by most other small MPVs on paper - the Kia Venga, for example, boasts 440 to 1486 litres - but the numbers only tell half the story.
The 500L has a three-level boot that can be raised to be flush with the folded-down seats, while the front passenger seat also folds flat - this is a good car to take that old Ikea CD cabinet to the tip in.
Despite Pop models missing the alloy wheels and air conditioning - essential for resale desirability - they’re otherwise well equipped, including Fiat’s five-inch touchscreen media system, Bluetooth and leather covering for the comically large (and not too comfortable to hold) gear knob.
Move up to Pop Star trim and comfort improves by way of air con and cruise control. Plus you get a set of 16-inch alloys, underwhelming as they look in the 500L’s massive arches. Lounge specification does feel like it has a lot, bumping the air con up to dual-zone climate control, adding rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and a panoramic sunroof that genuinely lifts cabin ambience with natural light.
Lounge cars also get two small tables for rear seat passengers, which are a nice idea in theory but in reality are too flimsy to be of much real use. There isn’t a mass of interior storage in any version of the 500L either, with no central storage box, quite small door pockets and a shallow glove box.
Fiat sees the 500L Trekking as a model in its own right, but it’s loosely based on the Lounge specification with a couple of notable additions – like low speed automatic braking (optional elsewhere) and a more sophisticated traction control system that alludes to off-road ability. The 17-inch alloys come shod in mud and snow tyres as standard, for the same reason, and the interior fabric is different.
The Beats version is based on the Trekking, and comes, as you’d expect, with an upgraded stereo – albeit a disappointingly lacklustre one, when a decent sound system is the very least you could expect from this cynical and expensive marketing ploy. The cheapest Beats version is around £19,000.
In any event the cabin is quite intuitive, at least, with large heater controls and logical steering wheel buttons, although the touchscreen is too small, making it fiddly to use. It’s saved by a row of shortcut buttons so you can at least quickly get to the function you want.
Child seats that fit a Fiat 500L (2013)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Fiat 500L (2013) like to drive?
- Engines range from 0.9 TwinAir 105 to 1.6 MultiJet 120 Trekking
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 30–65 mpg
Very few small MPVs are fun to drive and the Fiat 500L is no exception, suffering from stodgy steering, quite a lot of body roll and yet a strange inability to soak up bumps at low speeds. It’s more settled down on a motorway and would make a better fist of long distances were it not for the din in the cabin at higher velocities.
At 70mph the 500L behaves roughly in the manner you’d expect of a hollow box full of moulded plastic - like an echo chamber for wind noise, tyre roar and engine chug. In fairness it’s not that bad, it’s just that the feeling of being in something quite cheap seems to increase with speed.
Clearly nobody buys a Fiat 500L with its dynamic prowess in mind, but it should cosset its occupants a little more than it does. That said, the high driving position, thin pillars and masses of glass make visibility excellent all round, so this is an easy car to park despite its relative bulk.
The quandary comes with engine choice, because the 1.4-litre base model car is frankly underpowered, with only 127Nm of torque. And while the 0.9-litre TwinAir two-cylinder engine has far more character (and a little more power and torque), it too can’t handle a fully loaded 500L.
In fact, at low revs the TwinAir often feels like it might be about to stall, meaning it must always be kept in the mid-range and above. As a result you end up working the gear stick like a boxer working his left jab, making for a tiring experience. That driving style means you’ll never accomplish anywhere near its 58.9mpg average economy rating either. Our Real MPG rating show owners only just eclipsing 40mpg. Click here to see for yourself.
Lack of flexibility and low economy returns are not problems you’ll have with either of the MultiJet diesels – a 1.3-litre and a 1.6-litre, with 85PS and 105PS respectively. Not massive power, granted, but 200Nm and a hefty 320Nm torque tell their own story. The latter diesel is the best suited to the 500L.
We’d generally advise avoiding the Dualogic automatic gearbox though. It’s an automated manual that may improve fuel efficiency - it’s effectively a manual gearbox but with the changes performed by software - but it’s slow-witted and frustrating.
We’d also avoid pushing the Eco button that comes with every 500L, because its economy measures involve seriously decreasing the accelerator’s sensitivity and lowering the engine’s torque even further. It saps even more life from a driving experience that’s hardly involving in the first place.
There’s no notable difference in the driving experience between the five-seat 500L and the seven-seat 500L MPW, although Trekking versions, with their suspension raised by 13mm, bob along the road even more than the standard car. The height difference and plastic cladding may conspire to make this 500L look like a 4x4 (sort of), but it’s an illusion - the Trekking is front-wheel drive like the rest of the range.
|0.9 TwinAir 105||55–59 mpg||12.3–12.6 s||112–119 g/km|
|0.9 TwinAir 105 Trekking||55 mpg||12.6 s||112–119 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 85||67–71 mpg||14.9–15.1 s||105–110 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 85 Dualogic||71 mpg||15.1–15.5 s||105 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 85 Dualogic Trekking||67 mpg||16.1 s||109 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 85 Trekking||66 mpg||15.3 s||114 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 95||67–69 mpg||13.9–14.3 s||107–109 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 95 Dualogic||71–72 mpg||14.8–15.5 s||104–106 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 95 Dualogic Trekking||71 mpg||15.5 s||106 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 95 Trekking||67 mpg||14.3 s||107 g/km|
|1.4||40–46 mpg||12.8–13.9 s||143–159 g/km|
|1.4 T-Jet||40–42 mpg||10.2–11.0 s||112–163 g/km|
|1.4 T-Jet Trekking||40 mpg||11.0 s||163 g/km|
|1.4 Trekking||46 mpg||13.2 s||145 g/km|
|1.6 Multijet 105||63 mpg||11.3 s||117 g/km|
|1.6 MultiJet 105||60–63 mpg||11.3–12.0 s||117–122 g/km|
|1.6 Multijet 105 Trekking||60 mpg||12.0 s||117 g/km|
|1.6 MultiJet 105 Trekking||60 mpg||12.0 s||122 g/km|
|1.6 MultiJet 120||66–67 mpg||10.7–11.5 s||112–155 g/km|
|1.6 MultiJet 120 Trekking||66 mpg||11.5 s||120 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Fiat 500L (2013)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the Fiat 500L (2013)?
Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.
Do I need to get my Fiat TwinAir serviced at a Fiat garage?
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