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Fiat's baby 500 grows up


THE ORIGINAL Fiat 500 was an icon, one of the most innovative small city cars and when Fiat revived the moniker, it gave birth to another classic.

The new breed of 500s was stylistically inspired by the 1950s icon and these cute front-wheel-drive city slickers can be found strolling around towns all over South Africa. 

But it seems this wasn’t enough for the Italians and they’ve since gone on to stretch and pull the 500 to create a new model - the 500L.

Much like Mini did with the Countryman, the 500L is a ‘grown-up’ version of the little 500 but as we know, things often lose their cuteness the bigger they get. Just look at your once-fluffy kitten or adorable puppy that is now all grown up.

Of course, growing up isn’t always a bad thing and the extended size of the 500L means greater practicality and when your MPV measures in at 4.15 metres long with almost 400 litres of boot space, size does begin to matter.

While Fiat has done a great job at making it a functional car, with cubby holes and storage compartments stashed throughout the vehicle, they did leave something on the small side… the powertrain.

Our test mule was the 1.4-litre derivative and while it returned passable fuel figures, it had to be driven rather hard to maintain the speed limit up some of Joburg’s sloping hills. Equipped with 70kW of power and 127Nm of torque, this 1 245kg Italian does the 0-100km/h scuttle in around 12.8 seconds and has a top speed of 170km/h.

Essentially the 500L looks like the ugly child courtesy of a love affair between the 500 and Multipla. It could’ve worked if the design crew managed to retain the cuteness of the 500 mixed with the spaciousness of the Multipla, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

So the styling certainly isn’t for everyone, but you know what? It’s an attention grabber for those who like to stand out in the crowd. It might not deliver the best drive or be the best ergonomically laid-out vehicle, but it’s jam-packed with niceties and safety features.

Overall, the Fiat 500L is a hard sell. It’s aimed at a niche group of motorists and while it does build on the heritage of its smaller brother, it will never be the centre of attention at a party for the right 

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