So the plan was simple, take my wife, 3 kids and of course myself, and enjoy the beautiful South West of England in the Summer, the counties of Devon and Cornwall that is, just a family holiday you would say. But as always not wanting to completely switch off from my role at Enzari, why not make it a little bit more fun and grab myself a press car for the event, kind of a holiday rolling road test review. to this end a quick email to the guys at FCA UK and a few days later (thanks Tom & Krystyna) we had our holiday transport, one very practical Fiat 500L – https://enzari.com/2018/08/fiat-500l-makes-the-team-bigger/
Now I will be the first to admit that when Fiat launched the 500L a few years it didn’t exactly make my heart miss a beat and leap to the top of my wanted list. The 500 is stylish and chic but the 500L seemed to be stretching this idea a little too far, quite literally. However following the cars mid life facelift last year, it’s fair to say it is now a better looking car, certainly against competition from the likes of the Citreon C3 Picasso, those 500 stylish looks give it the edge. My other problem is this MPV tag, is it an MPV or simply a Large Fiat 500? To me an MPV is something bordering on the size of small mini bus with all the style and panache of a concrete block driven by people in beige who have clearly given up on life when it comes to cars.
Well regardless, this Fiat was going to be our mode of transport for the next couple of weeks as we took some time out to enjoy the beaches, sea air and no doubt a few cream teas or two.
First impressions on the Fiat are the size, it doesn’t look big but sit inside and there is an immediate sense of space, helped no doubt by the 3/4 length sunroof, this option allows all the extra sunlight you want into the cabin, of which I was hopeful there would be plenty where we were going. The car we had was the Lounge edition, and despite being no sign of a fireplace(!) it does come with a leather steering wheel, part leather seats, 7″ HD Touchscreen, cruise control, Start Stop tech, 17″ alloy wheels with white diamond finish (look very nice), Tyre pressure monitoring system and various other modern bits of kit deemed necessary to get from A to B, including something called a ‘Cargo Magic Space’ load platform in the boot – basically giving you a shelf in the boot, but as we had suitcases to load there was no need for that so it got stored for the duration of the trip.
Anybody familiar with the Fiat 500, and there is enough of them on the road to suggest that means a lot of people, will be more than comfortable in the 500L, everything is easy to reach, comfortable and clutter free. Our test car came with the TomTom 3D Navigation upgrade for the 7″ Touchscreen, a £250 addition, a worthy addition to the already simple system to use, connecting your iPhone to the UConnect system was very easy, although I’m not sure my children appreciated all of the music being played from my iTunes library! The whole system is very good, sat nav should be clear and easy to read as you only ever want to have to glance at it when driving and thanks to the clear map and instructions that is all that is ever needed.
So anyhow we set off when the rest of the world was asleep and headed down south, a simple route, M6, M5 and A30 would see us arrive safely in a small town called Beer in Devon (I was particularly looking forward to discovering Beer in Beer!). With a boot containing 3 suitcases, 1 beach tent, 2 wind breaks, 4 beach chairs, 2 hamper, 3 bags of shoes(?!) and enough other bits that apparently we cannot go with out to open a small department store and 3 children in the back, although technically one is an adult having just turned 18, not forgetting my wife, we left the North West and made our way in our little Fiat 500L down south.
When you plan these journeys with the family away, the last thing you want is people complaining about not enough space and being uncomfortable, I have to say honestly this never came up once on our 5 hour drive to Devon. Making only one stop at a services on the M5 to get some breakfast I expected there to be some comments about lack of legroom or something from the 3 in the back, but they all got out saying they where fine but hungry, that I can cope with a just gone 5am. The rear seats in the 500L are set about the same height as the front seats, which means unlike a hatchback where they sit a little lower in some cases, this gives them a slightly better view as passengers, the rear seats also moves forwards a few inches allowing more boot space, something which we made use of, but even with the seats further forwards the children had no shortage of leg or headroom. Remember that sunroof I mentioned earlier, it is a worthy addition, my kids thought it was great driving through the night seeing the sky above, of course the discussion soon turned from trying to spot the international Space Station to Star Wars and varies arguments about who is the best Jedi.
One stop later and a couple of hundreds miles, we arrived in Beer, a beautiful little town in Devon, right on the coast and having driven sensibly down the motorways and A roads it seemed our little 500L had averaged 62mpg which I think is fairly impressive given the crawling we had to do through roadworks on the M6 and a few miles of twisty roads once off the main A road. Certainly the 1.6 Diesel Multijet engine had proved more than adequate on the motorways, coping easily with the weight on board of 5 passengers and their luggage as we motored along. In the event of coming up behind slower traffic the Fiat has enough mid range grunt to get you past the middle lane driver and on your way without any difficulty.
Being 7.30am in the morning it was perhaps a little early to test Beer’s local ameneties, so whilst the small town began to wake up unaware yet that 5 people from ‘Up North had descended on them, we parked up and investigated the local beach. Parking might not seem an important thing to mention but actually it is, as cars have got ever bigger and some 4×4’s can’t even park down streets now as they are the size of small houses, so have some of the MPV thing’s got bigger, but not so the Fiat 500L, being as it is based on the 500, it’s footprint is relatively small, despite having the tardis effect inside. slotting into a small space more than likely usually filled by a childs push bike, we had no problem and happily got out, fairly refreshed given the miles and hours we had driven.
Over the 2 weeks the car proved itself quite happy to mix it up between narrow single country lanes, dual carriageway, motorways and around town. On those ‘it has to be done’ days to the beach, loaded up with wind breaks, hamper, beach tent, body boards and so on, the boot swallowed it up without any problem, in fact most days we left after a quick wander round local shops with more than what we arrived with and the 500L was happy to accommodate everything plus passengers.
The Fiat is a fairly nice place to be, sat slightly higher than a family hatchback you can see over some of those country lane hedges, and in the case of Cornwall and Devon it allowed some stunning views to be seen as you drive along. The 6 speed manual gearbox is fine, not a clunky affair found in some other mainstream cars, true the performance won’t set the pulse racing, 0-62 arrives in about 10.7 seconds, but with full occupancy and laden boot, putting your foot down at the lights isn’t a priority.
Overall the Fiat 500L took to it’s task with ease, it has itself an impressive family car. Certainly it brings to question why you would buy a bigger family car such as a dull Vauxhall Zafira or a Ford whatevertheycalltheirlatestmpvthingy. Strangely I never once felt embarrassed driving it either, sure I wasn’t exactly daddy cool but with enough Fiat 500 swagger about it I didn’t feel the need to drive around with a bag over my head either.
To sum up, if you are in the market for a car that carries the family plus luggage to the Coast in summer or indeed your daughter and friends for ballad class with room for the dog and shopping it makes perfect sense. It will do all of this, in comfort with some style and without looking like an over sized mini bus on the school run.
Fiat 500L 1.6 MultiJet 120hp Lounge
OTR price: £20,820
OTR price with options: £22,895
Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1598cc, turbocharged diesel
Power(max): 120bhp at 3750rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Top speed: 117mph
Fuel Economy: 67.3mpg