The Fiat 500 celebrates its 60th Birthday this year, quite the milestone for the little car! But don’t forget that today the 500 represents a family of cars from the Italian brand. From the little hatchback to the 500X SUV, the retro styling now takes all shapes and sizes. The Fiat 500L might not be winning any beauty contests any time soon, but the fact that it forms 1 of every 4 car sales in its class makes it an important model. According to Fiat, 40% of the car is brand new in this revised incarnation. We headed to the home of Fiat in Turin to find out what the 2017 Fiat 500L Cross had to offer.
Within the 500L range you will find three distinct breeds; the more stylised Urban model, a 7 seater Wagon, and the Cross of which we snagged the keys to. At a glance it would appear than not a lot has changed, but look closer and the more intricate details reveal themselves. A reworked front facia adopts new chromed “whiskers” and for the Cross, a more rugged grill. Also on this variant you will find front and rear skid plates, a slightly raised ride hight, and deeper grooved tyres. The two-tone black and orange of our test car was certainly eye catching, but the overall design still splits opinion.
Some of the most prominent changes are to be found within the car. A totally new dashboard proudly wears the 500 logo and houses the latest 7 inch HD touchscreen from Fiat. This infotainment system is a huge step forwards from its predecessor and is also compatible with Apple CarPlay. The instrument cluster joins the digital revolution with a display that can provide information including navigation prompts. Rather plush seating makes for a comfortable environment for front occupants. The large glass panoramic roof adds to the already pleasing sense of overall space within the cabin. Rear passengers might not have class leading head room, but leg room is good and further boosted by a flat floor for the middle seat. However, what is class leading is the 2017 Fiat 500L Cross’ boot at 455 litres.
Under the domed bonnet of our test car was the tried and tested 1.6 litre MultiJet 2 diesel engine. Producing 120 HP and 320Nm of torque, the low down shove after the turbo spools is what defines this engine. Taking advantage of gaps in the Italian traffic proved to be something of this cars forte thanks to light steering that was effortless to use. Something else you need in a busy urban environment is good visibility and here the 500L scores well too. In addition to a good all around view, A-pillar windows and a reversing camera made navigating the sprawl of Turin that much easier. On more dynamic tarmac the 500L Cross reveals some predictable body roll and a slow change of direction. Whilst the overall ride is positive, the light steering comes across as a bit vague at speed. At motorway speeds refinement isn’t too bad with little road and wind noise penetrating the cabin. It is quite happy to cruise but has to be worked a bit to make stronger progress. Fiat claim 66 MPG combined.
This being the Cross model it features modes such as Traction+ for light off road trails and Gravity control of which works like traditional hill descent control. A good 5km of rutted roads and gravel tracks was an accurate means to test the worst a typical 500L would face. No, it isn’t a mud plugger by any means, but it will likely exceed the requirements of the average owner.
The 2017 Fiat 500L Cross is a uniquely characterful car within its class. As looks are subjective we shall leave final judgement to you, but in orange it will undoubtably turn heads regardless. Majoring in practicality the new 500L is a step forward from its predecessor, however, the competition is tough and pressure from SUVs is ever growing. Pricing has yet to be announced for the new 500L, but sale begin in the Uk from September.