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Test Drive Fiat 500L Living – Review

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Test Drive Fiat 500L Living – Review

Who ever thought in 2007, when Fiat unveiled the new 500 citycar that the Italian automaker will ever build a seven-seater 500 model. Clearly, nobody.

A super-sized 500 mammoth? No way!

But … actually, at the end of the day we were all wrong.

Fiat presented the 500L Living on July 2013, on the sixth anniversary of the 500 family, and according to the Italian automaker, the 500L Living is the “perfect marriage of effective use of space and unmistakable ‘made in Fiat’ design.”

True or not, were about to find out – but first, how big really is. At 4 meters and 35 centimeters long (178 cm wide and 167 cm high), the 500L Living has almost 1 meter (~ 80cm) more compared to the normal 500.

So it’s big, but not that big. As a meter in fact, the 500L Living is the most compact 5+2-seater MPV in the segment; the Renault Grand Scenic is 22 cm longer and the Citroën C4 Grand Picasso 24cm. The range includes two trim levels: Pop Star and Lounge while owners can choose between 19 body colors (including 11 two-tone combinations), 6 interior trims and 15 different types in terms of alloy wheels and hub caps. Overall, 282 combinations are possible.

 

Engine, transmission, fuel consumption
Just as in the case of 500L, the 500L Living MPW (multi-purpose wagon) comes with five engines – two petrol and three diesel units. Our tester came equipped with the 105 hp 1.6 liter 4 cylinders engine with Start&Stop. This is one of the best diesel engines that Fiat installs on the entire 500L range. It’s not very refined, but it’s very elastic and offers a healthy 320 Nm of torque – problem is that the 7 seats Living model has ~120 kg more compared to Trekking or the standard 500L and even if the engine does a great job, at the end of the day it feels a little bit too week for this car; even without passengers onboard.

With 7 passengers on-board this engine is clearly too weak; there’s no way to make it pull from below 2000 rpm.

The best solution from our point of view is to get the 120hp 1.6 liter engine that Fiat started to install from November 2013. Those 15hp will make a big difference.

As in the case of Trekking, the six-speed manual gearbox is controlled by a gear leaver that is soft – but there’s a lot of travel on the clutch pedal.

Also, the gear stick it’s huge and some will consider it annoying. First gears are short to maximize traction, while 5th and 6th gears are longer to help maintain fuel consumption and engine noise at acceptable levels.

We’ve tested this car for more than 1500 km, and we’ve noticed that the Start&Stop system has a little bit of delay so you have to get used to it – but it does a great job when it comes to fuel economy.

That being said, on the highway, the 500L Living will eat about 4.6 liters of diesel fuel for every 100km. That’s the best value I’ve been able to achieve with AC off and no passengers inside. In normal city conditions expect about 7 – 7.5 liters / 100km.

Handling, safety

Soft is the right word here. Everything is soft, from suspension, steering, brakes … everything. However, considering how and for what this car was designed I’m not sure this is a bad thing. Fiat says “the new 500L Living is a car for moments of relaxation and travel in comfort”.

The body control is decent at low speeds for an MPV but as soon as you want to enter a corner a little faster, the soft MacPherson front and compact multi-link rear suspension will show its weakness and the car will get a pronounced b-roll effect. But again, it was designed for comfort not sportiveness.

The electric steering is reasonably direct, light as a feather lock-to-lock action for parking structures. Sometimes it gets stuck if you’re into a corner and push hard the acceleration – it completely loses its elasticity. City-mode is standard and is a great feature to have.

Impressively, the brakes are very strong and you don’t have to push the pedal with 2 feet to stop the car. What I find important to note is that the ESP can intervene in a rollover situation by detecting if a wheel has left the ground via it ERM (Electronic Rollover Mitigation) system – very important for a car high enough and not too wide. ERM brakes individual wheels and reduces the driving torque to prevent roll over and to stabilize the vehicle.

*video explaining how ERM works

Standard safety equipment includes 6 airbags, ESP, ESR and Hill Holder. Unfortunately, the 500L Living doesn’t feature the City Brake Control function – standard on Trekking (an autonomous emergency braking which helps the driver to avoid a low-speed crash).

Interior, cargo space and practicality
Not so big outside, but big inside. At least that’s the first impression when you open the doors. The construction quality is decent – there are some hard plastics here and there, but overall the quality seems to be ok, most surfaces are nicely finished.

Fiat says there are more than 6,000 possible interior space configurations, as well as 22 compartments of different sizes.

The seats are soft and offer good lumbar support. Not so great is the lateral support. What I don’t understand is why there’s no armrest for the passenger! Yes – only the driver has armrest.

The Uconnect “infotainment” system comes with a TomTom Navigation. Nothing bad here, TomTom is great, easy to use and precise – only that the microprocessor inside this system is very slow, and the 5-inch screen is too small. The Lounge trim also includes a back-up camera and park assist.  Three easy-to-use knobs operate the dual-zone climate control system, similar to Alfa Romeo.

When it comes to the luggage compartment, the 500L Living is truly remarkable. Keep in mind that this is 20 cm shorter than a C-segment Station Wagon and yet if offers 1584 liters if you fold down all seats. By contrast, the 2014 Ford Focus offers 1,502 litres while the Opel Astra offers only 1295 liters with the rear seat backs folded down. In addition Fiat offers the ‘Cargo Magic Space’ system – a platform that can be adjusted on three levels, separating fragile objects from heavy ones.

Even if you opt for the 5+2-seater configuration, Fiat says this car will maintain its load capacity of 168 liters, above the segment average.

 

What we like / don’t like
This is a unique car – it can be compared somehow to the old Multipla model but clearly looks much better. The ride is very comfortable, and you can carry up to seven people with a vehicle that has only 4 meters and 35 centimeters. Keep in mind that, for example, the Renault Grand Scenic has 22 cm more while the Citroën C4 Grand Picasso is 24 cm longer. In addition, it offers up to 1584 litres of cargo space – and you can obtain a flat loading surface for the entire length of the passenger compartment (2.60 meters).

The engine is a little bit noisy, but the gearbox comes to the rescue; 5th and 6th gears are longer to help maintain engine noise at acceptable levels.

Visibility is great from all seats, making it an excellent long range cruiser. The interior is very practical with Fold&Tumble 2nd row and fold-in-floor 3rd row.
Not so great are the headlights. Main beam makes almost no difference.

Competition
Citroen Berlingo, Mini Countryman

Tested vehicle
Fiat 500L Living
Engine: 1.598 cmc Multijet II 4 cylinder diesel
Length: 4.352 mm
Width: 1.784 mm
Height: 1.667 mm
Wheelbase: 2.612 mm
Boot capacity: rear seat back: 560 liters / rear seat forward: 638 liters / rear seat folded: 1708 liters / Rear seat reclined: 1584 liters
Power: 105hp/77kw@ 3.700 rpm – 320Nm @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission: Front – 6 speed manual gearbox
Steering: Rack and pinion with Dual Drive electric power steering
Suspension: Front: Independent wheels with MacPherson layout / Rear: Interconnected wheels with torsion beam layout
Brakes: Self‐ventilating disc brakes at front / Solid disc brakes at rear
Fuel Tank: 50 liters
Weight:  1290 kg
Max speed: 180 km/h
Acceleration 0-100km/h: 12,2 seconds
Official fuel consumption: Urban: 5,4l / Extra‐urban: 3,9l / Combined: 4,5l/100km
Emissions: 117 CO2 g/km – Euro5

Rating:

3.6 / 5

February 18th, 2013

inautonews

by Mircea Serafim (my Google+) - Monday, February 17th, 2014 - filed under Editors, Fiat, News, Sticky news, Test Drive. Image credit: .
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