Fiat 500L
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Fiat 500L
Take a Fiat 500, make it longer, bigger, add two doors….oh, and add an espresso machine

Fiat 500L 1.6 Multijet Easy 105PS

What is it?

Very soon I shall be able to look my wife squarely in the eye and tell her: “look, just belt up and make the coffee. ” And with luck she’ll respond merely with intrigued interest, not marital Armageddon.

Fiat has decided that what we really need is a built-in coffee machine 

For Senior Management would be listening not at the breakfast table – that would indeed be to invite a fate too dire to contemplate – but in the front passenger seat of Fiat’s latest addition to the booming “lifestyle” car culture pioneered by BMW’s Mini, the Fiat 500L MPV “people carrier.”

Because when it comes to seeking out uinque selling points, Fiat has already woken up, smelt the coffee and declared joyously “Lavazza”!

Fiat 500L
The ‘L’ in 500L could stand for Lavazza. The coffee maker is utterly in keeping with the Fiat’s character

Google Earth-based sat nav? Borrrinng! Anti-collision radar? If you must….The latest hybrid technology? My goodness, is that the time..?

No, Fiat has decided that what we all really need, what will bring joy unbounded to every journey, is a fully-integrated, built-in dashboard espresso/cappuccino machine complete with on-board water tank and coffee capsules.

And no, it’s not a joke. The element of surprise might not be quite as great as Fiat intended – a less sophisticated, generic aftermarket device has just beaten it to the punch (click here to see) – but we are looking at the very first joint venture between car and coffee maker.

Fiat will launch the 500L Lavazza internationally in the middle of this year at an anticipated extra cost in the UK of around £300 compared with the equivalent conventional 500L model. 

Fiat 500L
The coffee-maker could turn out to much more than a gimmick. The Fiat has that elusive mix of quirky character and common sense business car

Even Fiat engineers and designers can’t disguise a certain tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the venture and downplay the prospect of the Lavazza taking any more than a fairly token share of total 500L sales.

However, a personal straw poll of around 20 family, friends and business acquaintances – some SME business car users of long standing – provides grounds for thinking that, marketed robustly, Fiat might just have stumbled across an idea the sales success of which could surprise it.

The small MPV sector is one of the few relatively buoyant areas of the marketplace and there are plenty of other frothy bits to help the 500L in its sales fight against principal declared rivals like Citroen’s Picasso, Vauxhall’s Meriva and – more challengingly – BMW’s MINI Countryman.

Fiat 500L
Plenty of customisation options, inside and out

Not least, there is the very high degree of exterior and interior customisation available, a la Countryman, and considerable flexibility of lay-out: rear seats both fold and slide.

That flexibility will increase later in the year with the launch of a seven-seat 500XL version. The accessories list, indeed, runs to more than 100 items.

Despite the cutesy 500 designation and styling, the 500L is built on Fiat’s new, bigger B -segment platform ( at Kragujevac in Serbia) and is as big a step-up in size as BMW’s Countryman to the basic MINI. The claim that it will accommodate five and a reasonable amount of luggage is not an unrealistic one.

In keeping with its “lifestyle” pretensions, there is no entry-level bargain basement version.

As Luca Ragusa, 500L marketing manager in the UK points out, variation is based more on personality than price.

All versions come as standard with touchscreen radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, air conditioning and a handy lift-out cargo box.

Fiat 500L
Might as well do the job properly with the ‘Pop Star’ interior. Or you could opt for the more business conscious ‘Easy’ (no photo because it’s just like any other interior)

Both ‘Pop Star’ (in-your-face colours and sports seats) and ‘Easy’ (muted colours, soft-touch dash and more comfortable seats) have the same on-road starting price of £14,990 while the top-range ‘Lounge’ version adds in full climate control, rain and parking sensors, automatic lights and a few other goodies for its on-road starting price of £16,390.

The version of most likely interest to SME business users – the ‘Easy’ model combining 1.6 litre, 105bhp Multijet diesel with 6-speed manual transmission – comes in at £17,490 on the road.

 

What’s hot?

  • That smell!
  • 62.8mpg and £52 a month on company car tax mean that the Fiat’s undoubted charm offensive is like a free gift
  • Well equipped, and with as many options for ‘personalisation’ as you could wish for
  • Room for five grown-ups plus luggage, and there’s lots of versatility in arranging the rear seats. So it’s great for kids
  • Feels well made
  • Reasonably priced, next to the MINI Clubman
  • 7-seater in the pipeline

 

Fiat 500L
What you don’t get with the regular Fiat 500 – bags of room, and lots of versatility with the seat positions too

What’s not

  • Not as entertaining to drive as the MINI Clubman …
  • …or the regular Fiat 500
  • Looks won’t please everyone
  • And the prices look less appealing if you broaden your net

 

Business Car Manager car review verdict

While the Fiat 500L might lack the technical sophistication of the 2wd or 4wd MINI Countryman, if sales of such ‘lifestyle’ vehicles is as dependent on styling and ‘personality’ as appears to be the case, then Fiat has firmly stolen a march on BMW in the pricing stakes.

As entertaining as the Mini to drive? – an equally firm ‘no’. It is agile enough; surprisingly so. But as a driving experience it relates more to its humbler, more utilitarian rivals such as the Meriva than the grin-a-minute Mini.

Fiat 500L
A convincing mix of practicality and character that would be a perfect fit in many small businesses

Such a considerations notwithstanding, its VED, economy, CO2 and benefit-in-kind credentials are more than sufficient to earn it a place on the SME user-chooser’s consideration list – with the ‘lifestyle’ charm essentially thrown in for free. There’s nothing impractical about it either, and for the right kind of business, it could fit right in with your image.

A final of caution, though : that slot in dash is for CDs. It’snot the pop-up toaster.

 

The Low Down…

Doors and body style 5-door hatch/MPV
Engine/gearbox 1.6 litre 4-cyl turbodiesel/manual
CO2 Emissions 117g/km
Economy 62.8mpg
Power/torque 106PS/320Nm
0-62mph/top speed 11.3secs/113mph
Insurance group 17

…and what it costs

P11D Value £17,435
Monthly business rental (ex VAT) 
Road tax (VED) Band C
Company Car Tax Bands 2013/14 to 2015/16 18%, 19%, 21%
Benefit in kind 2013/14 to 2015/16 £3138, £3312, £3661
Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (20%) £760/£63
Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (40%) £1519/£126
Annual/monthly company car tax (20%) £626/£52
Annual/monthly company car tax (40%) £1255/£104
Figures correct at time of posting 
For latest figuresUse our company car tax calculator
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