Friday, 19 August 2022

John and Kayleigh would approve

FIAT’S foray into small MPV (multi-purpose-vehicle) territory will for me always be associated with the recent

FIAT’S foray into small MPV (multi-purpose-vehicle) territory will for me always be associated with the recent TV comedy series Peter Kay’s Car Share.

Partnered by that funny and wonderful actress Sian Gibson as Kayleigh, the entire series takes place inside a Fiat 500L as the pair “car share” their way to and from work.

Thus indelibly fixed in my mind, I was looking forward to getting behind the wheel of this week’s drive, the Fiat 500L 1.6 MultiJet.

With Kay’s character John’s laid-back attitude to the hassles of the daily commute, the Fiat 500L exudes a comfortable, city-style ride.

No matter that Kay is constantly at the mercy of the daily dramas that fill Kayleigh’s life — including my favourite when she inadvertently spills the contents of a “specimen” bottle over his work suit.

Indeed, the overall impression I got of the Fiat 500L is that it provides an excellent way to get to work. This new mini-MPV would be ideal for the car share commute, which takes place every day of the working week.

According to Fiat, “every Fiat 500L seat can be configured in eight different ways for a total of more than 1,500 possible combinations”. Now that is going large. In that context the 500L might be a winner for not just commuters but also families.

While you’re at it, there are also 22 container compartments on the Fiat 500L so that “you can have everything you need within arm’s reach”.

Though you might never need such a wide choice, it is handy to have around.

But one surprising thing to me about the 500L was not its role as a city commuting vehicle but on the open road itself.

Its 1.6 MultiJet engine is quite extraordinary. There you have this seemingly passive looking vehicle, functional and comfortable on the urban commute, that you might suppose would be steady but not that impressive on the motorway.

But I was knocked out by its performance when you put your foot down. I also think it took other drivers by surprise, too.

Apparently with this engine “its variable geometry turbocharger is smaller and allows an even higher torque at low engine speeds”.

This 1.6 MultiJet would be the engine for me if I were buying a new 500L.

Visually to me the 500L is not the most exciting of cars. It looks like the very successful 500’s bigger brother while lacking something of the little one’s charm.

Having said that however, I did find the test car’s blue livery (Backbeat Blue) with white roof (and panoramic roof) smart and tidy.

It is the kind of colour scheme that scrubs up well every time. And the white wing mirrors were a nice touch.

New technology abounds and available on the 500L is the Uconnect 5in radio nav with touchscreen, CD/MP3, and Bluetooth audio streaming.

The truth is that the 500L is a car that definitely grows on you because of its drivability and obvious usefulness.

The steering I found a touch heavy for my taste, but again this is something you get used to. I think this is because the build quality is good: this is a firm and solidly constructed family car.

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