By on March 7, 2012

North America missed on the ermm…unique…Fiat Multipla, sold in Europe in the late 1990’s, but Fiat dealers, clamoring for another product, will get the Multipla’s spiritual successor, the 500L.

Although it bears the 500 moniker, the 500L is closer in size to a Mini Countryman. Built in Fiat’s factory in Serbian (making the 500L the first Balkan car to hit the U.S. since the Yugo), engine choices for Europe include both the 1.4L 4-cylinder from the 500 and the 900cc TwinAir turbocharged 2-cylinder engine. A 1.3L Multijet diesel will also be offered. These engine choices will likely not make the cut for North America – the anemic 1.4L naturally aspirated engine will be painfully slow, and both the diesel and the TwinAir, fabulous as they are, are too bizarre for our tastes. The Abarth’s 1.4L turbocharged motor is the most probably candidate.

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38 Comments on “Geneva 2012: Fiat 500L, Heir To The Multipla Throne...”

  • avatar

    Is it bad that I kind of like it? It doesn’t look completely hideous. Then again, I also like the Countryman.

  • avatar

    A four door 500? Why not.

  • avatar

    Oh my.

  • avatar
    Franz K

    Why not you say cmoiben;pro ?

    Here’s why not ;
    1) The 500 is already underpowered , so the L will be worse

    2) The 500 is already a pile that no one is buying

    3) This so called 500L looks more like a Countryman but is in fact FIAT’s answer to the Clubman .. so lots of confusion on behalf of the buying public is Guaranteed . Not that anyone will be buying one

    4) Look at where its built . Then have a look back at all the ( sic ) fond memories we’ve got here from the last former Iron Curtain country built FIAT . Ponder on that one for a bit , or ask someone old enough to remember the YUGO

    Answer to the Multipla ? Not hardly . Ugly as the Multipla was : it did have a ton of space inside and was extremely practical . Whereas the 500L like the 500 is just a fashion statement that nobodies buying into . Odds are the EU will frown on this car as well

    • 0 avatar

      There’s no such thing as an underpowered modern car. Some could use more, but every car/suv/van is capable of 90mph and 0-60 in 15 seconds or less.

      I knd of like it – hopefully they will come in some fun colours to liven up our roads, and offer another consumer choice and cheaper yet still semi-stylish alternative to the MINI.

      My only question is long-term reliability. Obviously this in not a Zastava (Yugo) or FIAT from the 1970s, and even they were ok cars if cared for. We’ll see if it stacks up as a reasonably reliable hauler for young-families who want something different. If it does, I can see it carving out a small niche.

      • 0 avatar

        Slow was fine when everyone else on the road was slow too.

        Slow is not fine when the 270 horses in the car in front of you allows its greying idiot driver ride his brakes all the way down the onramp and then gun it when the lane straightens out with 200 yards left to merge.

    • 0 avatar

      As far as your point #3, who exactly is buying the Clubman or Countryman in the US? Those aren’t exactly run-away sales successes themselves. Most people looking for a small car aren’t likely to know the difference between the countryman and clubman anyway, so what does it matter which the 500L competes against? And anyone who does know the differences between the 3 is likely an enthusiast or a fan of Mini or Fiat and there won’t be an issue.

      Also, calling the 500 a pile… Wasn’t there just an article here stating that early stats are showing it to be quite reliable? And while it may be a fashion statement, I’m fairly certain 90% of Mini’s sales are the same.

      Gotta work hard to keep those stereotypes, yeah?

      • 0 avatar

        Franz K, I have the feeling you are off the mark, but not just here and there but methodically, through and through.

        1. As skotastik mentioned, no modern car is under-powered. I know it rolls off the tongue nicely … but it means everything and nothing. It’s not an analysis in long or short form.

        2. As much as we all like sensational drama – cars coming out of nowhere to beat expectations either way – 500 is not a pile nobody is buying. It’s a complex product in a complex market, and it’s not selling only if your single staandard is the company’s PR.

        3. Sorting out the relationship between how companies see their lineups, and how customers do, is complicated. Just because it’s a confusing response to MINI products is only important as long as only customers locked into MINI’s categories will look at FIAT products that way. Unwarranted.

        4. Seriously? Pulling out Yugo is a cute writing trick editors must resort to, and we all smile. Current euro car mass producers have all serious amounts of production behind the former iron curtain. so what?

        I liked the multipla, but would have never bought it. I like this one.

  • avatar

    Trickle down ugly.

  • avatar

    Well, if Americans don’t want one, I’m sure there are plenty of Brazilians who’d buy it. Priced around 50k reais it’d do fine, if more like 40k it’d be a runaway hit.

    BTW, this inherits the spirit, as it were, of the original Multipla (fromnthe 50s and 60s). As much as the 90s Multipla was weird, the earlier was even weirder or cooler (depends on your point of view). The original Multipla had such a unique design most people couldn’t tell if it was coming or going.

    Anyway, I’d take a close look at it. Bring it to Brazil Fiat. You won’t regret it.

    • 0 avatar

      What if it is priced at level or maybe even more than RAV4 with V6? More expensive than a base Prius. Which is where it is going to end up if it is truly an intended competitor to the Countryman. Then what’s going to happen to its sales?

      • 0 avatar

        Here in Brazil, both cars you mention are priced above 100k reais. Nope, the cars you mention are not competitors to the 500L as they are priced at over 100 000 reais (believe it or not).

        Direct competitors at 50k here are the Citroen C3 Picasso. The upcoming new Chevy Meriva and others like Fiat’s own Idea, which I hope gets scratched in favor of the 500L (Fiat people, I know you’re reading this, the 500L is much more of a car in our market today – however, if you keep the Idea and price the 500L at 60 000 reais, it won’t stand a chance – remember your own experience with the 500!). Of course, at the 50k price point there are many other indirect competitors. CArs like the Ford Focus or Fiat Bravo.

        However, our market is turning to well-equipped cars. The 500L must be such, but carry a very competitive price to make inroads.

      • 0 avatar

        marcelo……What the price per litre of gas in Brazil?

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Mikey!

      In BRazil prices very from 2.30 reais to almost 3.00 reais a liter. As the 1 USD = about 1.75 reais today, that would translate into 4.7 dollars per gallon to almost 6,2 dollar per US gallon (if my math is right – I’m terrible at it).

      Much more expensive than in America, and in Canada too, right?

      Now you see why anything over a 2.0 4 cylinder is considered a huge engine.

      Great to hear from you!

  • avatar

    I may be wrong here, but I believe this is, in a way, the new Yugo. The plant in Serbia that previously exported the Yugo to the US (Zastava was the Serbian manufacturer, the Yugo was an old Fiat car), was, I believe, converted to a weapons manufacturing facility during the Balkan wars. Fiat bought out Zastava a few years back and started using their old plants to build Fiats. Now, we have another car coming from Serbia, and my guess is that it’s the same plant, which is just an interesting side note (after all, how many auto plants can there possibly be in Serbia?). The car will probably be way better, and to my eyes looks kinda cool, though I’d prefer just a regular Panda here in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      Also, both the Yugo Koral and the Yugo 45 were built up through 2008 before production ended.

      The Koral was a derivative of the Fiat 127 (a B segment FWD hatchback from Fiat), the 45 was a derivative of the 128 and sized accordingly as a C class car.

      The Zastava 101 was a hatchback variant of the 128 as well that took the sedan and modified the trunk and back glass to incorporate a one piece liftgate and made it into a truly modern hatchback with a fold down seat.

  • avatar
    Franz K

    @ Eddie-515 / Skostastic et all

    Off the mark eh ?

    Too little understanding on y’alls part when it comes to Marketing , Sales etc is more like it .

    Who’s buying the MINI Country/Clubman you ask ? A heck of a lot more folks then are ponying up for the pathetic 500 , i can promise you that

    No modern car is underpowered ? Exactly what Planet do you live on ? Planet Politically Correct ? Here’s a Clue . When all your direct competition (in this case MINI etc ) can run circles around you you ARE underpowered

    The YUGO card ? Hmmmn . Perhaps you should have a wee gander at the EU reliability reports on all the Former Soviet Block built FIATs . Well in truth all FIATs . Even the Brits think they’re crap and the Brits will tolerate a ton of unreliability . Ask me how I know that

    The so called FIAT reliability article here ? Give it a rest . READ the number of owner surveyed and then tell me how reliable that little survey really is . Answer – Not at all

    And …. @ SlowMyke – No don’t have to work a bit at it . FIAT does more than a good enough job providing enough fodder for Journalists and Critics Worldwide …. so what do I have to Work at ? All I’ve gotta do is read the facts and then write em up elsewhere

    • 0 avatar

      You’re pretty angry. I’m not saying that Mini won’t outsell this with whatever car they make, a little poking around showed me pretty much any car they make will outsell the 500L. But the point was more that I don’t think the average potential customer needs to know the difference between the Countryman and Clubman. Other than, “one’s a bit bigger”, they are going to be shopping on budget and style for either car. And at the power level of these vehicles, most people would be hard pressed to notice much difference in the driving dynamics of the AWD and the FWD.

      And with the article about the 500’s reliability, I didn’t say this was a 90’s Camry. And I understand that a sample size of 20 is small. The early stats show it seems to be pretty reliable. If it were a total turd, I think there would be a couple problems, even in that sample though. But that can change. Or it can stay the same.

    • 0 avatar

      “No modern car is underpowered”

      So at what power to weight ratio does a car become under-powered?

      • 0 avatar

        A car is not underpowered if it is able to merge safely and maintain the speed limit whilst driving up an incline with a reasonable cargo.

        Cars like the original VW Bus had 0-60 times in the 20s and had to stay in the truck lane while going up mountains.

        I can’t think of a single modern car that is incapable of merging safely or needs to pull to the far right with flashers on while going up a mountain.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree. I’ve lived in mountainous areas and in the past was just fine with cars weighing about 2000 lbs and around 60 hp. I’m kind of shocked that anyone would call a vehicle that would most likely get 160 hp if sold in the US under-powered.

    • 0 avatar

      Franz K,

      I am not passing judgment on appropriate amounts of horsepower. I am referring to previous discussions here on TTAC. My take on them was that horsepower in modern cars is a matter of intersection between industry trends and consumer needs and desires, actual or preceived. In short, there is no single metric. I certainly found no evidence to change my PERSONAL view that more – rather than less – horsepower is the mark of insufficiently attentive or confident drivers. I am NOT suggesting they should get off the road. I am simply saying I can handle ANY traffic with low horsepower. Because I am not suggesting what OTHER people should do, this is not about political correctness at all.

      It sounded strange that MINI should have such a stronghold in defining this particular market, but that may well be. In that case, you would be right and I would be wrong. For what it’s worth, I couldn’t care less for the MINIs (tried them more than once via Zipcar), but I might be interested in the 500L (wife loves the 500 – the L would be a decent “cute” and “practical” intersection).

      Once again, Michael’s article was a TEASER, clearly marked as such. He has revamped the website and provided what it can do in an interesting way. Nobody can argue with you if YOU DO NOT EVER WANT TO BUY A FIAT. Condemning the car for the get go is an entirely different matter… and you simply won’t have much traction (yet).

    • 0 avatar

      This makes absolutely no sense! Too funny!

      Last I checked, we arn’t all immature, hyper-active, and angry a la Franz! I’m not entering the Indy 500; I don’t judge my manhood by how much faster my car is than it’s competitors! Yes, a Mini is quicker than a 500, but it’s also more expensive, and if one needs speed, skip both and get a proper sports car, or better yet, get off the road and get into motorsports.

      “No modern car is underpowered ? Exactly what Planet do you live on ? Planet Politically Correct ? Here’s a Clue . When all your direct competition (in this case MINI etc ) can run circles around you you ARE underpowered”

    • 0 avatar

      There are a few different perspectives in which we see a car, and those depend on our interests and more on our psychological profile.
      So, in situation where speed limit is more or less 120kmh or 75mph, for safety reasons, and if not, then for wallet reasons we tend to obey those limits. What is the point of making car that can go 250kmh or having 300 hp? Apart from counting on immature part of population (meaning 80-90%)and carefully building fairy tales about toys.
      15 years ago I bought new car for 4000e (5000usd). I made 250 thousand km (150000 miles) doing taxi, and sold it for half the price I paid. That was the job. And the car was made in Russia. So what? When we talk about Yugo from `80-s, should we mention Aston Martin from `70-s where you switch off wipers and they stop on the middle of wind shield, so one needed to learn when exactly to switch them off?
      Point is, this car is not much different from any other. It has 4 wheels and lights so one can drive it during night.

  • avatar

    Fiat launching a *new* model, now that qualifies as a “man bites dog” story these days.

    This car is not really great looking, it’s kind of awkward looking, but I like it. Though I’m not sure if that’s just because I’m happy to see a *new* Fiat model – I wonder how many years it’ll take before Fiat releases another new model.

  • avatar

    C’mon ya’ll, it ain’t even here yet and you’re already poopin on it. Give it a chance before all the hate, if it’s a turd, well you can say ‘told ya..blah blah” all smug like. But if it does turn out to be a cool little car and holds up well, then I’ll bet the farm none of ya have the balls or class to admit it.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    FIAT dealers here needed the 500L yesterday, if only to finally have something they can point to and say, “well, for a few thousand more we’ve got a model which can seat adults in the rear.” The primary negative aspect of my recent 500 test drive was some friends’ refusal to tag along in the rear seats during my brief blast around the Common Ground loop.

    • 0 avatar

      When I sat in the back seat of a Fiat 500 at the auto show, the rear seat head restraint fully extended was perfectly positioned to snap my neck right where it enters the skull. And I’m only 5’7″. I can’t imagine anybody taller than about 5′ being comfortable or even nominally safe back there.

      Which wouldn’t prevent me from buying one in the slightest. But it’s a two-seater, plain and simple.

  • avatar

    The lights mounted within the rear bumper applique look a little, uh, vulnerable — even if they are recessed.

  • avatar

    Sigh, you know what? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m getting really tired of all these niche vehicles. Not because they are odd (this one looks like a Countryman and a 500 had a baby), because they are too trendy. Each one has a shorter lifespan of popularity than the next. Did we really need the Cube? Let’s have some interesting vehicles that are more practical, or more sporty! Not more portly roller skates. Lets have something you can live with for awhile.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, except for America, these cars are the real deal elsewhere. They are considered practical, everyday kinds of cars. Maybe they are nt like this in the US. Its a practical, well-equipped, minivan. Yes, minivan. For families. So, yeah, this isn’t a niche vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s great, I wish it was so in North America. Unfortunately most of us here can’t let go of our sensible sedans and SUVs. We need real estate on wheels! That’s why the 500 is tanking, it’s too small and silly for North American tastes. Anything funky is regarded as niche (or boutique-ish) and lives on the fringe.

      • 0 avatar

        jellybean: “We need real estate on wheels!”

        Why do you NEED that? People in the rest of the world are able to fit into these smaller cars; why shouldn’t you Americans be? You can’t (quite) ALL be hyper-obese, or are you? You WANT “real estate on wheels!”; that’s not the same as “need”.

        Sometimes, you can’t get what you want but have to make do with what you really need. Sometimes, you CAN get what you want, but it would be stupid to; then, also, it’s smarter to make do with just what you need.

        Either way, in order to be able to make an informed discussion about whether to go for what you want or make do with what you need, it is wise to recognize the difference and try not to confuse “NEED!” with “want”.


  • avatar

    Reading all these comments, without actually owning any of these cars, I realize that I come to this web site not for the “Truth About Cars” but for the blather about cars.

    I might have missed it, but did any Fiat 500 owner post? The rest is just pre-teen boys talking about sex.

  • avatar

    One thing I notice from many drivers is that despite having 130, 160, 180, or even 200+hp on tap, most drivers don’t even utilize any of it.

    They simply are tepid with the throttle and thus don’t understand that if you NEED to pass quickly, to put your foot into it, let the rpm go above 4Krpm long enough to get past whatever you are passing and then slow back down.

    I’ve driven an early 80’s Civic with 67hp on tap and never had any issues with it on the interstate and easily drove it at 70-80mph and it went up mountainous passes without issue.

    I didn’t find the little Fiat 500 underpowered, just had to keep your foot into it longer but it got up to speed and by dropping down a gear or two for passing, you CAN drive it just fine on the interstate.

    My guess is this being a B segment car, it won’t be too much heavier I don’t think, the little fiat now weighs in around 2,333# or so and thus this car may weigh in as much as 2500-2700# in FWD mode in any case so my feeling is if they go with the normally aspirated 1.4L motor, they’ll up the hp enough to produce something closer to 120hp to compensate, for the US anyway and perhaps a more spirited variant utilizing a turbo.

    The 900cc motor as it is in more aggressive turbo form puts out 107, if I recall hp.

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