It’s a difficult thing to judge, the 500L. The response of many at this show seems to be that this car is a jump too far for the 500 identity. But standing and really taking it in – and after talking extensively to Fiat Design Director Roberto Giolito – it certainly begins to make more sense. This is the first step in a wider strategy, that should lead to a much expanded 500 (and versatile Fiat) range. It also shows some of the first fruits (and logic) of the Fiat-Chrysler marriage.
Clearly, Fiat – like Mini – want a big share of the premium A/B/B+ market. And given the brand’s move back into the American market, a car with the 500′s identity but a lot more space is, as Giolito says the clinics confirmed, a bit of a no-brainer. Many designers we’ve spoken to quibbled with aspects of its execution though. It seems tall and teetering where the 500 hatch is planted and robust.
The volume over the rear wheel feels problematic, partly because the 17 inch wheels seem completely lost in the arch. Others felt that the robust, lower body qualities – which are reminiscent of the new Panda – didn’t work that well with the 500 facial graphics.
Yet when you understand that this platform will spawn Jeep derivatives and – more importantly a 4×4 Fiat variant, in the mold of an Audi Allroad – some of the design constraints become apparent.
Like the Mini Countryman, it’s one case where many designers will roll their eyes and talk wistfully of the model-line heritage… but where the market seems likely to lap up the product. It clearly makes good sense for the brand to use an identity which is seen as premium – and they can therefore charge more for.
We’ll reserve full judgement on the 500L then, until we understand it in the context of a wider strategy set to be unveiled over the next year. And until we’ve sat in and experienced the interior which was sadly locked on the second press day, because it’s not 100% production on the cars in Geneva.
By Joe Simpson