By Mike Torpey on 2018-02-17 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Fiat 500L 1.6
CREATING a compact crossover from a supermini worked a treat for Fiat when the Italian brand conceived the 500L.
Now the roomiest 500 on the road has raised the bar again with an extra helping of style, economy and technology.
The latest 500L has hit showrooms over the past few weeks complete with no less than 40 per cent of its components completely new, and in three distinct versions - Urban, Cross and Wagon.
And while the personality of each one varies, they are all flexible to the point that owners can create up to 1,500 different customisations.
Among those options is a bi-colour with contrast roof option costing an extra £700, and in the case of our tested Cross variant the Sicilian Orange body colour with Matt Black roof really looks the business.
Cross models are the most adventurous of the latest line-up, boasting new bumpers and skid plates, two-colour diamond-finish 17-inch alloy wheels and a bolder grille for an extra sporty touch.
As its name suggests there's more crossover substance too, with ground clearance raised by 25mm, a new Uconnect HD Live seven-inch touchscreen plus a mode selector with choice of Normal, Traction+ and Gravity Control.
Normal is the default function for a comfortable ride in everyday conditions while Traction+, which can be activated at speeds of less than 18mph, helps the car to start on slippery surfaces and gives added grip over rough terrain.
Gravity Control, meanwhile, keeps the speed constant when descending steep slopes.
The 500L's appeal, however, will always lie in the way it caters for families. On that score it has plenty of room front and back, comfortable seating with ample head and legroom and sliding rear seats.
You also get double gloveboxes, one of them cooled, fold-down picnic tables in the rear and webbed pockets on the back of the front seats.
Boot space ranges from a reasonable 455 litres to 1,480 with the rear seats folded - and that's with a spacesaver spare wheel fitted - so there's plenty of practicality.
There's also sufficient feelgood factor in a fresh, modern cabin with two-tone finishes and ambient lighting in the door bins, while the central touchscreen has an integrated Tom Tom sat-nav and the car is also compatible with Android and Apple smartphones.
What will also appeal to families is the fuel economy. Diesel power may not get much positive press these days but there's no doubt the 1.6-litre MultiJet engine in this model is both frugal and energetic.
Its 120bhp provides a 0-62 acceleration time of 11.5 seconds, a top speed of 114mph and an official Combined fuel return of 65.7mpg. Emissions are also low at 114g/km.
My own average fuel return of 52.4mpg, completed over mixed urban, rural and major roads, was impressive in the circumstances.
That was in a car that's enjoyable to drive with good all round visibility and a comfortable ride - and certainly stands out from the crowd.
Fiat 500L 1.6 MultiJet Cross
Mechanical: 120bhp, 1,598cc 4-cyl diesel diesel driving front wheels via six-speed manual transmission
Max Speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
Combined MPG: 65.7
Insurance Group: 19
C02 emissions: 114g/km
Bik rating: 24%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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