Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

19 June 2014

South Africa: Fiat 500L - Mistaken Identity?

analysis

Producing modern versions of classic cars can be a risky business. Volkswagen, for instance, has tried, twice, to recreate the special magic of the Beetle in the modern context, with mixed success. Mini, on the other hand, has managed to enchant a whole new generation, despite a car that is much, much bigger than the tiny original. Where does all of this leave the Fiat 500L?

Among the biggest challenges facing motor manufacturers is creating cars with a distinctive character, and producing versatile vehicles that can fulfil multiple roles.

One way to introduce character and identity is to reach back into the past, and to create modern interpretations of classic designs. BMW's Mini, and the Fiat 500, are arguably the most convincing, and most successful examples of this retro-reborn genre.

The ever-growing array of crossovers and multi-purpose vehicles is proof that versatility has become a key factor in new car design, too. But what happens if you mix retro and versatility? Meet the Fiat 500L.

As that designation implies, the 500L is a bigger 500. And yes, the L is an abbreviation for Large - large, that is, by Fiat 500 standards. While the little 500 is...

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