The rugged version of Fiat’s family-friendly 500L
- 500 badge appeal
- Practical interior
- Flexible boot
- Efficient diesel engines
- Awkward styling
- Interior quality
- Underwhelming drive
- Lacklustre petrols
However, in a bid to boost its appeal, the family-friendly 500L is also available with various styling cues nicked from the 500X, in the form of the 500L Cross.
Blending various model types means the 500L Cross has a limited number of direct rivals, from the Vauxhall Crossland X (another pseudo MPV-crossover) and compact Citroen C3 Aircross to the plainer Volkswagen Golf SV and Hyundai ix20.
One issue comes from within, though, with the 500X offering more cohesive off-road styling (and greater ability) and an interior that’s almost as practical as the 500L’s.
Rugged styling for a compact MPV
Differentiating the 500L Cross from the regular 500L Urban is a more off-road-style look for the exterior.
In place of the Urban’s chrome exterior trim at the front and side, the Cross comes with a satin chrome finish for a more rugged look (like the 500X), and a different design of bumper that sits in line with the 500X, whereas the Urban borrows cues from the regular 500.
It’s not all show and no go, as the Cross has received a 25mm rise in ground clearance compared with the normal 500L, and comes with features such as an advanced Traction+ traction control system which includes hill-descent control (Fiat calls it Gravity Control).
Let’s be clear though, the 500L certainly isn’t a car to be tackling anything more than a muddy track, as the ground clearance still isn’t that high and there’s no option of four-wheel drive as with the 500X.
Same engine range as 500L
The Cross comes with the full range of 500L engines, comprising two petrols and two diesels.
A 1.4-litre petrol producing 95hp kicks off the range, with a more powerful 120hp 1.4-litre T-Jet turbo also available, while the Multijet diesels are available in 95hp 1.3-litre and 120hp 1.6-litre forms.
You’ll want to stick to driving around town in the petrol models, especially the 95hp version. Even the 120hp turbo can feel a little gutless, but it boasts the fastest 0-62mph time in the range, taking 10.2 seconds to complete the sprint.
We’d opt for the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel. It’s a bit slower to 62mph, taking 11.5 seconds, but it feels far punchier thanks to a healthy 320Nm of torque, making it much nippier out of town and on the motorway. The six-speed manual gearbox has a positive shift action to it, and the gearlever itself falls within easy reach of the driver.
If you want your Cross with an automatic gearbox, you’ll have to make do with a five-speed automated manual gearbox that’s only available with the 95hp 1.3-litre diesel.
It makes for a much more sedate drive than any other 500L model, but can be slow to respond when you demand a bit more performance from it. In fact, it takes 15.5 seconds to amble from 0-62mph, but the good news is that it’s the most efficient in the range, claiming 70.6mpg.
Practical interior fit for a small family
Despite the rugged add-ons, the Cross is still a 500L, which means it’s designed to suit the life of a family. There’s a flexible and spacious interior with a large number of storage spaces for all kinds of family paraphernalia.
There’s also a 455-litre boot, which is a good size considering the car’s fairly compact exterior dimensions, and it can be configured with a variable height boot floor for extra versatility. The rear seats split, fold and tumble forwards if you’re carrying larger items, freeing up a total of 1,480 litres of cargo capacity.
Following a raft of updates in 2017, the interior of the 500L Cross comes with a more up-to-date touchscreen infotainment system like you’ll find in the 500, as well as a clearer instrument cluster viewed through a new multi-function steering wheel that’s more pleasant to hold and use.
Some of the controls lower down on the centre console – the climate control dials and gearlever – have been raised up to fall within easier reach compared with the 500L Trekking that came before it, too, making the Cross easier to drive and operate other functions on the move.
Colourful and customisable
As you’d expect for a car with a 500 badge, there’s a wide range of personalisation options on offer, with several exterior colour schemes to choose from with contrasting roof colours, as well as a few trim options for the interior.
The interior could do with a bit more colour, though, as in standard form it can feel quite dull with a lot of black plastic used throughout. Not all of it is the most pleasant to touch, with various materials used. There’s certainly a lot less colour inside compared with what you can do to the outside.
The cabin is bright though, with a huge amount of glass making it feel light and airy and there’s excellent visibility all-round helping to make manoeuvring in town very easy indeed. Small kids in the back have a good view out, too.
There’s the option of adding a large panoramic sunroof to flood the cabin with light, however it eats into rear headroom rather noticeably, so you’ll only want kids back there if you specify it – adults will struggle for headroom.
If you’re spending a lot of time in town, opting for the City Pack could be worthwhile (adding rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, as well as electric folding door mirrors) while the Safety Pack adds a dimming rear-view mirror and autonomous emergency braking.
The Parkers Verdict
The 500L Cross is a very niche example of a car that’s already difficult to pigeonhole. But with a 500 badge on the back offering a certain degree of appeal (at least in terms of eye-catching styling and personalisation options), that can’t hide a few downsides.
Its interior isn’t as enticing to sit in as a regular 500, nor does it feel as well-built as some rivals. However, it’s a very practical car considering its compact exterior dimensions, and it should prove fairly cheap to run if you opt for one of the frugal diesels.
Just don’t expect a scintillating driving experience, although that’s unlikely to be high on the list of priorities for potential buyers. The 500L’s bright cabin, comfortable ride and easy-to-drive nature will be much more appealing, while the low running costs of the diesels will appeal to cost-conscious buyers.
Read on for the full Parkers Fiat 500L Cross review to see if it’s worth the extra over not only the regular 500L, but also its practical alternatives