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Fiat 500L Urban engines, drive and performance

2017 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 3.6 out of 53.6

Written by James Dennison Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

  • Choice of four engine variants
  • Petrols feel outdated and thirsty
  • Diesels are punchier and more frugal

There are four engines on offer in the 500L Urban – two petrols and two diesels – with an automated manual transmission also available.

Petrol engines

Both 1.4 litres in size, the Fiat 500L Urban’s petrol engines are best-suited to drivers who do lower-than-average yearly mileage in a predominantly urban environment. The base 95hp 1.4 engine produces 127Nm of torque and is good for 0-62mph in 12.8 seconds – eventually reaching a top speed of 111mph. Even the more powerful 120hp 1.4 T-Jet doesn’t feel particularly punchy and struggles up hills.

This is in spite of a respectable 10.2-second 0-62mph time, and a top speed of 117mph. It’s smooth and quiet enough when cruising, though, and does begin to pick up the pace in the higher revs of each gear. However, at this point it loses much of its smoothness and begins to sound coarse.

Diesel engines

More suited to the 500L Urban’s people-carrying nature are the duo of diesel motors. The smallest of which is the 95hp 1.3-litre MultiJet, capable of 0-62mph in 13.9 seconds and a top speed of 106mph.

Those after something a little punchier will enjoy the extra oomph of the 120hp 1.6-litre MultiJet, producing 320Nm of torque (105Nm more than the most powerful petrol). Acceleration to 62mph is timed at 10.7 seconds, but because of the extra torque the diesel actually feels quicker than the 120hp T-Jet petrol in reality.

It’s reasonably smooth and pleasant to drive, too, and there’s little of the intrusive diesel engine clatter inherent on some engines.

However, if you’re considering a diesel, make sure your yearly mileage and average driving conditions warrant it. A driver who does a couple of thousand miles a year in mostly city environments will see little benefit in avoiding the cheaper petrol motors.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Safe and predictable drive
  • High levels of body roll
  • Permanently light steering

It’s clear from the outset that the 500L Urban has not been set up for a sporty, involving drive. The steering feels exceptionally light – even more so in City mode, which boosts the power assistance to make urban manoeuvres a doddle – and there’s plenty of body roll from the top-heavy body design.

Despite this, the 500L Urban doesn’t embarrass itself through the bends – offering up reasonable levels of traction and stability. Push on harder and, although the body lean becomes more apparent, the 500L Urban remains predictable and safe.

However, rivals such as the Ford B-Max manage to feel that little bit more agile and enjoyable, all the while maintaining that safe and stable feel.

Large rear pillars on the 500L Urban’s back corners make parking a more challenging task than it should be, yet the optional rear parking camera included in the City Pack should make things easier. The super-light steering also comes into its own when manoeuvring into a tight spot.