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Fiat 500L brings practical emotion

The trendy little modern-day 500 hatch has proven a success for Fiat in the lucrative retro car market, so much so that the company is now extending the nostalgia to those needing a more practical mode of transport.

And despite what its 500L designation might suggest, this new family member (aimed at those with families) is far more than just a stretched 500 hatch.

Retro charm of the 500 hatch has been woven into a more practical mini-MPV wrapping.

A bigger car with a completely new body, Fiat says the 500L offers “MPV passenger space combined with the feel of a small SUV.” It's basically something of a tall-roofed, practical B-segment hatch then - which makes us wonder where it leaves the Grande Punto in the pecking order.

The 500L's styling shows strong ties to its hatch sibling but it's definitely not an enlarged carbon copy. If anything, it takes perhaps a bit too much inspiration from Mini, with a clear resemblance to the Mini Coupe (and even Fiat's own Panda) in its helmet-style rear roofline and there's a bit of the '90s Mini Spiritual Concept in those vertically stacked circular lights at the front.

Yet the 500L also serves as something of a spiritual successor to the 1956 Fiat 600 Multipla, with its cab-forward design providing generous space for five occupants.

Powering the new hatch is the best of Fiat's small engine range, including the diminutive turbocharged Twinair petrol engine and more conventional 1.4-litre four-cylinder and a 1.3-litre MultiJet II turbodiesel.

While Europeans will see the 500L in their showrooms towards the end of this year, it has yet to be confirmed whether South African school runs will feature this car any time soon, with Fiat SA doing feasibility studies to determine whether bringing it here could be a good idea.

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