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Ever since Fiat 500 sales bombed in the United States (cute as it is, the Topolino is just too compact for the American driving public) it has been inevitable that there would be a bigger, more practical, five-door version.
Now Autonews is saying that it will debut as early as March this year at the Geneva show (which says a lot about just how hard Sergio Marchionne is prepared to lean on his staff when he thinks it's necessary) and that it will be an entirely new model, to be called the 500L.
It will apparently be based on the Punto platform so as to deliver two viable row of seats (don't try putting anybody bigger than Tinkerbelle in the back of the three-door 500!) and a reasonable amount of boot, but will retain the distinctive face of the 500, as well as a lot of retro styling cues.
According to Autonews the five-door 500L is about 4150mm long - only 60mm longer than the three-door - but is appreciably taller and wider. An even wilder rumour is that a seven-seater 500L (which would have to be at least another 100mm in overall length) will break cover later in the year, for European customers only .
Whether or not it cracks the vital US market (where it is scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2012 as a 2013 model) the 500L will also replace the Fiat Idea minivan in European showrooms - possibly as early as July - where it will compete with the Opel Meriva and the new Ford B-Max, which is probably why Marchionne thinks he needs a seven-seat variant.