Five years after the launch of the new Fiat 500 and 55 years after the début of the original 'Topolino', Fiat has extended its SA range with the introduction of the 500L.
While it still has some of the cheeky style that makes the 500 so distinctively Italian, the 500L is no longer a 'little mouse' of a car; built on Fiat's new B-segment platform, it embodies the concept of 'space efficiency' to pack seating for five two metre-tall adults and almost 400 litres of luggage space into a car only 4150mm long (that's just 70mm longer than a Punto) 1780mm wide and 1660mm tall high.
That 400-litre cargo bay can also be configured to separate fragile objects from heavy ones, clean objects from dirty and wet stuff from dry - and there are pockets and hooks all over it to keep your stuff safely and tidily in its place while in transit.
The rear seats slide fore and aft, and tumble forwards individually to present a flat load-bay floor and yes, the front passenger set also folds flat so you can get your 2.4-metre long-board inside, instead of on top.
THE 'KISS' PRINCIPLE: KEEPING IT SIMPLE
The 500L is the first Fiat to have the second-generation Uconnect infotainment platform, which can manage media content such as the radio, cellphone, media player, iPod or smartphone as well as the navigation system - all hands-free.
There's also a 125mm touchscreen, a USB port and an AUX-IN connector, as well as a Bluetooth interface for call management, voice recognition (in 11 languages!), reading received text messages out aloud and audio streaming from your smartphone, based on the Windows Embedded Automotive operating system.
A future development will also let you use a number of apps to stay in constant contact with Facebook and Twitter friends or get real-time updates on traffic, news and weather.
A SIMPLE PALETTE
The 500L will be available in South Africa in a choice of seven body colours - red, white, blue, cream, metallic red and two shades of metallic grey - three designs of alloy rims and two interior trim levels.
The Easy trim comes with either a beige soft-touch dashboard and panelling, magnesium/beige fabric upholstery and a two-tone black and beige steering wheel, or a grey dashboard and panelling, red and grey fabric upholstery and the same two-tone black and grey steering wheel.
The Lounge trim goes upmarket with either a suede beige dashboard and panelling, beige and dark grey fabric and a two-tone black and beige steering wheel, or a suede grey dashboard and panelling, black and grey upholstery and the same two-tone black and beige steering wheel.
Your 500L will have either a 70kW 1.4-litre petrol engine or a 77kW 1.6-litre MultiJet 2 turbodiesel, each driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual 'box.
The MacPherson-strut front suspension has a hollow anti-roll bar to add both lightness and rigidity, while the rear torsion beam is also hollow, removing the need for a rear anti-roll bar.
Standard kit includes six airbags - front, window and side - daylight running lights in the headlight clusters and adaptive cornering foglights, as well as an electronic stability suite that provides antilock braking, traction control, hill hold, torque control to reduce lockup on too-brisk downshifts, active electronic steering that corrects for skids and controls oversteer, and a rollover mitigation function that kicks in whanver one of the wheels leaves the road.
1.4 Easy - R232 990
1.4 Lounge - R247 990
1.6 MultiJet Lounge - R287 990
All of which include a three-year or 100 000km warranty and maintenance plan.