So you want to buy a van. Well, not a van. Something practical, something with heaps of room for you and your kids. Something large enough for your monthly Costco run. Not too practical, though – sliding doors are for nerds. No minivans here, please! And it can’t be too big. More like a Tim Hortons’ “medium”. Oh, and SUVs are “rubbish”. None of that noise for you.

Lastly, you want it to look cool. Not too cool, just cool. Something retro would be nice. Oh, and can it please be a manual?

Enter the Fiat 500L. It is either the funky tall-hatch that proves you’re still youthful at heart, or another Dad joke your kids will hate you for.

To my mind, it’s the former. This is a van based on the popular Fiat 500, a retro-inspired hatch that doesn’t quite reinvigorate the brand in the way Mini has, but still pulls in its share of new and old retro-mobile devotees.

And by devotees, we mean gooey-eyed fanatics. So it is inevitable that one day a distracted Fiat 500 driver will be gazing lovingly at his Euro-chic ride, and accidentally pick up another Fiat owner’s pumpkin-spice latte. Their hands will brush, they’ll both notice the same key chain, a conversation will strike up, and before you know it – babies! Funny thing about babies, they don’t really work well in the back of a Fiat 500.

Never fear! The 500L is here!

The unit sent to us was a gorgeous metallic forest green, with a two-tone brown-on-grey leather interior. The metallic paint on the outside is mirrored by a sparkling plastic cover on the dashboard which is an unusual and welcome touch.

The retro-Fiat 500 design cues dominate the exterior visage, and it is shod with four of the sexiest 17-inch alloys in the business. Up above, a massive panoramic moon roof floods the generous interior with light.

The driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive, and is heated but not cooled. The seating position is high and well-set, with a commanding view of the road and the sides of the car. The wraparound windshield, large windows cut into the A-pillars and the high greenhouse – as well as the aforementioned sunroof – make it seem like you’re driving the Pope-mobile. So glass. Much visible. Wow.

2014 Fiat 500L2014 Fiat 500L2014 Fiat 500L dashboard2014 Fiat 500L front seats
2014 Fiat 500L, dashboard, front seats. Click image to enlarge

So far, so good. The biggest issue with the driver’s seat is the large gap between it and the door. Three people who got into the car all noticed that there was nowhere for them to put their arm while driving, the large gap meant they couldn’t rest it on the arm rest. Sadly that meant they were forced to hold the steering wheel correctly the entire time they were driving – life is hard.

Actually, that’s the second biggest issue. The biggest issue was the armrest on the right-hand side of the seat. It was a console, but it was seat-mounted. It was small, but adjustable. Infuriatingly, it ended up too far forward and blocked the gear lever. Want to change from say fifth down to fourth? Or up from fifth to sixth? You’d better move the armrest out of the way first.

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