Did The Lack of AWD Stop You From Buying A Fiat 500L?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Look at the Design of the New Fiat 500L

Fiat 500L cross section

Fiat has released design details on the upcoming Fiat 500L, the new 5 passenger Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is coming to Fiat dealers in 2013. The Fiat 500L is the evolution of Fiat family car design that stretches back over 112 years.

1912 Fiat Tipo Zero
The 1912 Fiat Zero was to Italy what the Ford Model T was to America, except the Fiat was more advanced with a suspension and drivetrain that had more in common with the 1928 Ford Model A.

Beginning with the original 1899 Fiat 4hp model and cars like the 1912 Tipo Zero, Fiat has always brought transportation to the masses showcasing intelligent and often ingenious automotive design.

Fiat 500 Topolino
1936 Fiat 500 Topolino

There are numerous examples. The 1936 Fiat 500 Topolino is considered the first modern small car. Created by legendary automotive design engineer Dante Giocosa, it was designed from the inside out and was a marvel of space utilization.


Fiat 600 Multipla
Fiat 600 Multipla 6 seats
1956 Fiat 600 Multipla. Three row seating for six passengers in a car the same size as a new Fiat 500.

The 1956 Fiat 600 Multipla introduced Cab Forward design and was able to seat 6 passengers with luggage within a length of just 139 inches. Then in 1969, a thoroughly modern small car turned the world upside down with the introduction of the Fiat 128. This acclaimed car had an overall length smaller than a VW Beetle, yet had more legroom than a Cadillac Eldorado. The front wheel drive car featured a transverse overhead cam engine, separate gearbox, electric cooling fan, rack and pinion steering and strut suspension. These specifications sound familiar today because the Fiat 128 pioneered and set the pattern for the modern front wheel drive car.

Fiat 128 Rally
1969 Fiat 128

Fiat's design leadership has continued throughout the successive decades: the 1980 Panda, 1984 Car of the Year Uno, the innovative 1998 Multipla and, of course, the 2007 Fiat 500 to name just a few award winners.

Enter The New Fiat 500L

Fiat 500L trunk room

Now with the new Fiat 500L, we see the next step in Fiat design. The Fiat 500L advances the Multi-Purpose Vehicle  concept with an expansion of room, versatility, convenience and personalization.

To explain the concepts and goals the design team had when creating the 500L, Fiat has just published a book that tells its story. The following are excerpts taken from "500L, a Fiat Design Approach" that touch on some of the design points. The book is at the end of this post for your convenience.


Andreas Wuppinger - Chief Designer Exterior - Fiat Design


Can you tell us about the creative procedure that lead to the production of the 500L? What aspects represented the guidelines for the 500L project?

When asked to develop a new model for the L segment, to which the so-called “leisure activity vehicles” belong, we immediately considered the loss of appeal of many products on the market and asked ourselves how we could give a large usable internal space and a bit of emotionality back to limited external size; something that belongs to our history and our technical capacity.

Fiat 500L design sketch 1

Starting from the experience gained with the 500, we tried to transfer the same imagination to the new typology, accentuating however the concept of versatility. The objective was to define a line that would not undergo a rapid obsolescence, with a unique look and boldness of construction.

Fiat 500L design sketch 2

Fiat 500L design sketch 3

Fiat 500L design sketch 4

Fiat 500L design sketch final

What are the features that characterize the 500L’s external design and what considerations inspired them?

The 500L is characterized by continuous glazing, large apertures towards the outside and a highly liveableinternal space. The design of bodywork inspires a sensation of safety obtained through a high belt line, the accentuated shape of the wheel arches and a raised driving position. As a point of reference we did not, however, consider the SUV, which often has a negative connotation: grandeur, high consumption and almost shielding one from the outside.

Fiat 500L commanding view

Here the process is the opposite; I feel protected inside the car but have a great view of the exterior; the clutter of the bodywork is reduced but the space available inside is maximized.

Fiat 500L visability



How does the 500L compare to other vehicles in the “L” segment when it comes to size?

I believe that the 500L is primarily a highly functional car, capable of offering a surprising space for passengers and luggage in a little over four- metre length. However, this has a duplicate structural and with it formal reasoning: the 500L expresses its prerogative, but also a particular visual identity.

Fiat 500L panoramic view

We have tried to optimize the volumes that have a technical function to the advantage of liveability. At the same time we wanted to show a design “honesty”, excluding particular expedients that then, however, were not born out in the vehicle’s true prerogatives. The answer adopted in the design of the windscreen,with the split uprights, shows how one can obtain a fundamental requisite for safety and with it a coherent and original physiognomy.

Fiat 500L airy interior



Virgilio Fernandez - Chief Designer Interior - Fiat Design


In conceptual and product definition terms, what solutions were adopted for the interior of the 500L?

The basic principle was that of applying a logic to every feature, to every individual aspect regarding the 500L interior; a logic in the sense of ease of approach, interface, colloquialism, simplification, congruence and even humanity.

Fiat 500L roominess with style

The safety but also the pleasure given by the windscreen that allows a wide view, the raised position of the driver and passenger seats, the sensation of airiness, even if inside an automobile, hark back to an idea of harmony between the objects and the surrounding scenery.

Fiat 500L dashboard

Specific attention was then paid to determining the shape of all the other features, from the dashboard to the door panels, from the design of the steering wheel to the smallest details, evocative of the vehicle’s physiognomy.

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Fiat 500L design brief

The Fiat 500L is going to be an exciting edition to Fiat Studios when it arrives here next year. While you are waiting, make sure you check out the book below and you will see what I mean!

Fiat 500L, A Design Approach


With thanks to Fiat SpA and Chrysler Media

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