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by Jez Spinks

The first official pictures of the new Fiat 500L have been released, confirming the Italian car maker’s move to copy the Mini Countryman.

The L in 500L stands for large and signifies how the model will feature notably bigger dimensions than the retro-inspired 500 that is a modern-day take on the 1950s model dubbed ‘Bambino’.

The 500L, which will debut publicly at the 2012 Geneva motor show in March, sits on a different platform shared with the Fiat Panda. At 414cm long, 178cm wide and 166cm high, the 500L is 60cm longer, 11cm wider and 15cm taller than the regular 500.

Local Fiat importer Ateco Automotive says a decision has yet to be made on whether it will introduce the 500L to Australia, though the company has told CarAdvice it’s unlikely to come at this stage. The company has already limited the local Fiat passenger-car range to just the 500 and 500C convertible, ignoring the likes of the Panda, Punto and Bravo hatchbacks.

The Fiat 500L styling borrows the retro look of the 500’s nose, such as the slot-style grille and larger lower air intake and bulbous headlights.

Five doors and a longer, flatter roof, though, help create the conversion from cute city car runabout to more serious MPV (multi-purpose vehicle). The ‘floating’ roof effect created by the blacked-out pillars takes a leaf out of the design book of the rival Mini Countryman.

Seating will be for five mainly, but a seven-seat option is anticipated.

The Fiat 500L will be offered mainly as a front-wheel-drive vehicle, though with a four-wheel-drive option.

The Fiat 500L will go on sale in Europe in late 2012 with three engines initially – a 0.9-litre two-cylinder ‘TwinAir’ petrol and 1.4-litre petrol, plus a 1.3-litre ‘Multijet’ turbo diesel.

The future distribution of Fiat passenger cars in Australia is currently the subject of speculation after Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne strongly hinted at January’s Detroit motor show that there might be changes within the next few months.

While Ateco currently looks after the Fiat brand locally, Chrysler Group Australia is responsible for the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands.