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by Tim Beissmann

Fiat Australia looks set to expand its line-up to two models in 2013, with the Fiat 500L a chance to join the smaller 500 retro city car in the second half of next year.

On sale in Italy and major European markets this month before reaching showrooms in “more than 100 countries” in 2013, Fiat Australia’s Lenore Fletcher said the local division was focusing closely on bringing the chunkier Mini Countryman-style five-door down under.

“We’re very interested in that vehicle,” Fletcher said. “It’s a strong contender for the Australian market.”

Although it won’t arrive within the next 12 months, the 500L is believed to be a good chance to reach Australia before the end of 2013.

The Fiat Panda-based 500L made its world premiere at the 2012 Geneva motor show in March. At 4147mm long, 1784mm wide, 1665mm tall and with a 2612mm wheelbase, the 500L is 601mm longer, 157mm wider and 177mm taller than the Fiat 500 and rides on a 312mm-longer wheelbase. At that size, the 500L has roughly the same dimensions as the Countryman, although is 200mm skinnier.

Sliding the rear seats forwards increases boot space from 343 litres to 400 litres, while folding the seatbacks forward completely flat expands the 500L’s cargo capacity to 1310 litres.

The Fiat 500L is available overseas with three engines: two petrols and a diesel. The turbocharged 875cc two-cylinder TwinAir petrol engine produces 77kW of power and 145Nm of torque, accelerating from 0-100km/h in 12.3 seconds and using 4.8 litres of fuel per 100km when teamed with a six-speed manual transmission.

Despite being close to twice the TwinAir’s size, the 1.4-litre petrol alternative is less powerful (70kW/127Nm), less efficient (6.2L/100km) and slower (0-100km/h in 12.8 seconds).

The 1.3-litre MultiJet II diesel generates 62kW of power and 200Nm of torque. It takes 14.9 seconds to reach triple figures, but consumes just 4.2L/100km when paired with a five-speed manual transmission.

Fletcher said it was too early to speculate on what engines could be offered in the 500L in Australia, but confirmed diesel engines were “of great interest” to the brand going forward.

With a focus on individuality and personalisation, the playfully styled Fiat 500L is available in 11 body colours, three roof colours and three alloy wheel colours, and can be ordered in four different trim levels: Pop, Pop Star, Easy and Lounge.

Like the smaller 500, the 500L’s cabin sports body-coloured upholstery and dashboard inserts, adding life to the clean, modern layout.

The highlight is Fiat’s UConnect infotainment system, which comprises a five-inch touch screen, Bluetooth phone connectivity and SMS text-to-voice functionality. Fiat says future developments promise further mobile integration to provide access to applications like Facebook and Twitter and news and weather services while on the go.

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