Fiat-500LFiat 500L sales have already overtaken the Volkswagen Golf in Italy – and now Fiat is hoping for similar success in other markets.

The 500L, which launched in early 2013, is a key part of Fiat’s reconfigured model range which is now based around two model families: 500 and Panda.

Gianluca Italia, head of Fiat brand, called the two models the “two souls of the Fiat brand” and said there had been a lot of work in repositioning the brand over the past 18 months.

As part of the strategy described by Italia as Fiat’s two core models ‘growing with the people that use them’, the 500L is its higher-margin family hatch entrant. Fiat is eager to establish as a VW Golf and Ford Focus alternative, rather than simply ‘a big Fiat 500’.

Success in the Italian market in the car’s first full year on sale suggests it has achieved this at home – now the firm’s challenge is to do the same in other markets.

However, the sales must be ‘quality sales’, added Italia: in Italy, the car has apparently won a large share of retail sales, is bought equally by men and women and the age of its buyers “is 10 years below that of the segment.

“Why do people buy it? For 50% of them, the number one reason is style. This compares to 18% for the sector in general…”.

Italia says that higher-end sales account for a large proportion of the mix too: 20% bought the base Pop but double that chose the mid-range Pop Star. 43% of sales were of the top two variants.

Fiat is now keen to take this VW Golf-toppling Italian sector success to other markets. And the UK has a vital role to play here – sales grew a massive 20% here in 2013, something the firm’s Italian bosses are very impressed with.

The 500 was key to this: can Fiat do the same in Britain with the 500L?