The Car Connection FIAT 500L Overview
The Fiat 500L is a tall-riding hatchback that shapes the familiar Fiat face across an oblong body.
With the 500L, Fiat has a rival for cars like the Honda Fit, the Kia Soul, and the Mini Countryman.
It may share a nameplate with other Fiats, but the 500L is entirely different. It's built (in Serbia) on a separate set of underpinnings than the 500 hatchback and cabrio, and the 500X crossover SUV.
The 500L hasn't been a huge success; its main strength is remarkable interior room compared to its small footprint. In 2017, the lineup was rationalized down to three trim levels: Pop, Trekking, and Lounge. It received a very mild restyling and a host of interior upgrades for 2018. It was unchanged for 2019 and 2020.
MORE: Read our 2020 Fiat 500L review
The 500L's styling is tall, glassy, and distinctive when specified with the contrasting roof—especially effective when the roof is white and the lower body is black. The front end is the least successful aspect of the design, with high-set lights and a very tall approximation of the smaller and cuter 500 minicar's nose. The interior is pleasingly simple and intuitive, though, with excellent storage space in a multitude of bins, trays, containers, and pockets for all the loose items we carry with us on road trips these days.
At launch, the 500L came with a single engine and a choice of two transmissions that expanded to three. The 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine came standard with a 6-speed manual, with an optional 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission available as well. The 6-speed dual-clutch was quickly dropped. It's only offered in front-wheel-drive form. A Fiat 500X that offers AWD and is based on the Jeep Renegade arrived for the 2016 model year. Gas mileage is rated at 22 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined with the automatic.
For 2017, the trim levels on the 500L have been simplified to a base Pop, the outdoorsy Trekking, and a fully featured Lounge version. The basic Pop and all other models include standard air conditioning, cruise control, audio controls on the steering wheel, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, and a six-speaker audio system with a 5.0-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth audio streaming, and both audio and USB ports.
Some earlier model years included an intermediate level, Easy, with 16-inch alloy wheels, a front center console/armrest, cloth upholstery, an upgraded sound system, tinted rear glass, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The Trekking, as its name indicates, adds lots of rugged-look accessories that give it the appearance of being ready to go off road (but again, it's still front-drive only). Those include larger, 17-inch wheels; fog lights; fender flares; and tougher-looking front and rear fascias. Trekking models also add a unique two-tone black and brown interior.
Move up to the top-of-the-line Lounge model and you add power heated leather seats; a rear seat that slides back and forth, reclines, splits, folds, and tumbles; a dual-zone climate control system; and fog lights up front. Options are offered as various packages and individual items, including a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and a fairly rudimentary navigation system.
In 2018, the 500L received a number of changes and updates. The front and rear were mildly redesigned, and it received both new wheels and daytime running lights. A rearview camera was finally made standard, and interior changes include a rearranged center console, gear shift, and parking brake; a new steering wheel; a digital instrument cluster; and LED ambient interior lighting. The latest Uconnect 4 infotainment system was updated with a 7.0-inch touchscreen in the dash center as standard, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity were added as well.
In 2020, the Fiat 500 minicar and cabrio were discontinued in the US. The Fiat 500L and 500X live on.