If you wanted a Fiat 500 but had a family, you would have to ultimately pass on it. There just wasn’t enough space for four passengers or even two passengers and all of their stuff. But about year ago, Fiat started selling a bigger 500 known as the 500L which boasted more space and became more appealing to small families. I spent a week in the larger 500 to see if the added size helps or hurts.
Even though the 500L shares the 500 name, that is where the similarities end. Fiat designers have added two feet to the 500L, and given it a boxy shape that is more akin to the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube. The front end is very much 500-esq with the winged-Fiat emblem, dual light setup, and narrow vent underneath. Although as someone pointed out to me and I happen to agree with, the 500L’s front-end look likes it has an overbite. Also, I think the choice of wheel covers on the Easy model really don’t help the 500L’s look. I would trade them for a set of wheels from the 500L Trekking model. But I want to give Fiat’s designers some credit on the 500L. The model boasts a large area of glass which not only helps improve visibility, but also makes the interior feel much more spacious.
Now with an increase in overall size, you would think that the interior has seen an increase in space. You would be correct. Step inside the back seat and there is a stadium style seat arrangement which gives your passengers a higher view, along with a decent amount of legroom. Remember that panoramic sunroof I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that eats into rear headroom. Sitting my 5’8” frame back here, I found my head making contact with the headliner. Anyone taller than me will likely have to crick their neck to fit back here. At least the seats were comfortable. Moving to front, seats provide good comfort and support, along with a small number of adjustments.
Thoughts on Power and Ride on page 2
Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder producing 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Those with keen eyes will surmise this sounds very familiar to the 500 Abarth, and you would be correct. On Easy models and up, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic. (Note: Pop models get a six-speed dual-clutch automatic). I had the latter transmission in my tester. Compared to the Abarth I drove a few weeks back, the 500L has about 800 extra pounds to lug around. But the 1.4 doesn’t feel like it's being worked any harder. Acceleration is very smooth and the engine seems to be able to get going at any speed. The six-speed automatic I found tended to hold gears longer that it probably should. At least the transitions between gears were smooth. Fuel economy for the 500L with the automatic is rated at 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. My week saw an average of 24.3 MPG.
The 500L is wise move for Fiat as it helps bring more buyers into their showroom. But there are two big elephants in the room. One deals with reliability. Both Consumer Reports and TrueDelta have a fair number of complaints about the 500L. In fact, the 500L is one of the lowest rated models in Consumer Reports ratings. The second is the price. The 2015 Easy model starts off at $20,545, while my tester rang in at $26,895 thanks to the automatic transmission and a big option package which included the sunroof and UConnect system. For the same amount of money, you could get into the base 500L Trekking or a fully loaded Kia Soul. These two factors make the 500L less appealing. Add in the upcoming the 500X, and you end up with a lose-lose situation.
Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 500L Easy, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 1.4L Turbocharged MultiAir Inline-Four
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 160 @ 5,500
Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 2,500 - 4,000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25
Curb Weight: 3,254 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Kragujevac, Serbia
Base Price: $20,545
As Tested Price: $26,895 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)
Easy Collection 4 - $4,100
AISIN Heavy Duty 6-Speed Automatic Transmission - $1,350