For an automaker to sell a lot of cars in the United States, it typically needs to offer a vehicle with four doors. So the Italian automaker Fiat made sure its four-door 500L was ready for prime time as soon as Americans began to take a shine to its tiny 500 hatchback. The idea behind the Fiat 500L is simple. It's a tall hatchback/wagon that's far more suitable for family use than the regular 500, yet it's still a shapely vehicle with plenty of Italian charm.
Of course, Fiat offers the 500L in a wide variety of flavors and color combinations, so it's easy to personalize to your liking. Meanwhile, the 500L's solid fuel economy, sporty handling and respectable cargo space make it a reasonably practical car for life in America.
Current Fiat 500L Specs
The Fiat 500L is a small wagon/tall hatchback that debuted for the 2014 model year. Meant to be more family-friendly than the regular 500 two-door coupe and convertible, the L is 27 inches longer and 6 inches wider and taller than its sibling. This opens up considerably more headroom for taller drivers, while the extra hip and shoulder room in the backseat makes it a more viable option if you've got kids. It's still a bit too compact to seat three across in back, though, so it's best to think of the 500L as a four-seater.
You'll have an easier time getting in and out of it compared to the standard 500, thanks to the 500L's increased ride height and extra set of doors. Cargo space is decent, too, with 23 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seats and 45 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
All Fiat 500L models are front-wheel drive and have a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four?cylinder engine rated at 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. You can choose either a six speed manual transmission or a six-speed automated manual transmission that basically functions like an automatic transmission. All-wheel drive currently isn't available for the Fiat 500L.
The 500L is offered in five trim levels: base, Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge. The automated manual transmission is standard on the top-of-the-line Lounge, while the other trims are available with either transmission. True to their name, Trekking models are meant to look more rugged and feature contrasting trim on the front and rear fascias, along with a unique black and brown interior color scheme. Fiat offers several different 16- and 17-inch wheel designs for the 500L.
There's plenty of style inside the Fiat 500L. It looks distinct from the regular 500 thanks to its revised dash, instrumentation and steering wheel. This wagon features the latest version of Chrysler's Uconnect technology, which provides enhanced functionality for smartphones via the car's Bluetooth connection. You can wirelessly stream music from your mobile device, and the system offers text-to-speech capability for SMS messages sent to MAP-enabled phones.
Fiat will offer a choice of 5- and 6.5-inch touchscreen displays. Both are available with a rearview camera, though only the 6.5-inch display can be equipped with a navigation system. A six-speaker Beats by Dr. Dre sound system is also available, as is a dual-pane sunroof (though it significantly reduces headroom). There's a large assortment of interior and exterior color combinations, too, and you can opt for cloth or leather upholstery.
You can expect solid acceleration from the Fiat 500L, which shares its engine with the sporty 500 Abarth model. The tall wagon feels adept going around turns, and its longer wheelbase gives it a more relaxed highway ride than the standard 500. In addition, the high seating position provides excellent visibility.
As with the regular 500, it's too soon to make predictions about long-term reliability on the Fiat 500L, but for small families seeking something a little different, this tall, four-door Italian hatchback/wagon certainly merits a look.
Read the most recent 2014 FIAT 500L review.