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, while retaining the smaller car's shapeliness and 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.
No matter how much the 500L may make sense on paper, however, in practice it has disappointed our editors with its unresponsive transmission, busy ride, unrefined suspension tuning, subpar interior quality and a lack of versatility that can't be detected simply by looking at a spec sheet.
Current Fiat 500L
The Fiat 500L is a small wagon/tall hatchback that debuted for the 2014 model year. All Fiat 500L models are front-wheel drive and have a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four?cylinder engine rated at 160 horsepower and 180 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 four trim levels: Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge. Standard features on the Pop include keyless entry, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker CD stereo. The Easy trim adds features like alloy wheels, upgraded seat fabric and an upgraded stereo. The Trekking gets unique front and rear body panels, two-tone interior trim and premium cloth upholstery, while the top-of-the-line Lounge gets amenities like leather upholstery, heated front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control. The automated manual transmission is standard on the top-of-the-line Lounge, while the other trims are available with either transmission.
In reviews, we found the 500L to be softer and less nimble than the standard 500 on the road. Ride quality can get a bit busy on uneven road surfaces and its upright stance and large side mirrors combine to create lots of wind noise within the cabin. With the automated manual transmission, the car can be slow to respond when accelerating from a traffic light or merging onto a freeway. On the plus side, steering is precise and the 500L navigates turns with confidence.
Designed 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 adults in back. The 500L's maximum cargo capacity of 68 cubic feet rivals that of larger compact crossovers, and its 21.3 cubic feet with the seats raised is similarly segment-leading. However, real-world utility is hampered by a high cargo lift-over height and rear-seat backrests that don't fold totally flat.
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. 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.
Read the most recent 2015 FIAT 500L review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used FIAT 500L page.