Used 2016 FIAT 500L Review

The four-door 2016 Fiat 500L may look like a compellingly practical alternative to the tiny 500 hatchback, but we've found it has too many drawbacks. Most other small wagons are better choices.




what's new

The 2016 Fiat 500L is essentially unchanged.

vehicle overview

When Fiat decided to stage a U.S. comeback after taking over Chrysler a few years ago, the company's first offering was its popular European city car, the Fiat 500. But although the two-door 500 has won its share of stateside fans, it's simply too small for many shoppers to consider. That's where the 2016 Fiat 500L comes in, at least in theory. If you like the regular 500 but want four doors and a lot more versatility, the 500L is designed to meet your needs.

The 2016 Fiat 500L is a small wagon with four doors and room for grown-ups in the rear seats.

Indeed, this family-oriented Fiat provides more than 2 feet of added length along with its extra pair of doors, yielding as much interior volume as some small crossovers. Its high-mounted front seats give the driver and front passenger a commanding view of the road, while rear head- and legroom are plentiful, in contrast to the painfully cramped rear quarters in the regular 500. Alas, that's pretty much where the good news stops. If you fill up the 500L with passengers and cargo, for example, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine struggles palpably with the added weight. Throw in uncomfortable suspension tuning, lackluster build quality and a brake pedal that's hard to modulate precisely, and it's not surprising that the 500L brings up the rear in this segment with an Edmunds "C" rating.

Overall, we think you'll be better off with one of the 2016 500L's rivals. The closest competitor in terms of interior dimensions and personality is the Kia Soul, which is a superior vehicle in most ways. The similarly positioned (though costlier) Mini Cooper Countryman offers a far more sophisticated driving experience, with sportier handling, superior acceleration and the option of all-wheel drive. Other recommended options include similarly priced compact crossovers like the Nissan Juke, Fiat's own 500X, the Honda HR-V and the Hyundai Tucson.




trim levels & features

The 2016 Fiat 500L is a four-door compact wagon sold in five trim levels: Pop, Easy, Trekking, Urbana Trekking and Lounge.

The 2016 Fiat 500L offers a number of trims and options, providing shoppers with plenty of choices

The base-level Pop comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, six-way manually adjustable cloth front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seats that slide fore and aft, Bluetooth connectivity, a 5-inch Uconnect touchscreen interface, voice controls and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary input.

The Easy trim level adds 16-inch alloy wheels, body-color exterior mirrors, tinted glass, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a front armrest with storage, upgraded seat fabric and an upgraded sound system with six amplified speakers.

Move to the Trekking trim and the 500L adds 17-inch wheels, foglights, unique body panels and trim with a rugged theme, a two-tone interior color scheme and premium cloth upholstery.

The Urbana Trekking trim is essentially outfitted like a standard Trekking but with matte black alloy wheels, a black roof (white and red are also offered), various other black trim details and a Beats Audio sound system with six speakers and a trunk-mounted subwoofer.

An optional panoramic sunroof lights up the interior of the 2016 Fiat 500L

Sitting atop the 2015 Fiat 500L line is the Lounge trim, which reverts to 16-inch alloy wheels and a body-color roof but adds chrome exterior trim and mirrors, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a rear-seat armrest, dual-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Most options are bundled into a few extra-cost "Collections" for each trim level. Highlights include some of the higher trim levels' standard features (such as dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated seats, the Beats Audio sound system and the rear parking sensors and camera) along with novelties like a sunroof, a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen (with Uconnect Access smartphone-app integration and a navigation system) and power driver lumbar adjustments.



performance & mpg

Every 2016 Fiat 500L is front-wheel drive and powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. For all but the Lounge model, a six-speed manual transmission is standard. A six-speed automated-manual transmission is optional on the Pop trim, while the other 500L trims are eligible for a traditional six-speed automatic that's standard on the 500L Lounge.

In Edmunds testing, a 2014 500L with the automated-manual transmission accelerated to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds, an adequate though hardly invigorating performance for the class. A 500L Trekking with the automatic transmission did the sprint to 60 in a quicker 8.5 seconds.

With the manual transmission, EPA-estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg combined (25 city/33 highway). The six-speed automatic is estimated at 25 mpg combined (22/30). The former estimate is about average for a front-wheel-drive small crossover, though AWD exacts an unusually large penalty. While the EPA hasn't listed fuel efficiency for the 2016 Fiat 500L equipped with the automated manual transmission, Fiat says it is the same as the 2015 model's 27 mpg combined (24/33).

safety

All 2016 Fiat 500L models come standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, hill-hold assist, front-seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver-side knee airbag and active head restraints for front seat occupants. A rearview camera and rear parking sensors are also available. The optional Uconnect Access feature that comes with the 6.5-inch touchscreen includes remote vehicle access (via a smartphone app), emergency assistance and stolen vehicle location.

In simulated panic stops from 60 mph, a 500L Lounge required 120 feet to stop, while a 500L Trekking took 122 feet. Both distances are a little better than average for this class, and also a nose better than the high-performance 500 Abarth hatchback with its sticky performance tires (123 feet), oddly enough.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 500L its top rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact test but the lowest "Poor" rating in the small-overlap frontal-offset impact test. In the remaining side-impact, roof-strength and seat and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests, the 500L earned a "Good" rating.

driving

There's little about driving the 2016 Fiat 500L that transfers from the diminutive two-door Fiat 500. Although it's still considered a small wagon, the 500L feels several times larger than the 500 hatchback and also larger than its peers. As such, the 500L's ride and handling traits are softer and less nimble than what we're accustomed to in this class. Unfortunately, the L's ride quality gets busy and bouncy on uneven roads, and there's quite a din from wind noise because of the upright windshield and large side mirrors. We're also not fond of the brake pedal, which is grabby and can be hard to modulate smoothly.

Fiat's turbocharged 1.4-liter engine works out fine in the smaller 500, but it meets its match in the not-exactly-svelte 500L. With just a couple of passengers aboard, accelerating up to highway speeds requires some patience. Also disappointing is the automated manual transmission. It can be slow to respond when you're pulling away from traffic lights or trying to creep at parking lot speeds. Thankfully, though, it's only offered on the Pop trim. Picking the manual transmission or the "regular" six-speed automatic transmission on the remaining 500L trim levels is the way to go.

interior

Large doors, an essentially level roof line and high-mounted front seats make it easy to slide right into the 2016 Fiat 500L. The front seats are wide and comfortable, but they are also stiff and not especially supportive in spirited driving. What's more, they lack any sort of power adjustment other than the available power lumbar.

Once you're seated, you'll be struck by the expansive field of vision that comes from the wagon's large glass area. This imparts a unique sense of minivan-like openness, as the 500L driver enjoys practically unimpeded views in any direction, although the dual A-pillars on each side take some getting used to.

The 2016 Fiat L's available in–dash navigation system pairs well with the optional 6.5-inch touchscreen.

The dashboard design of the 500L is contemporary, fresh and airy. The dual-gauge instrument cluster looks modern (although the regular Fiat 500's slick digital instrument panel is nowhere to be found), and the dials deliver needed information clearly, even if some of the ancillary information in the center cluster display comes with small fonts and a slightly muddled presentation. The padded upper dash is a nice touch in this class, but the stalks, buttons and levers generally have a hollow feel that does not impart a sense of quality. Both of the 500L's touchscreens work well, but we're particularly fond of the optional 6.5-inch touchscreen, as its quick processing times and large icons make it easier to use.

The 500L's ample interior room relative to the regular 500 is obvious in the backseat, where the car's width provides a comfortable perch for two adults or three children. There's a wealth of legroom, too, particularly if the sliding 60/40 seats are in their rearmost position. However the non-reclining seatbacks are rather upright all the time.

With an extra 2-plus feet of length, there's more cargo room in the 2016 Fiat 500L than most of its rivals can offer.

The 500L's maximum cargo capacity of 68 cubic feet rivals that of larger compact crossovers, and it beats the Kia Soul (61 cubic feet), Mini Countryman (41) and Nissan Juke (36), not to mention the related Fiat 500X (51). Its 21.3 cubic feet with the seats raised is almost as impressive. However, the 500L's real-world utility is hampered by a high cargo liftover height and rear-seat backrests that don't fold totally flat.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.