After nearly 30 years away from the American market, Fiat returned to the U.S. with its tiny, retro-themed 500 two-door hatchback. As with the original "Cinquecento," the modern Fiat 500 was the ideal runabout for city denizens, commuters and anyone challenged with finding street parking. Although the 500 wasn't exactly a standout in terms of refinement or value proposition, its Italian pizzazz won it a fair share of fans.
Some folks liked the idea of the 500 but deemed the car too small. For them Fiat has the four-door 500L. Think of the "L" as standing for "Larger." The 2017 Fiat 500L is more than 2 feet longer than a 500 and also shares the tall cabin architecture of its little sibling. The result is that the room inside the 500L is about the same as a small crossover SUV. And like a compact crossover, the 500L offers elevated front seating that many drivers prefer for its optimum view out the windshield. Furthermore, thanks to its growth spurt, the bigger 500 also provides a habitable backseat that offers plenty of room even for adults.
Although the 500L has a turbocharged engine, it's a mere 1.4 liters. That's fine for the smaller 500, but the 500L is 800 pounds heavier and so its performance is a mixed bag. With just one or two people aboard, the 500L is peppy enough. Its 0-60 mph time of 8.5 seconds is respectable in the small crossover/wagon class. But fill the seats or load it up with some heavy cargo and you'd be wise to carefully plan your highway merging and passing maneuvers. The EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway), not bad generally speaking but still lower than most rivals.
The 2017 Fiat 500L is available in three trim levels, ranging from base Pop to loaded-up Lounge. Feature highlights include leather seating, power lumbar support for the front seats, and split, folding rear seats that slide fore and aft to optimize legroom or cargo space.
Granted, the 2017 Fiat 500L is like its baby brother in that it has a certain charisma, something that's not too common in this class. But it likewise falls short of its rivals in such key areas as refinement, performance and ride quality. Specifically, in addition to lackluster acceleration when fully laden, the 500L's ride can be choppy over broken pavement, the build quality is spotty and the brake pedal is difficult to operate smoothly, making jerk-free stops a challenge.
With those reservations in mind, we'd recommend considering another Fiat sibling if a bigger 500 is what you seek. The four-door Fiat 500X provides a roomy cabin along with superior refinement, better ride and handling dynamics, and the availability of more high-tech features. Whatever your preference, Edmunds can help you find the Fiat 500 that's just right for you.