Fiat has simplified the 500L lineup for the latest model year. Additionally, the L loses its manual transmission.
Not counting the numerous off-shoots of the 500, the 500L is Fiat's second model since returning to the United States in 2011. It stretches 162 inches long, 70 inches wide and 65 inches tall. It rides on Fiat's new "Small Wide" platform, which is an evolution of the chassis that underpins the 500.
The L's front end draws design cues such as its oval headlights and its retro-inspired grille from the 500, while the rear end gets its own identity thanks to a tall and upright hatch and horizontal tail lamps.
Buyers are able to mix and match eleven exterior colors, two roof colors and a full panoply of different wheel designs.
Fiat offers a crossover-ized variant of the 500L called Trekking, a name borrowed from its European lineup. Based on the regular 500L, the Trekking adds features such as tougher-looking front and rear fascias with flat gray trim, plastic fender flares and side skirts as well as 17-inch alloy wheels.
The 500L's interior offers room for five adults and loads of storage bins hidden throughout the car. The 60/40 rear seat is adjustable while the front seatback folds flat to facilitate the task of carrying long items.
The dashboard is considerably more modern in appearance than the one found in the 500 city car, and the steering is commanded through an oval three-spoke multifunction wheel. The instrument cluster consists of four analog gauges and a TFT screen that gives vital information about the car in addition to the time and the outside temperature.
A direct product of the tie-up between Fiat and Chrysler, the 500L comes standard with the latter's well-regarded Uconnect Access infotainment system. Often considered one of the more user-friendly infotainment setups on the market, Uconnect Access integrates most of the 500L's audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit. A 5-inch touch screen mounted on the dashboard is the central component of the system, but buttons and knobs for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included.
Uconnect Access features a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search.
The main options are a larger 6.5-inch touch screen, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, a rear-view camera, ParkSense park assist and SiriusXM satellite radio. Buyers can also choose from a wide range of upholstery options.
Under the hood
The 500L is only available with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder MultiAir engine that is also found in a handful of Fiat-Chrysler products.
The turbo four makes 160 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 184 pound-feet of torque starting at 2,500 rpm. It spins the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Gas mileage checks in at 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
Standard and Optional Equipment
The 500L is available in three trim levels called Pop, Trekking, and Lounge.
Pop models come standard with a tilt/telescoping steering column, chromed door handles, chromed headlight bezels, tinted windows, halogen headlights, daytime running lights, power mirrors, 16-inch aluminum wheels, one-touch up/down windows, front and rear coat hooks, A/c, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split rear bench, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-speaker sound system, and remote keyless entry.
The Trekking trim brings a more rugged exterior appearance accented by graphite trim on the doors, halogen fog lights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a Trekking-specific instrument cluster and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Finally, Lounge models receive chromed mirrors, specific 17-inch alloys, automatic dual-zone A/C, illuminated vanity mirrors in the sun visors, a 115-volt outlet, a rear-view camera, and rear parking sensors.
The 500L comes standard with electronic stability control and seven airbags, including a knee airbag for the driver.
Buyers in the market for a 500L should also test drive the MINI Countryman, its main rival. Those more concerned with aesthetics than interior space might also consider the Nissan Juke.