By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 6.2
Fiat’s 2016 500L is the largest, most accommodating vehicle in the Italian brand's lineup. When it debuted two years ago, the 500L aimed to attract buyers desiring the original 500's cute Euro panache but who just couldn't squeeze themselves or their life into that subcompact. The 500L hatchback offers some of its smaller sibling's charm, yet has seating for five and impressive cargo versatility despite its compact size. The 2016 500L still brings quite a bit of car for the money, but it can't match the value of the also-whimsical Kia Soul, the sportiness of the Mini Countryman or verve of the new Honda HR-V. The 500L also faces internal competition in the new Fiat 500X, which looks less cartoonish and offers all-wheel drive.
If you're smitten with the Fiat 500 but need more room for passengers and gear, the 500L offers similar Italian flair in a larger, more versatile package. Its sub-$20,000 starting price, good fuel economy and easy driving manners make it appealing to younger drivers.
Fresh subcompact-crossover SUVs like the Honda HR-V, Chevy Trax and Mazda CX-3 offer more mainstream looks and appeal for not much more, while the Kia Soul starts thousands less and has a 10-year powertrain warranty. Poor resale value also dogs the Fiat 500L.
KBB Expert Ratings
The Fiat 500L hatchback carries over for 2016 with no major changes. The Urbana Trekking special edition returns and now offers the optional Rosso (red) roof for visual distinction.
The Fiat 500L uses the same turbocharged 4-cylinder engine as the 500 Abarth, but it doesn't share the feisty performance. Blame physics and tuning. The 500L is bigger, heavier and...
... crafted more for cruising than cornering. The 500L takes its time getting up to speed, and acceleration in general is tepid. So, too, the Fiat 500L's handling dynamics. This vehicle, shaped like a tall and bloated wagon, doesn't enjoy being tossed around corners like a Mini or Nissan Juke. The 500L's strengths, however, are evident once up to speed. Where other small cars can become jittery on the freeway, this jumbo shrimp feels at ease. The L's softer suspension does an admirable job taming rough roads. The Fiat's 6-speed manual transmission is smooth and easy to use. We didn't find the Euro Twin Clutch automatic intrusive, but we prefer the shift response of the new automatic available on all but base-model 500Ls.
The 500L was the first Fiat to use Chrysler's well-respected infotainment system, a welcome sight in a budget-friendly car. Uconnect bundles audio, hands-free phone connectivity, navigation, and more into one easy-to-use touch-screen system.
From small touches like a driver's center armrest to more obvious extras like a panoramic sunroof and 2-tone color scheme, the Fiat 500L's 5-passenger interior is as notable as its exterior design. Just as important, it's practical, too, with commendable room for people and gear.
You'll immediately sense the difference in interior space between the Fiat 500 and the 500L. Where the 500 has just two tiny rear seats and a small cargo bay in the hatch area, the 500L has a 3-person rear bench that can comfortably fit two adults. Rear legroom is impressive, and the rear seats also recline, slide, flip and tumble forward for cargo/passenger versatility. Headroom in all seats is sky-high, making the Fiat 500L a surprisingly good car for tall people. Outward visibility is above average thanks to design elements such as a front pillar split by glass and wraparound rear windows.
With its extra pair of doors, taller profile and voluptuous rear, the 500L's exterior also differs much from the diminutive 500. The L has a more cartoon-like profile than, say, the new Mini Cooper 4-door or its own new sibling, the Fiat 500X. Who could resist those doe-eyed headlights, available "floating" roof in white or black, and propeller-like front grille piece encircling a big red "FIAT" logo? For a slightly tougher take, there's the 500L Trekking model with its beefier front and rear aesthetics, and larger, 17-inch wheels, while the Urbana edition has matte-black accents and an available red roof.
The 2016 Fiat 500L is available in several trims: Pop, Easy, Trekking, Urbana and Lounge. At around $20,000, the Pop comes equipped with air conditioning, cruise control, and basic Uconnect telematics system with 5-inch touch screen, Bluetooth streaming audio, text-message reader, and a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD player with USB/auxiliary inputs. Easy models add 16-inch aluminum wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 520-watt premium audio. Trekking models include 17-inch wheels and a 2-tone interior, the blacked-out Urbana editions get a BeatsAudio system, while top-line Lounge models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission, leather seats (heated up front), and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Many of the Fiat 500L's options vary by trim and are bundled into packages called "Collections." Offered are navigation with a 6.5-inch touch screen, the ParkView rearview camera with park-assist sensors, SiriusXM satellite radio, a power sunroof, and a HomeLink universal garage-door opener. For those who like some thump with their music, there's a BeatsAudio premium sound system. Leather seating is available, as are 17-inch wheels. All 500L models except the base version can be had with the snazzy black or white roof to give it that "floating" design, and the newer Urbana edition offers a red-roof option for 2016.
All 2016 Fiat 500L models use a small and efficient turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels. The standard transmission in all but the top-line Lounge model is an easy-to-use 6-speed manual. In reality, though, most U.S. buyers will prefer an automatic. Base Pop models use the 6-speed Euro twin-clutch for auto-shifting duties, which operates like an automatic, but offers higher fuel efficiency. The automatic transmission on all other trims is a more traditional 6-speed that's standard on Lounge variants. The Fiat's turbocharged 1.4-liter engine can run on 87-octane gasoline, but premium 91-grade is recommended. Fun fact: The Fiat 500L is built in Serbia and classified by the EPA as a small station wagon.
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
160 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 mpg (manual), 24/33 mpg (Euro Twin-Clutch automatic), 22/30 mpg (automatic)
The 2016 Fiat 500L has an appealing Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $20,000 for a Pop model. Even a loaded Lounge version won't break the bank for a few thousand more. Because the 500L hasn't exactly been flying off dealer lots, there's a good chance of finding discounts. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Fiat. The Fiat 500L is less expensive than a Mini Hardtop 4-door and Mini Countryman, and also undercuts the Nissan Juke. But a Kia Soul has a lower sticker price, as do the Nissan Versa Note and Honda Fit. With roughly the same starting price, the new Honda HR-V makes a strong argument as a better buy, even more so when you compare the stellar predicted resale value of the HR-V against the poor one of the Fiat.