2016 Fiat 500L Introduction

The Fiat 500L is a tall compact car, with the Kia Soul, Honda Fit, and Mini Countryman as its competitors. Beyond the name, it shares very little with the regular Fiat 500 or the 500X crossover. Definitely not spirit. The 500L is 27.7 inches longer and 6 inches wider than the 500 we know and love. They should call it the Fiat 500 Fat. With model names like Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge, why not. Fat tells the story of the car just as well.

The high roof gives the 500L very good head and shoulder room for four adults. It’s called a five-seater, but the center rear isn’t realistic for grownups.

It runs about how it looks. Even though its standard engine is the regular 500’s hottest, a turbocharged 1.4-liter making 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the 500L is slower than the regular 500 with its base engine that only makes 101 horsepower. That’s because of the heft that the 500L carries. The front-wheel-drive 500L uses one of three transmissions: 6-speed dual-clutch, 6-speed manual, or a new 6-speed automatic.

Gas mileage could be better, for such a small engine. EPA gives it 24 miles per gallon City, 33 mpg Highway, 27 mpg Combined with the dual-clutch transmission, and 25/33/28 mpg City/Highway/Combined with the 6-speed manual. The new 6-speed automatic, which we like the most, gets the worst mileage, at 22/30/25 mpg. Meanwhile, the Honda Fit gets 36 mpg. And we can’t think of anything the 500L can do that the Fit can’t, except speak Italian.

The Fiat 500L was introduced as a 2014 model. There are no significant changes for model year 2016.

The feds at NHTSA haven’t crash-tested the 500L. With seven standard airbags and active headrests, the Insurance people at IIHS rate it a Top Safety Pick but not Top Safety Pick+. If a rearview camera were standard, instead of optional, would it have gotten the top rating from IIHS?

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