Standard engine is the turbocharged 160-horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder from the sporty 500 Abarth model; now three kinds of six-speed transmissions offered: standard manual or optional automatic, while the automated manual is limited to base trim; power goes to the front wheels.
While Fiat’s efforts at making the 500 more appealing to North American small-car buyers by giving them more of what they really, really want is commendable, it isn’t perfect. The 500L is actually pretty close, but second-year refinements should help. Physically, the Serbia-built 500L shares nothing with the 500 two-door, but it does exude a saucy character that’s unmistakably Fiat. Getting the 500 to a more practical state meant employing a larger version of the 500’s platform. The tale of the tape reveals a gain of 27.5 inches in overall length, about six inches in width and height and slightly more than an extra foot between the front and rear wheels, which translates into 42-percent greater interior volume. Fiat has also fashioned the rear seat to accommodate three people, for a total of five. Both the front and the 60:40 split rear seat can be folded when extra cargo space is called for. The standard powerplant is the turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that’s used in the sporty 500 Abarth. The engine pumps out 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, which should keep the 500L from being pokey in traffic and during passing moves. A six-speed manual transmission is standard fare, while a six-speed automated manual (no clutch pedal) is optional, although for 2015, that’s only for the base model. A “real” six-speed automatic is now available to fight the criticisms about the former’s uncouth manners. The 500L comes in Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge models. Of the four, the off-road-emulating Trekking is the most visually stimulating with its unique blacked-out lower rear bodywork and protruding nose (think British Bulldog), 17-inch wheels (16s are standard) and two-tone interior. Unfortunately, all-wheel-drive is not on the Trekking’s build sheet, which pretty much limits where you can actually trek to. Other up-level equipment includes a panoramic glass sunroof, enlarged touch-screen controls for the audio, communications and navigation systems and a premium “Beats by Dr. Dre” audio system.