Overview: One of the most unique people-movers going, the 500L keeps the Fiat 500 family appearance, but on a larger, quirkier scale.
Drivetrain: The standard engine is the turbocharged 160-horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder from the sporty 500 Abarth model; three kinds of six-speed transmissions offered: a stick-shift or optional automatic, while the automated manual is limited to base trim; power goes to the front wheels.
The idea of the 500L is pretty simple, really. Create a larger and more usable car than the tiny 500 and win legions of fans in the process. Well, the Serbia-built 500L shares nothing with the 500 two-door, but it does exude a saucy character that’s unmistakably Fiat. 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 on the base model. A “real” six-speed automatic is 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.