SEATTLE — Compact, fun, bubbly; just a few adjectives that come to mind after driving the 2018 Fiat 500L. The “L” edition is quite a bit larger than the standard 500. You may remember the famous “Viagra” pill commercials for this car during the Superbowl, several years ago. Well, it’s not simply metaphor as the “L” really is bigger in just about every way — and that’s great for those who like the 500-series styling but want more room.
Its standard 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine puts out 160 horsepower with 184 lb-ft of torque. Surprisingly enough, the car tops the scales at just over 3200 lbs which is something that’s hard to imagine, given its relatively small size. The engine is nice and “torquey”, however, the 0-60 times still hover around 8-seconds. While we didn’t expect it to set any land-speed records, that’s still a tad on the high side. Its six-speed transmission can, at times, feel a bit sluggish and we’d also wish for better fuel economy. The EPA rates this car at 22 around town and 30 on the highway. Given the car’s small stature, we’d like to see its MPG more around 32 in the city and closer to 40 on the highway.
Let’s look inside:
Inside, the car feels very roomy and not cramped at all – not even for the rear passengers. Surprisingly, there’s ample leg room for four adults and enough to fit a kid in the back seat with those four adults. The heated seat buttons are in a bit of an awkward spot – on the side of the front seats, rather than have the control on the dash or center console.
One of the great things about Fiat, is that when you sit inside one, you definitely know it has a quirky, unique design and flow to things. It’s rather refreshing when contrasted to all of the “me too” interior designs that so many auto-makers seem to share. Nothing comes across as too cheesy – stylized perhaps to fit the overall look of the car, but looks appropriate.
There’s an onboard infotainment center that includes navigation, support for CD/MP3/Bluetooth audio/telephony, AM/FM/XM satellite, and auxiliary input. While the overall sound quality isn’t superb, it provides decent quality and should satisfy most consumers. Its 7-inch screen isn’t very large, however, adequate to get the job done. Screen interaction is quick and doesn’t appear to have much lag between switching apps.
There’s nothing too remarkable any driving the 500L – it comes across as very pedestrian. Functional, quirky and very stylized. It’s a great car for the city — easy to park and scoots around very well. Additionally, it actually has a comfortable, quiet ride. Which is rather surprising given its relatively short wheelbase.
Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal new for the 2018 model year over the previous, however, it’s still a good contender as a commuter car in its price range. Certainly, it has a low enough starting point to make it very attractive to younger buyers or those who want something with more unique styling than any other vehicle in its class.
If you’re looking for a car to put around town with and take on the occasional road trip, then you should book a test-drive of the 2018 Fiat 500L and make up your own mind. Even though it didn’t change much from the previous year, there still is enough here to keep it interesting.