After testing the Fiat 2-door some months ago, its ride was firm and every bump and pimple in the road could be felt. But that’s about on par for subcompact cars like the Mini Cooper, Nissan’s Juke and especially the Smart car.
But Chrysler’s Fiat brand came through with a more practical version in their Fiat 500L sedan, the L of course stands for “longer” and has four doors and considerably more cargo space.
And what a difference a few inches makes. Compared to the Fiat 500 two-door, the 500L is 27.7 inches longer, 5.7 inches wider and is 5.9 inches taller. This stretch made all the difference in the world in ride, handling and comfort.
The longer, Serbian built, 500L gave a more planted feeling with minor road imperfections being soaked up nicely, which would make you think you’re in a compact car, not a subcompact.
Flip the rear seatbacks down and an impressive amount of gear or luggage can be stowed back there, much more than in a Mini Clubman.
The 500L’s ride is compliant and relatively smooth. Only major road imperfections reverberate into the cabin. The extra length gives the 500L a smoother ride on 17-inch Goodyear Eagle tires.
Handling too is considerably better with more of a planted feel, especially when negotiating sharp turns taken at speed. It’s nimble and easy to park and fun to drive.
The 500L, like the coupe and convertible model, are powered by a turbocharged 1.4L, 160-hp four cylinder that carries EPA mileage estimates of 24 city, 33-highway mpg. This engine (it’s a tad noise at idle) is also found in Dodge’s Dart and Fiat’s sporty Abarth. Power and torque are transferred to the front wheels through a 6-speed Euro twin clutch automatic transmission. The only flaw here is when getting on the accelerator for a short burst of speed then immediately getting off it, it takes the trans two-three seconds for it to notice the power shut-off while running up another 1,000 rpm’s in engine speed.
Acceleration from a standing stop is a bit lethargic until the engine climbs to 2,500 rpm. This isn’t evident, however, during highway passing maneuvers.
Fiat did a beautiful job on the two-tone interior after an easy 16-inch step-in. The seats’ textured material gives the impression of suede and their integrated headrests are embroidered with “500.” The front seats are supportive and comfy and the rears can accommodate two adults or three tweens in comfort.
A 6.5-inch touchscreen LCD, radio, GPS nav rearview camera and Parksense rear park assist are a $1,745 option package that comes complimentary from Fiat. There’s also a huge and optional ($1,110) 53x30-inch sunroof whereupon only the front portion opens. The speedometer comes in analog and digital form, which is a good thing because the analog readout can be difficult to read depending on position of the adjustable steering wheel, and seat position.
Back in the cargo area, or trunk if you will, the area measures 26 inches deep, 38.5 wide and 34 high. Flip the 60/40 back seats and depth stretches to 46 inches. And load height is an easy 26 inches. The cargo floor forms sort of a false floor in that it can be set at four different heights within detents on the sidewalls. There’s also some secondary small item storage beneath the floor.
With a long list of standard and expected items like heated seats, UConnect, Bluetooth, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors with spotter mirrors, electronic stability control and much more, the options list was short. The Lounge Preferred Group adds the sexy seats, sunroof, Bianco roof (white), Beats audio, 17-inch painted wheels ($500) and, a bit shocking, $450 for the compact spare tire, a necessity that’s traditionally included in the cars’ price. With all that, the base price of $24,395 slipped to $28,245. Still, a reasonable price for a fun car with some utility. The only way the 500L could be better is if it were available in AWD.