Given the fact it’s pretty difficult to run a profitable automobile dealership with just one vehicle offering, American Fiat dealers have been anxiously awaiting the follow-up to Fiat’s quirky, but beloved 500 hatchback. While a big part of the Fiat’s appeal was its diminutive size, that factor was also a hindrance when it came to expanding sales.
People, particularly Americans, need space.
Whether you look at the 500L as a small wagon, or a tall hatchback with four doors, the end result is the same. The Fiat 500L is a more spacious version of the delightful little Fiat 500, making it the second Fiat model to be offered in the United States since that conglomerate’s products returned to these shores on the heels of its purchase of Chrysler. Originally slated to debut in 2011, the uber-sized Fiat 500L finally broke cover at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show and was shown again at the Los Angeles Auto Show that same year. The Fiat 500L went on sale in the U.S in the spring of 2013, as a 2014 model.
The Fiat’s family-accommodating design is meant to open up the Fiat 500 experience to a broader range of consumers. Though it features more headroom, additional hip and shoulder room, as well as better accommodations for people with actual legs in the back seat—the 500L still has trouble carting four adults. However, families with younger children could live with Fiat quite easily. Cargo space, always an issue in a family car, is 23 cubic feet with the rear seat deployed and 45 cubic feet with it stowed.
Power comes from a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine producing 160 horsepower and 184 ft-lbs of torque. A six speed manual transmission is offered, along with a six-speed automated manual. Front-wheel drive completes the 500L’s powertrain.
And, while it would have been very easy for Fiat to deliver a “stretched” version of the 500 with an identical interior treatment, the company’s product planning team opted to give the 500L its own unique interior flavor. Five trim levels are offered; base, Pop, Easy, Trekking, and Lounge—with the automated transmission being the sole offering for the top-of-the line Lounge package. For crossover utility vehicle fans, the Fiat 500L Trekking takes on a rugged outdoorsy persona.
Standard features for the Fiat 500L include Chrysler’s Uconnect telematics system with Bluetooth audio streaming and telephony, a touchscreen display, keyless entry, power windows, air conditioning and cruise control.