Fiat’s return to the American market hit another bump in the road recently when the car its executives thought would be the brand’s mainstay model ran afoul of Americans’ fascination with crossovers. The latest iteration of the FIAT 500, the spiritual successor to the original and much-beloved “Cinquecento” small car, got off to a reasonably robust start, but today’s market isn’t kind to small, fuel-efficient two-doors. So executives took what some might term the draconian step of eliminating the 500 hatchback and convertible from the Fiat lineup here in the United States.
After that change, the current Fiat portfolio consists of the 124 Spider two-seat sports car, the 500X all-wheel drive subcompact crossover, and the subject of this review: the 500L subcompact four-door hatchback. The fact is the only vehicle that is roughly equivalent to the 500L is the Kia Soul, another boxy, four-door hatch. Both of these vehicles are extremely versatile, offer good interior space, and are economically priced. And their funky looks can be attractive to the right buyer. Mainstream the 500L is not. It brings a European aesthetic to the party.