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2018 Fiat 500L (US): Fixing the problems, keeping the strengths

The 2014-17 Fiat 500L was a five-passenger, four-door crossover similar to the Mini Countryman, but with much more interior space — as much a Chrysler PT Cruiser replacement as a Fiat 500 wagon, since it was on a modified Punto chassis, and had no real relation to the Fiat 500. Read our Fiat 500L driving test / review.

Fiat 500L

The car was, and is, made in Serbia. The 2018 version addressed shortcomings of the 2015-17 cars, added a larger touch-screen, and made the appearance somewhat more conventional. Unfortunately, the manual transmission is gone and it’s not coming back.

Cosmetic changes are new front and rear fascias, new bodyside moldings, new wheels, and changes to the daytime running light lens and rear side reflectors. New paints are Blu Denim, pastel orange, and metallic bronze. Some of this may not be apparent to buyers, but the functional and interior changes will be.

2018 Fiat 500L

Federal law required a backup camera, so now there is one, in a neat-looking (and standard) seven-inch display which adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the mix. There’s also a TFT cluster display, making the trip computer snazzier. The console has been upgraded, replacing the gear shifter and parking-brake handle, and moving the cup-holders; owners now get an extra USB port. The interior is rounded out with LED ambient lighting, a new steering wheel, relocated climate control knob, and Apple CarPlay. Unfortunately, buyers are stuck with gray cloth or leather, dark gray cloth, or black leather interiors. Sorry, no snazzy reds, luxurious burgundies or saddle browns — none of that “Italian flair,” not even the old standby, beige.

There are still three models — Pop, Trekking, Lounge — sharing the same engine and Aisin six-speed automatic transmission.

2018 Fiat 500L gauge cluster

We had an opportunity to test the new 500L, and came away fairly impressed with the changes. The gas mileage isn’t all that good for the vehicle size, not going up against the CR-V rated at 25/31 (with all wheel drive and regular gas), and the Toyota RAV3 at 23/30 (FWD, regular gasoline, and around three inches more leg room). However, the sharp edges have been sanded off, so to speak, and the 500L was an enjoyable, if somewhat blander, ride.

We took a 2018 Fiat 500L down the switchbacks at the Chelsea Proving Grounds and found it did a fine job of whipping back and forth; acceleration was calm and predictable, without the long, slow grind of getting to 5 mph before power kicked in. It’s a smoother, more even-tempered, more comfortable car, with a retuned automatic that makes it more fun to drive. Handling isn’t quite as good as on our first test car, but comfort and powertrain predictability compensates for that.

uconnect 4 system

The 500L includes UConnect 4, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, faster processors, more sharper graphics, and a single-step voice system. The center screen was clear and responded quickly, and was far better integrated into the car, looking quite snazzy. The interior is comfortable, if built to the price.

The gauges are extremely clear and readable, and while somewhat plain, they are well designed in general. The 150 mph speedometer is insane, and a simple 100 or 120 mph limit would make it much easier to figure out your speed at a glance, without wasting the digital display on your speed. Other than that, and the gas mileage, there wasn’t much to fault with the new 500L. It’s being sold at bargain prices, and may pick up some sales with this new, more pleasing version.

 2014-17 Fiat 500LChanges for 2018
Engine160 hp/ 184 lb-ft 1.4 turboSame
MPG 22/30 (premium fuel)Manual dropped after 2016
Length167.1 inches 2018 is 0.2 inches longer (167.3)
Width x Height69.8 x 65.7Height for 2018 is 65.3-66.1”
Ground clearance4.7”Same
Drag coefficient0.310 (exc. Trekking, 0.320)Same
Weight3,254 (auto)Same
Front suspensionMacPherson, coil spring, tube shocks, stabilizer bar
Rear suspensionTwist-beam axle, coil springs, tube shocks
Tires205/55R16 (Pop, Lounge)
225/45R17 (Trekking)
Lounge gets Trekking
tires/wheels
Front brakes12.0 x 1.10 vented rotorsame
Rear brakes10.4 x 0.4 solid rotorsame
Headroom F/R40.7 / 38.9
40.2 / 38.3 w/sunroof
40.7 / 38.7
40.5 / 38.0 w/sunroof
Legroom F/R40.4 / 30.740.0 / 36.7 (big boost)
EPA interior volume121.1 cubic feetno change (error?)
Trunk22.4 cubic feet (seats up)no change

See our Fiat 500L test drive

Fiat • 500 • Abarth • 500C500e • 500L • 500X VansReviewsFreemontForum


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