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2018 Fiat 500L: what’s new, hands-on

by David Zatz on

The 2014-17 Fiat 500L is a fairly small four-door crossover (or wagon), with no real relation to the Fiat 500. The 2018 Fiat 500L carries over the basics, but with changes that make it a better choice.

Fiat 500L

Cosmetic changes for the 2018 500L are new front and rear fascias, new bodyside moldings, new wheels, a larger and better-integrated touch-screen, and changes to the daytime running light lens and rear side reflectors. New paints are Blu Denim, pastel orange, and metallic bronze.

2018 Fiat 500L

The backup camera uses the neat-looking, standard seven-inch display, which has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also a TFT cluster display between the gauges. The console has been upgraded, and another USB port has been added. The interior is rounded out with LED ambient lighting and a new steering wheel.

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’s also no manual transmission, just an Aisin six-speed automatic.

2018 Fiat 500L gauge cluster

We tested the 500L, and came away mildly impressed. The gas mileage isn’t top of the charts (CR-V is rated at 25/31 with all wheel drive, and the Toyota RAV4 is rated at 23/30 — both with regular gas; and the RAV4 has three inches more leg room).

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.

uconnect 4 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 except for the absurd 150 mph speedometer. It’s being sold at bargain prices, and may pick up some sales with this new, more pleasing version.  The full 2018 Fiat 500L story with a chart.

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