Although the tiny FIAT 500 offers bold, eye-grabbing styling and an endearing, goofy interior, its small size means that it isn’t for everyone. Enter the 2014 FIAT 500L, a longer-wheelbase, more practical FIAT hatchback with four doors rather than two, and the 2016 FIAT 500X, a new 4-door compact crossover with available all-wheel drive. Both offer traditional FIAT styling and interiors with a lot more room for passengers and their stuff. But what’s the difference between them? To find out, we’ve created a close comparison that details all the key differences between the 500L and the 500X.
On the outside, the 500L and the 500X share a few major design cues — but they boast several big differences, too. The most obvious shared styling components include the grille, the headlights and the taillights, which help to give both cars their unique FIAT look. But you’ll start to notice some major differences between the 500L and the 500X when you compare rooflines — the 500L’s is longer, while the 500X’s is more sloped — and ground clearance — the 500X offers more on account of its SUV design. While both of these vehicles are undoubtedly FIAT, they each offer enough distinct styling cues that you should have no trouble telling them apart. See the 2014 FIAT 500L models for sale near you
The 500L and the 500X seem to share more design cues on the inside than the outside. Inside both models, you’ll find similar gauge clusters, similar steering wheels, roughly the same climate controls and a very similar control layout. They both also offer all the cheeky design details that help make FIAT stand out — like available colored panels and an interior that prioritizes "retro" and "fun" over modern and high-tech. There is one major difference, though: The 500L’s steeply raked windshield gives it more of a minivan feeling, while the 500X’s cabin design makes it feel like a more traditional SUV. See the 2016 FIAT 500X models for sale near you
The 2014 FIAT 500L and the 2016 FIAT 500X share the same base-level engine: a 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that’s mated solely to front-wheel drive. It offers roughly the same maximum fuel economy in both cars — about 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.
For drivers who want more power, the 500X alone offers it in the form of a 180-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. Mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission and front- or all-wheel drive, this engine returns up to 22 mpg city and 31 mpg hwy. Note that the 500X is the only FIAT offered with all-wheel drive, as 500L and regular 500 models only come with front-wheel drive.
Features & Technology
The 500X offers a lot more equipment and technology than its aging 500L stablemate. While both cars tout some similar features — such as 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a navigation system, heated seats and more — the 500X also offers some of the latest safety gadgets, such as forward-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitor. While it remains to be seen whether FIAT will update the 500L to add those features for 2016, we wouldn’t count on it. In other words, the 500X will likely be the better choice for shoppers interested in gadgets and technology.
On the road, the 500X disappoints us by being a little more like the 500L — practical and simple — than the brand’s spry 500 hatchback. We’re not saying the 500X is bad to drive, but rather that it feels like the crossover it is — and not like the FIAT we think it could be.
With that said, the 500X is more enjoyable to drive than the 500L. Steering seems tighter, and the 500X doesn’t seem to offer the same unsure-of-itself demeanor you get with the 500L. Ride quality is about average with both vehicles, but handling seems quicker in the 500X than the almost minivanlike 500L.
In essence, we prefer the 500X’s driving experience. It’s more enjoyable on the road than the 500L, and it’s a little more sure-footed. But don’t buy either model expecting the smaller 500’s fun-to-drive traits to translate well to the larger hatchback, or even to the compact crossover.
Unfortunately, neither the 500L nor the 500X has yet been crash-tested by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. When it comes to available safety equipment, though, the 500X is leagues above the 500L, touting lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert — none of which the 500L has.
That’s not to say that the 500L is devoid of safety equipment, though. On the contrary, it offers side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, a tire-pressure monitor and even a driver’s-side knee airbag as standard fare. But the 500X has all that stuff, too, in addition to its extra safety options.
If you’re interested in a larger FIAT, both the 500L and 500X fit the bill. They each offer the brand’s fun styling, its unique interior, excellent gas mileage and some good technology. But we prefer the 500X because it offers available all-wheel drive, a better driving experience and a more powerful engine. We only wish the 500X mimicked the driving pleasure you can get from the normal 500, and while the 500X may be a crossover, we wouldn’t mind seeing a sporty Abarth model in the 500X lineup. Find a Fiat 500L for sale or Find a Fiat 500X for sale