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2019 FIAT 500L: New Car Review

With the 2018 redesign, the 2019 FIAT 500L returns basically unchanged. Last year’s upgrade made a backup camera, a second USB port and Uconnect 4 with a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard across the board for all 500L grades.

Conceived as a 500 legitimately capable of transporting more than two people, the 500L has never been a big seller. That cars, and smaller cars in particular, haven’t been selling well has no doubt contributed to the 500L’s lackluster showroom performance. But it holds four people comfortably, is relatively inexpensive and delivers okay fuel economy.

Capacity and price remain the 500L’s most compelling features. For a young family or empty nesters wanting a little more space for another couple, this FIAT is a sensible choice.

What’s New for 2019?

Universal garage door opener now standard on Trekking and Lounge trims.

What We Like

Large and versatile interior; quirky design elements; good visibility; easy-to-use touchscreen

What We Don’t

Poor resale value and reliability ratings; rough ride; no advanced safety tech

How Much?

$22,240-$25,140

Fuel Economy

Things are pretty simple under the hood, as every FIAT 500L comes standard with the same combination of a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (160 horsepower, 184 lb-ft of torque) engine, front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration and driveability are well within its competitor set, but fuel economy is a bit mediocre for this segment at 22 miles per gallon in city driving, 30 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 FIAT 500L is available in Pop, Trekking and Lounge trim levels. Prices include the $1,245 factory delivery fee.

Standard equipment on the base Pop ($22,240) includes 16-in alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, height-adjustable front seats, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 60/40-split folding and sliding back seats, Bluetooth, a 7-in Uconnect touchscreen interface, a rearview camera, two USB ports, an auxiliary audio jack, a CD player and a 6-speaker sound system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Trekking ($24,570) adds vaguely more rugged looks plus 17-in wheels, fog lights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a garage door opener, satellite radio and a 9-speaker Beats Audio system upgrade.

The Lounge trim ($25,140) is pretty much the same as the Trekking in regards to feature content, but it ditches the rugged looks for more chrome and body-colored pieces. We suppose it’s somewhat more premium in appearance. It does add an auto-dimming rearview mirror, driver’s seat power lumbar adjustment, rear-park assist and dual-zone auto climate control.

The Popular Equipment package (Pop and Trekking) adds rear parking sensors, a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, 2-way power driver lumbar support and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Premium package (Pop) includes all of those items, plus a navigation system integrated into the standard Uconnect touchscreen and a 9-speaker Beats audio system. You can also add contrasting black or white roofs to the Trekking and Lounge, while the Trekking can be equipped with an Urbana package that adds black wheels and a red roof.

Safety

The FIAT 500L has not been rated for crash safety by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It has, however, been crash-tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, where it received the best possible Good marks in all tests, save for the newer, more stringent small-overlap test where it received the worst possible Poor rating.

As for safety features, the 500L offers a minimum of safety technology. It does include necessities like front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and a backup camera. Rear-park assist is optional on the Pop and the Trekking, but standard on the Lounge. The 500L is also not available with any of today’s increasingly common safety technologies, including forward-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning or blind spot monitoring.

Behind the Wheel

It’s important to get one point out of the way quickly: The 500L doesn’t drive like its baby brother. Shoppers expecting it to drive like its tiny 500 will find the 500L to be rough around corners and not especially fun to drive. Even the 500X sub-compact SUV provides a little more verve behind the wheel. We’ve also found the 500L’s ride to be on the rough side.

Fuel economy still isn’t that great, but power from the 160-hp turbocharged engine manages to flow in a smoother manner. Acceleration is also pretty good, as the 500L feels pretty peppy compared to subcompact SUVs like its 500X sibling (it is available with the same turbo engine, but only with a manual transmission).

We’re also impressed with the 500L’s interior. It looks big on paper with ample legroom and headroom in all directions. But in practice, it’s somehow even bigger. The 500L may owe this to its impressively large windows, which provide excellent visibility in every possible direction. They give the cabin a light, airy feel that makes it seem like a vehicle twice its size.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Honda Fit — Want to get the biggest and most versatile interior with the smallest possible exterior? You’re looking for the Honda Fit. It boasts better driving dynamics, fuel economy, resale value and reliability than the 500L.

2019 Kia Soul — It’s not the chic new FIAT brand, but the Kia Soul is tremendously popular for a reason. The hatchback combines practicality, equipment and style into one well-priced package.

2018 FIAT 500X — If you dig the FIAT look and vibe, but are looking for a stronger all-around effort, it’s definitely worth considering the 500X. It’s more akin to an SUV, is available with all-wheel drive, and we think it looks considerably better inside and out than the 500X.

Used FIAT 500L — Given the 500L’s terrible depreciation, it makes a lot of sense to consider a lightly used one if you think it’s the car for you. Sure, you may need to deal with the wonky old automated manual transmission, but you’ll also be saving a lot of money.

Autotrader’s Advice

If we were writing the check, we’d get the 500L Lounge. Even in the hatchback’s top trim level, prices are still reasonable, especially with sharp discounts often offered by FIAT. And the Lounge comes surprisingly well-equipped, touting a lot of comfort features that enhance the driving (or riding) experience.

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