Ciao Bella. The Italian salutation that means Hello and Goodbye. It was quite the hello when I first saw the Arancia Pastello-colored Fiat 500L parked in front of my house. Though technically a “pastel orange” I quickly dubbed it the Longhorn Express for its similarity to the burnt orange of The University of Texas. Alas it was perfect timing as I drove the small, zippy car to Austin to attend a football game.
I had the 2018 version of this Italian-made, 4-door car for a week and I was surprised at how roomy it was inside. It is deceivingly larger than it looks. Fiat claims it seats 5 people and to keep them honest I had 4 of my buddies hop in for a ride to the stadium. It was a unanimous decision that Fiat did not exaggerate the passenger capacity. But the fact I focused on the seating capacity rather than other key specs of the 500L showed a few of its shortcomings.
To start, it does not pack a lot of horsepower. 160 to be exact. The 1.4L turbo engine seems like a small number but since the vehicle weighs in at just around 3,254 lbs it does seem zippy with decent pick up. You won’t be winning a lot of drag races in the 500L but you probably will get a lot of looks and stares. Not just because of the stark colors Fiat offers (9 of them) but also due to the unique design.
Not much has changed from previous models and that is why the 500L continues to elicit glances from other drivers and passers-by. The L model is an elongated version of the iconic, 2-door Fiat 500 with a standout feature in the front window. An additional pillar is placed on each side of the window – in front of the A pillar – which creates not just a unique look but can also cause a hindrance when driving. It took me a while to get used to the front-facing view as those left- and right-side pillars created somewhat of a blind spot for me. I had no issue with typical blind spot areas behind me and in my periphery as the height of the cabin and large rear windows made it easy to see most everything to the sides and behind me.
Fiat includes its FCA parent company’s entertainment system in the 500L. While I generally like the UConnect system the version in my Trekking model seemed a bit rudimentary compared to other variants I have seen. The 7″ display did have navigation and Bluetooth connectivity. Kudos for the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities. I would suggest using that software for nav and communication services in the 500L.
One other deceiving point for me was the cargo space. It doesn’t look like it could hold a lot of things, but when the back seat is folded down the 500L holds almost 70 cubic feet of space. That matches or exceeds some vehicles that are much larger and the ones Fiat competes with including the VW Beetle and MINI.
The 2018 model year comes in 3 models, all with FWD. The Pop starts just under $21,000, the Trekking at $23,325 and the Lounge at $23,895. It is worth looking at the Lounge model when making a buying decision as the smallish price difference includes all the upgrades you need.
The 2018 Fiat 500L offers practicality with a dash of Italian flair. It stands out. It makes a statement. Not a very fast or powerful statement but ones that says “arevidierci” – see you again soon.