The Fiat 500L is designed to be a nimble driver suitable for the city lifestyle.
Much like the MINI brand that created convertible, wagon, and crossover versions of their popular cult classic, Fiat has created similar variations of their iconic 500 over the past few years. With news that the standard Fiat 500 (reviewed here) is being discontinued in Canada, Fiat has given full attention to their subcompact crossover offerings in the 500L and the 500X, as well as their sporty 124 Spider.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles invited us to their Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan to get a preview of the 2020 Fiat 500L crossover. The Fiat 500L (L for Lusso, Italian for Luxury) is a five-door hatchback that is the direct rival to the front-wheel-drive Mini Cooper Countryman (reviewed here). The two even share visual resemblances, particularly with the round-eyed front fascia, the overall proportions and even some stylistic cues on the interior.
For 2020, the Fiat 500L will be offered in three models, starting with the base model known as the Pop. The Trekking model adds to the Pop unique front and rear fascia designs, flared wheel arches, and distinct 17-inch wheels that give it a rugged, outdoorsy feel. The Lounge is the luxurious model of the lineup intended for the urban setting, adding chrome accents and dedicated 17-inch painted aluminum wheels to the base 500L. A unique feature to the all models of Fiat 500L is the option of pairing each of the eleven exterior colours with either a body-colour, black, or white roof, giving buyers up to 31 different combinations to choose from.
All 500Ls sold in Canada share the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that produces 160-horsepower at 5,500 RPM, and 184 lb-ft. of torque at 2,500 to 4,000 RPM. Power is sent only to the front wheels through an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission that is much improved and smoother than the dreadful dual-clutch application in the early 500L. While the engine is not especially powerful, it is sufficient in getting the 3,254-pound wagon around in the city. The small displacement engine shows some struggle when it is off-boost, but the good news is that the MultiAir turbocharger comes on early in the range to avoid feeling too sluggish.
Fuel consumption is rated at 10.7L/100km in the city, 7.9L/100km on the highway, and 9.4L/100km in a combined cycle. While we didn’t have a chance to truly put the 500L through our typical mileage test, we can safely assume the combined estimate is about right given the powertrain and weight of the vehicle. The 50-litre fuel tank requires premium grade gasoline to feed the turbocharged engine, a bit of a turn-off for the typical shopper in the subcompact crossover market.
The Fiat 500L is designed to be a nimble driver suitable for the city lifestyle. Steering is light, with decent responsiveness but it’s by no means a sharp canyon carver. The suspension setup with Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) Technology favours a comfortable ride that handily absorbs most of the bumps on the road. The 500L has segment-exclusive glass from its A-and D-pillars, giving it a unique 360-degree view from the inside. Overall visibility is excellent and remains a virtue of this vehicle. When equipped with the optional power dual-pane panoramic sunroof, the cabin feels particularly airy, creating a pleasant driving experience. Cargo capacity is rated at 634-liters behind the rear seats.
The standard Uconnect 4 seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system is tasked with providing infotainment to the 2020 500L’s occupants. The Uconnect system is easy to use and touch commands are responsive, while those who like to have their smartphones integrated have the option of using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A proprietary navigation system is optional, and Beats premium audio system comes standard on the Trekking and Lounge models (a standalone option on the Pop trim).
There are more than 40 available safety and security features for the 2020 Fiat 500L, with ParkView rear-vision camera, Electronic Stability Control, and seven air bags all included as standard equipment. Those who opt for the Popular Equipment Package will get extra assurance with the ParkSense rear park assist system, along with power two-way driver lumbar adjust, rearview auto-dimming mirror, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
With the 2020 Fiat 500L, buyers who are looking for a quirky European B-segment compact hatchback will have a good alternative choice to the MINI Cooper Clubman and the new Mercedes-Benz A 250 (reviewed here). Pricing is yet to be announced, but it is expected to be significantly cheaper than the aforementioned German options, especially with steady incentives available at the dealer level.