The 2018 Fiat 500L is a quirky hatchback that offers a stylish Italian alternative to more standard competitors in its class, albeit with several sacrifices that cause it to come up short. It's reasonably practical with lots of interior space and many available features, but the exterior styling is questionable at best and the driving experience is underwhelming and nothing like the spunky 500 hatchback with which it shares part of its name. Unfortunately, the 500L just can't compete with the rest of the hatchback offerings out there, which makes choosing one more of a trendy personal statement than a practical option for someone in need of a practical small car.

Best Value

Spring for the top-of-the-line 500L, the Lounge trim. It gets pretty much everything that's optional on other trims, giving owners a fair amount of kit for a starting price of $24,690. That price includes dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, a Beats audio system, and heated front seats. There are no available packages on the 500L Lounge, and aside from the panoramic sunroof, the standalone equipment is limited to aesthetic gear – if you can resist the siren song of a contrasting roof or metallic paint, there's some money to be saved.

We'd spring for some exterior choices as well. The Verde Bosco Perla (Forest Green) paint is great choice in a world with too few green cars, and it looks good with the optional white painted wheels that are paired up with a white roof. The end result is something that resembles an Italian Mini Cooper crossed with a jelly bean, and it helps add more character to the car.

  • Model: 2018 Fiat 500L Lounge
  • Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 160 hp/ 184 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 22 City / 30 Hwy
  • Options: Panoramic sunroof ($1,395)
  • Base Price: $24,690 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $26,085

Performance

Fiat 500L

The Fiat 500L is not quick in any sense of the word. It's powered by a 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is shared with the significantly smaller 500, but the engine is forced to lug a lot more weight around, and the shape of the 500L is not very aerodynamic. This results in pretty poor straight-line performance and surprisingly poor gas mileage, especially when compared to its peers.

The 500L can carry speed through corners surprisingly well considering its shape. This means that it's capable of maintaining higher-than-average speeds on highway on-ramps, which can help avoid panicked merges at a severe speed deficit to the rest of traffic whizzing by. It also remains comfortable on pockmarked city streets, which is exactly what a city car like this needs to do.

Interior and Exterior

While it's technically a hatchback, the 500L looks like what happens when you stretch the 500 into something that approximates a small minivan. The exterior styling is polarizing, but unmistakably Italian. Regardless of the reaction to its look, at least the 500L isn't boring to look at compared to many cars out there, and the styling adds character.

The interior isn’t as crazy as the exterior, but it's fashionable and stylish. The front seats aren’t very comfortable and they put the driver in an awkward driving position that’s reminiscent of a delivery van. The rear seats are capable of sliding back and forth, and they can fold forward to offer up to 68 cubic feet of storage room, which is very respectable for a vehicle of this size. The rear seats are firm but there is plenty of leg room and the back cushion does recline, an interesting feature you don’t find on many other hatchbacks.

The Best and Worst Things

The Fiat 500L is that it doesn’t look like anything else on the road (besides other Fiats, that is). It’s a unique looking vehicle and it draws people’s attention in an automotive world that aims not to offend in many cases.

Almost every other hatchback on the market is a better choice, though. The 500L is slower than Christmas, it gets poor gas mileage compared to competitors, the seats are uncomfortable, and its features and options roster is average at best.

Right For? Wrong For?

Fiat 500L

The 500L is perfect for someone who wants to drive a funky hatchback and has never heard of Mini or isn't willing to deal with the British brand's price tag. The 500L, troubled as it is, remains a statement-making style piece at an affordable price.

If you're just looking for a competent hatchback that offers good gas mileage, comfortable seats, and the ability to merge onto the highway without terrifying your passengers or other drivers on the road, you will probably want to look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line

The Fiat 500L isn’t a great car. While it looks stylish and different, it comes up short in almost every aspect compared to the competition, save for interior volume with the seats folded down. Instead, check out the Kia Soul or Volkswagen Golf, or even the Mini Clubman, if you have some cash to burn, for a hatchback that's stylish but still easy to live with.