2018 Fiat 500L: What’s new

2018 Fiat 500L Lounge in Blu Denim (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

We were able to get a sneak peak at the 2018 Fiat 500L during Fiat Chrysler’s annual What’s New program, and in addition to announcing the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody and the Ram Tungsten Edition, many of the vehicles on hand received trim and package upgrades. The 500L, in my opinion, received the most significant updates for 2018, so I wanted to give it some special attention.

I like the Fiat 500L—I’ve always liked the 500L. It’s cute and quirky and has a phenomenally flexible cargo area. I know because I helped my sister move while driving it as a test car.

But it regularly gets panned in the media for its oddball, bus-like styling and poor build quality. That’s about to change for the 2018 model year.

Though the 500L doesn’t get a complete redesign, it does get a serious refresh – one that makes it look a little more mainstream. But the quirk is still there.

“People don’t buy a Fiat to blend in,” said Ted Gott, Fiat Brand marketing manager.

The first look at the refreshed 500L shows the long lines are still there. But it looks a little less like a stretched 500 and has more of the aggressive curves of the 500X. The overall affect is something that is both unique and more visually appealing.

“Some of the shaping on the hood and at the rear might be subtle, but it makes a big difference when it’s all packaged together,” Gott said.

For 2018, the 500L gets new front and rear fascia as well as new side moldings.

A lot of the improvements, however, are on the inside.

“We’ve modernized the interior,” Gott said. “We have a new cluster with a new TFT and a new steering wheel, which is familiar across our line up. A new 7-inch touch-screen radio is now standard across all trims, which comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And we’ve also made some tweaks on where things are for ergonomics –- the cup holders for example.”

The overall effect is an attractive, clean and simple interior. One thing to note, however: While I really like the looks of the 7-inch display on the center stack, the touchable image icons seem a bit small – especially with Apple CarPlay plugged in. My hands are small, yet my fingertip easily covers two icons. I could see this being a problem.

The complete list of what’s new for 2018 includes:

  • Standard backup camera
  • Revamped Thin-film transistor (TFT) cluster display
  • Improved center console with relocated cup holders
  • Additional USB Port
  • LED interior ambient lighting
  • New steering wheel and HVAC control knob position
  • Uconnect 4 system standard
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard
  • 3 new exterior paint colors: Blu Denim, Arancio Pastello (pastel orange) and Bronzo Metallizzato (metallic bronze)

The 500L retains a 6-speed automatic transmission as well as the 1.4-liter turbocharged I-4 that delivers 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

So, though the styling has been revised, the ride and handling seems pretty much the same. It’s little and zippy and fun to drive for something that is also functional.

Another thing that stays the same: The 360-degree view. With a split A-Pillar, the 500L has unparalleled visibility out the front and side of the vehicle with minimal blind spots.

“It’s really an expansive view with all the windows,” Gott said. “We’ve maximized the space on the interior of this car, especially when you pair it with the panoramic sunroof.”

The 2018 has three trims -- the Pop, Trekking and Lounge -- with the base price being $29,995.

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