What happens when the ultra-cute Fiat 500 is stretched more than 2 feet in length? OK, it takes on some adolescent-like gawkiness, which dilutes some of the cute factor. But more importantly, it becomes a much more practical car, with two more doors, a roomy rear seat, and decent cargo space.
It's too bad that the 500L, ultimately proves to be a huge disappointment. At first glance, we thought that its recipe for a fuel-efficient, fun people mover would be attractive to young families or those looking to downsize from SUVs. Indeed, Fiat's wagon provides impressive interior space for its size, good visibility, super-easy access, and a commendable 27 mpg overall.
But, alas, the 500L is too undeveloped, and several significant flaws keep it from scoring high enough in our testing to be recommended.
One shortfall is the uneven power delivery by the 500L's turbocharged four-cylinder engine which suffers from an initial delay. Once past that phase, the turbo engine's power comes on in a rush.
The 500L's handling is responsive and secure, but the ride is stiff and jittery. Inside, the tall cabin is fairly quiet and getting in and out is as easy as it gets. But the driving position is awkward, forcing drivers to sit with stretched arms and bent knees, and the front seats are too flat and squishy to be comfortable.
Rear passengers can stretch out, enjoying a well-shaped seat and flat floor. Cargo space is relatively roomy, with two tiers for stacking items or hiding valuables.
Some creative details, such as a two-tone steering wheel rim, liven up the interior. Chrysler's Uconnect touch-screen system is quite intuitive, but its small on-screen buttons can be hard to hit precisely.