What is it? The 500L is an example of what car companies do once they get their feet wet selling small cars: They immediately set out to make everything BIGGER. (For proof, see the evolution of Honda, Mini, Volkswagen, et al.) The new L is certainly taller, longer and wider—it’s the first four-door Fiat the United States has seen since the 1970s—and should help to round out the company’s product lineup.
Sources suggest that the engine will be bigger and more powerful than the base 500; it will likely be the 160-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the 500 Abarth. We’ve driven this engine, which is quite a kick and gives the original 500 the power boost it needs. Acceleration from the base engine is weak. We can’t imagine the larger and inevitably heavier 500L will perform decently without this punchier powertrain.
What is new or notable? Four doors, five-passenger seating, and more room. The frisky Fiat will also have an enormous sunroof running the length of the top and lots of glass area to aid visibility.
CR’s take: The standard Fiat 500 is fun, frugal with fuel, and a snap to park. First year reliability is also average. But it falls short in ride comfort, noise isolation, and interior room—foibles that may be alleviated with the larger 500L. Despite the name, the 500L is not based on the 500 but the larger Fiat Punto. In contrast, the rear seat is amazingly roomy, access is super easy, and even though it is a narrow car it's a five-passenger vehicle. It seems Fiat wants to mimic the success of the Mini with its growing permutations.
When will it be available? 2013.